Growing cucumbers is one of my favorite springtime activities! Having a harvest to pickle with dill and garlic makes summer refreshing. And fresh cucumbers from the garden simply can’t be beaten. While having space to grow them is great, it’s not completely necessary. Did you know growing cucumbers in a pot is possible?
Cucumber bushes are easy to grow, and as long as proper cucumber spacing, pruning cucumbers, and fertilizing them are present, it’s one of the most rewarding crops to grow. But not everyone has enough room for a raised bed in their garden.
That’s why we’ve dedicated this piece to container-grown cucumbers. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of container cucumbers, and cover how you can have a huge harvest when you grow cucumbers in pots.
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Quick Care Guide
|Common Name(s)||Cucumber, pepino, gherkin|
|Scientific Name||Cucumis sativus|
|Days to Harvest||50 to 70 days|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Water||1 to 2 inches per week|
|Soil||Loose sandy loam|
|Fertilizer||Slow-release pellet fertilizer|
|Pests||Cucumber beetles, squash vine borer|
|Diseases||Cucumber mosaic virus, powdery mildew|
Do cucumbers grow well in pots? Sure they do! When you plan for the growing season, figure out how to grow cucumbers in containers by choosing the right container for your needs and your container plants. Much of this depends on what kind of cucumbers you want to grow.
Size And Material
How big do pots need to be for cucumbers? Well, the size of your container determines how many seeds or starts to plant. Most 10-inch wide pots hold 1 plant. Larger pots hold two. When you plant cucumbers, give them at least 1 foot of room between each start or seed.
If you are working with bush-like cucumber varieties, you won’t need an additional trellis, but if you’re container gardening vining varieties, you will. Consider this when you determine which container to use. You’ll need a container that is at least 1 foot deep to accommodate the extensive root system of a cucumber plant. And every container type should also have accompanying drainage holes to prevent conditions where diseases can take hold.
Wooden containers are an excellent receptacle to grow cucumber seeds in. Whether this is a small raised bed that sits along a balcony, or a reused wine or whiskey barrel, wood holds moisture in the container, making it so you don’t have to water as much as you would with other pots. Add the fact that you are repurposing the container, and add ecological sensitivity to your container garden.
Plastic buckets or bags are also viable containers to grow cucumbers in. Use at least a 5-gallon bucket with adequate drainage. Another option is to grow in a large plastic container. Plastic bags with drainage holes work too if you don’t have access to a sturdier plastic. The advantage to growing in hard plastic is durability. They also hold moisture quite well.
Grow bags or fabric pots are another option for growing tasty cucumbers. Use one 5-gallon grow bag per plant. As your cucumber plants grow, they develop extensive root systems that are effectively air pruned by the edges of the grow bag. Grow bags support healthy root systems and in turn healthy cucumbers. They need much more water than a plastic or wood container, though. Some grow bags are fairly low quality and only last a couple of years. However, the Root Pouch Fabric Pot with handles in 5, 10, and 15-gallon sizes will last much longer. These bags have a high-quality layered fabric that doesn’t degrade like other bags and retains moisture more readily.
Metal containers are an option too! Use a galvanized steel washtub or a large planter of the same material. Just as you would with the other containers we’ve listed so far, choose something that is at least 1 foot deep, and at least 10 inches wide. Wider is better. Repurposed washtubs give you lots of room. Or use a galvanized stock tank to give you more width for planting cucumbers. Metal is non-porous and doesn’t need to be watered as much because it retains moisture easily.
Terra cotta pots are also viable growing containers for cucumbers. These sit somewhere between plastic pots and grow bags when it comes to moisture retention. They also come in sizes large enough for up to two plants. But they are more fragile than the others listed here. Still, if you have a surplus of terra cotta at home, these work well.
