Plant Oddity – Pumpkin On A Stick

Use pumpkin on a stick in fall displays

Halloween is around the corner and people are starting to decorate with the many types of pumpkins available at the farmer’s market. The past 10 years have seen an explosion of all kinds of colors, sizes, and shapes of pumpkins, but I am in love with a diminutive one, which actually isn’t a real pumpkin, but an eggplant., specifically Ornamental Eggplant, (Solanum Integrifolium). For different types of real pumpkins, go to my Pumpkin Eye Candy post.

Pumpkin on a Stick seed packet at Botanical Interests

Ornamental or Food?

Falling in the eggplant family, the little pumpkins, Solanum integrifolium, are not really pumpkins, but an ornamental used in stir-fried Asian dishes. I grow this cute ornamental jack-o-lantern for jazzing up my Thanksgiving table and fall flower arrangements as it dries nicely and lasts a long time.

Native to Southeast Asia, it grows 3 to 4 feet tall with very large fuzzy leaves that grow from a purple thorny stem. It towers over other eggplants in my garden and the plant looks remarkably like Bed of Nails or Solanum quitoense, profiled in Plant Geek Alert.

Bed of Nails

Culture

Around for over 125 years which makes it an official heirloom vegetable, it has also been called Pumpkin Tree and Pumpkin Bush. Planted directly in full sun in your garden, the plant needs steady moisture and benefits from regular fertilizing as it grows large fast. Pretty soon, the insignificant blooms appear, followed by pale green nubby fruit that turn into their final pumpkin ribbed shape a few weeks later. Insects like to gnaw on the leaves as you can see but deer and rabbits leave it alone because of the wicked thorns.

Started from seed in my greenhouse, by early spring, the plants (with stakes) grow quickly and are ready to plant in the garden as soon as we are frost free
Pumpkin on a Stick growing in my veggie garden has thorns and can get tall (3-4 ft tall)

Harvesting

In late summer, the fruit changes to a scarlet color and when frosts start to hit, the eggplants turn their final rich orange color. You can harvest up to a dozen pumpkins on one plant. When you pick a stem of pumpkins for fresh use, cut the stems and use as is. If you want to dry the pumpkins, hang the entire stalk upside down in a cool dry location, removing leaves. This treatment prevents the fruits from sagging. Fruits will shrivel and the orange color will intensify. For eating, pick the fruits when orange and use in stir-fries.

Cutting my pumpkin on a stick plants
Remove all the leaves and hang to dry
Available in the fall at trader Joe’s

Pumpkin on a stick at the wholesale florist
Pumpkin on a Stick used in a seasonal arrangement

13 Replies to “Plant Oddity – Pumpkin On A Stick”

  1. Curious, just how much land do you own, seems an abundance of plants, shrubbery, trees. I always, always enjoy having a look see thru you articles.
    J

    1. I have 2 acres in a typical suburban neighborhood, with a large veggie garden, lots of crammed planting beds, a potting shed and greenhouse. But since I am a landscape designer, I see lots of other properties and travel to many other gardens. So not everything I write about and photograph is on my property.

      1. You pack so much in to your busy schedule, you were guest speaker @ our garden club a few years back such a good delivery you made. That is when I hooked up to your posts. Thanks for acknowledging my email-2 acres can be overwhelming @ times. Keep on digging up the dirt!
        J.

  2. I planted pumpkin on a stick last year and enjoyed using them in arrangements as well as giving them away. I can’t find any of these in green houses this year. The covid shutdown has impacted m any growers. I did however, start some from seeds which are coming great. Surprisingly, they are not hard to grow in comparison to amaranths with I find very difficult to grow.

    1. Yes, my plants that I started from seed are already thriving in the garden. I have never found the transplants for sale

  3. I have several small Pumpkins on a stick plants. What do you do in the fall to salvage the plant? Mine are potted in about an 8 inch plant is that big enough? Do I need to bring them inside in the fall

    1. They die in the fall and you need to replant in the spring. An 8 inch pot is not large enough. I would go with at least a 10-12 inch pot.

  4. Another plan I have several of is the Easter egg plant! I have looked for one for 10 years and now I have several that I bought at the Dothan botanical gardens.

  5. I planted pumpkin on a stick seeds for the first time this year. Unfortunately, a chipmunk got into my bed and must have eaten all but one seed. So I have one little seedling that I salvaged and put into a smaller pot on my deck, but it’s not growing much at all. Maybe I need to try a bigger pot? They’re so darn cute I really wanted to grow my own.

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