While you may be tempted to use average garden soil to grow cucumber vines, this isn’t the best option. Instead, use high-quality potting soil that drains well. In the ground, cucumber plants prefer a loamy, slightly sandy soil. Potting soil has the right mix of moisture-retentive and drainage materials to keep your pickling cucumbers or lemon cucumber healthy. If you’d like to formulate your own soil, use a combination of one part each potting soil, peat moss, perlite, and compost.
Do I need a trellis for cucumbers in a pot? That depends! While bush cucumbers – which includes some slicing cucumbers – are better for container gardening, you can grow vining cucumbers in containers. Provide a trellis to help your plant produce fruit and remain healthy. Growing cucumbers vertically is a great way to add an accent to your garden.
Most gardeners choose an A-frame trellis when they grow cucumbers vertically in containers. These sturdy frames won’t succumb to the weight of delicious ripe cucumbers when they’re heavy on the vine. Gardeners can then harvest cucumbers from within the frame avoiding damage to the vine overall. They’ll also help you save space within the container, sitting next to the pot. Another excellent option is a TerraTrellis Ina Wall Trellis Jr., which attaches to a nearby wall or fence, providing room for your plants to grow upward as they spread below.
A tomato cage can act as a trellis for your vining cucumber. Include this in the initial planting of your cucumbers to avoid damage to roots.
Caring For Your Potted Cucumber Plant
How do you care for a cucumber plant in a pot? Let’s talk about it! This will help you develop delicious cucumbers in pots throughout the growing season.
Planting Cucumbers in a Pot
Use the seed packet as your guide to determine when to plant cucumber seeds. Most will say to wait until after the last spring frost to do so. If you’d like to give your container garden a head start, you can plant most cucumber varieties indoors before then. Get them nice and big and place them outdoors in your container garden after the last frost. This will make the time you begin harvesting cucumbers sooner!
Start seeds indoors from the seed packet in starter pots or trays – like our Epic 6-Cell Seed Starting Trays – in late winter. Give them a little humidity with a dome, and allow the plants to grow into healthy starts. After you plant your seeds, cucumbers will begin growing in just a few days. Then plant them in your cucumber containers with your preferred potting mix. Move them outdoors just before the warm weather of spring sets in.
Sunlight & Temperature
Do cucumbers need full sun? Growing cucumbers in pots gives you some wiggle room as to how much sunlight your vines or bush varieties get. Give them about five hours of full sunlight per day, and adjust the container position as needed.
How much sun you give them is important. Here in the hot weather of Texas, the sunlight gets intense in the middle of the cucumber season. A little bit of shade or dappled sun is needed in those times when the soil temperature is high. Even in large pots, the heat can make the soil dry very quickly.
If you’re vegetable gardening in a more temperate area, place your large container or medium-sized pots in full sun all day. Many plants regularly prefer the morning sun, as it’s not as intense as the afternoon sun. Orient your container gardens to catch the appropriate amount of sunlight.
Another consideration growing in containers: cucumbers like warm soil, but not soil that is too hot. At temperatures above 90 degrees for extended periods, they’ll stop producing. So if you’re growing bush varieties or vines in summer, consider a dolly that can move your plants in and out of direct sunlight as needed.
When temperatures consistently dip below 50 degrees, your cucumbers won’t set fruit either. A soil mix that is moisture retentive will help maintain a warmer soil temperature.
Should you water cucumbers everyday? Thankfully, this is pretty simple. If the soil feels dry in its top two inches, water it. Keep the soil consistently moist when you’re growing cucumbers in pots. If you don’t have the time to check on your plants, use an automated system that waters the plants for you. Or consider a drip irrigation system that works on a timer giving a consistent amount of moisture daily.
It’s possible to miss vital watering times in higher heat seasons. While you may have waited a week to water your plants in plastic pots in early spring, you may have to adjust to just a few days at a time for a successful harvest in summer.
Because these heavy feeders don’t have a consistent supply of nutrients as they do in a raised bed, they’ll need fertilizer. Use a slow-release pellet fertilizer upon planting with an NPK of 2-3-6. Then follow up with diluted liquid fertilizer every few weeks, applied in a soil soak. This coupled with good fertile soil ensures each of those cukes has a lovely sweet flavor that can’t be beaten!
Prune regularly to maintain compact vines or compact plants of the bushy variety. Begin by checking the base of the plant and ensuring any spent flowers or wilted leaves have been removed from the soil below. Then prune for shape, taking care not to remove branches that may have pollinated flowers on them. If there are diseased parts, remove these as they crop up. Be careful when pruning a compact variety of cucumbers as these can suffer damage from too much.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of caring for container cucumbers, let’s talk about some problems you may encounter. We’ll also touch on pests and diseases you may encounter.
If the soil moisture in your container isn’t consistent, you may see pale green leaves on your plant. This affects the development of cucumber fruit overall. Monitor the top two inches of the soil to determine when watering needs to happen. Pale green leaves may also be a sign of overwatering or lack of nutrients. The best way to remediate these issues is to stick to a schedule or use tools that will help you fertilize and water regularly.
Another thing you may run into is a lack of pollination, which prevents fruit production. Remember to locate your male flowers, and pollinate your female flowers with them. If you find each female flower falling off without any fruit forming, that’s a pollination issue.
If you aren’t growing compact cucumbers like salad bush, and grow vines instead, neglecting to use a trellis can create conditions where diseases are more likely. The same goes for a lack of pruning. Rotting leaves and flowers can be detrimental to container cucumbers. Keep the area clean and you’ll be set.
Among the most common cucumber insect pests are cucumber beetles. These centimeter-long bright yellow and black-spotted bugs scar fruit and leaves and defoliate them. They can even spread disease as they feed. In containers, the best options for control are sprays and planting your cucumbers with cucumber companion plants that attract ladybugs, green lacewings, and assassin bugs that feed on them. Neem oil and spinosad will keep them away from your plants too. Remove the clusters of orange eggs they lay as you find them under leaves.
Squash vine borer is a bear in the garden. While there are pesticidal and cultural methods for controlling them, the best way to keep them from boring into your cucumber bush and wilting it is to check your outdoor plants daily for eggs. Remove them and crush them. Then follow up with liberal applications of neem oil to attempt to prevent egg-laying and suffocate any remaining eggs you missed.
Squash bugs are stink bug relatives that feed on plant juices with their proboscis. You’ll see damage to leaves in the form of stippled scarring. Handpick them as you see them and flick them into soapy water to drown. Plant companion plants that attract parasitic wasps to kill them. Follow up with a misting of neem oil to keep them away and kill any remaining bugs.
Cucumber mosaic virus is often spread by cucumber beetles, aphids, or by infected hand tools. The first signs of infection are mottled yellowed leaves. Prevent cucumber pests that act as disease vectors with consistent applications of neem oil spray. If a plant gets heavily infected remove it from your garden and destroy it to prevent further spread of the disease.
Powdery mildew occurs when the soil has been too moist for too long, or when an exceptionally wet spring occurs. This fungal disease forms on leaves in patches of grey powdery-looking spots. Remove affected leaves as they emerge. Then spray the rest of the plant with neem oil every few days to prevent the spread of the fungus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do cucumbers grow well in pots?
A: They can! As long as you give them what they need, they’ll take off.
Q: How big do pots need to be for cucumbers?
A: Use at least 5-gallon pots that are at least 12 inches deep.
Q: Do I need a trellis for cucumbers in a pot?
A: If you’re growing a vining cucumber, yes. Otherwise, no trellis is needed.
Q: How do you care for a cucumber plant in a pot?
A: That’s what this whole article is about! Check it out.
Q: Should you water cucumbers everyday?
A: It depends on the season. If the top two inches of soil are dry, add water. Otherwise, no need.
Q: Do cucumbers need full sun?
A: They do, but in hotter seasons, they benefit from some shade.
Q: Do cucumber plants need support?
A: Only if they are a vining cucumber.
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