Categories: Edibles

Grow Your Own Cucamelons

By Published On: August 12, 2015
Grow Your Own Cucamelons

How to Grow Cucamelons


Adorable. It’s the first word that comes to mind when discovering Cucamelons. Adorable with a capital “A.” No wonder it’s also known as Mouse Melon. Yet another more common name, Mexican Sour Gherkin, adds a tinge of mystery to the mix. Adorable, sweet, sour and it’s a cucumber that looks like a miniature watermelon?

I know what you’re thinking. You have to grow this plant.

So what are you waiting for? What makes it even more fascinating is that it’s an open pollenated heirloom from Central America and not a true cucumber. Cucamelon, Melothria scabra, is in the same family as a cucumber and has a similar habit but you’ll quickly discover that it’s unique, less particular and easier to grow.

How to Grow Cucamelons


Growing Cucamelons

In warmer climates (USDA hardiness zones 9 or warmer), direct sow Cucamelon seeds in your garden once soil temperatures rise in April to May. Treat them as you would cucumber seeds, planting them in groups or circles of 4 to 6 about 1 inch apart with groups about 12 to 15 inches apart. Thin them once established using scissors, selecting the healthiest of the bunch.

In cooler climates or to simply play it safe sow seeds indoors with other summer crops in late February to April. Start them individually in paper pots and manage soil temperatures, keeping them warm to optimize germination. Plant out after the last frost. *Note: using paper pots allows you to plant them directly into the garden, paper pot and all, so the roots are intact and undisturbed.

Cucamelons are tender perennials which means, if you live in a warm climate they may continue to grow year after year from the same root stock. You can test this by insulating the area with mulch after the growing season. I’ve even heard that some gardeners remove the roots stock, placing it in a controlled environment and planting it back out in spring.

The Basics

  • Prepare soil with compost and organic, aged manure or a balanced fertilizer before planting.
  • Apply mulch to soil surface to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture.
  • Cucamelons are vigorous climbers. Give them a strong, tall trellis or A-frame to scramble over. They like to reach in all directions and can extend to great lengths so start out with something that is bigger than you think you’ll need. Consider one like this Deluxe Cucumber Trellis or this Twine Vegetable Trellis.
  • Great for containers and small spaces, where there’s room for plants to grow up.
  • Drought tolerant.
  • Can take up to 4 weeks to germinate. I’ve also found the vine is initially slow growing but vigorous once established.
  • Plant in full sun, provide protection from wind and water well until established.
  • Prolific producer. Look for fruit on a regular basis under and between leaves.
  • Harvest and eat at almost any size but they become seedy and firm with age, when they’re over an inch long or more. You can tell if they’re tender by squeezing them.
  • Great in salads when tender and fabulous pickled. Save the firmer ones for pickling.
  • Collect seed from fruit that have matured on the vine and fallen to the ground.
  • A tender perennial.

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About the Author: Emily Murphy

I’ve learned there’s something wonderfully powerful in the simple act of growing. Here, in our gardens, we can repair ourselves and our plots of earth with our own two hands. GROW WHAT YOU LOVE and GROW NOW!

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  1. TLC August 21, 2019 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Planted these little darlings in my garden this year.
    My first year growing them.
    I dearly love them! Little crunchy treats in my salad every night.
    I have two plants growing on a cattle panel arch and they’ve hit the top center now, out pacing my cantaloupe on the other side.
    Next year! More!
    I love them!

    • Emily Murphy August 22, 2019 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      They’re sweet plants, aren’t they? And it sounds like they love your garden. I love watching them grow — I think mine have shot up at least a foot in just the last two days!

  2. Dinah April 20, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Can this be planted in a hanging basket and let the vines grow down and no trellis? I would think it would be cool because I don’t have much room (I have a balcony garden). Anyone tried this and if so, anyone want to give feedback?

    • Emily Murphy April 23, 2018 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Hi Dinah, it’s definitely worth a try. Once cucamelons get started they’re happy to grow and it might just be they’re happy to grow any which direction. Just give them plenty of warmth and sun and be prepared for them to take off later in July and into August.

  3. Jessica September 2, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

    I planted some back in probably June. They have grown profusely and there are tiny melons with little yellow flowers all over the place, but they don’t seem to be getting any bigger. Is that normal???

    • Emily Murphy September 2, 2017 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Jessica, yes — this is normal. It can take a little while for cucamelons to begin to fruit and once they do, they’re generally prolific until your first frost. Fruits are best picked when they’re the size of a dime or nickel. I find when they’re nearly an inch long or so they become quite tough and are best made into pickles, but when they’re small they’re wonderful to eat raw, in salads, or cocktails. Enjoy – it’s a wonderful plant! ;)

  4. Sunil Sharma August 10, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Sow Cucamelon seeds in your garden once soil temperatures rise in April to May.
    The summer season has passed, otherwise, it will definitely try. Wonderful information about Cucamelon.

  5. Peggy Terry July 8, 2017 at 7:48 am - Reply

    I planted mouse melons for the first time this year. So far they have produced about two dozen melons. They look like small watermelons and taste great in salads. I got my seeds from Burpee.

    • Emily Murphy July 8, 2017 at 2:06 pm - Reply

      Wow, Peggy! Already 2 dozen! That’s amazing. The first year I grew them I didn’t harvest many until August, but once I began harvesting they didn’t stop coming until the first freeze. Prepare to pickle and eat your way through them. :)

  6. Jenn Silverman June 21, 2017 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Here is one of them. A tuber, not a rhizome.

    • Emily Murphy June 22, 2017 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Jenn, thanks for writing! I’ve heard this too and have a tuber from last season I’ve just planted. Still waiting to see if it’s successful. My guess is it operates much like a sunchoke, dahlia, etc. I’m hoping the one I have takes off, it will make replanting a breeze.
      Let me know how it works for you and Happy Summer! Emily

  7. Jenn Silverman June 21, 2017 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I believe I’ve seen info about the cucamelon forming a rhizome which can be dug up and saved for the following year? Supposedly expedites the growth and increases production. I have NOT tried this myself but I’ve seen several articles on the topic.

  8. Bob June 18, 2017 at 9:13 am - Reply

    Went to a restaurant in Hot Springs, VA and had a martini with Hendricks Gin, St. Germaine liquor and garnished with a couple of cucamelons on a toothpick. It was a great cocktail.

  9. Fred Jackson August 23, 2016 at 11:52 am - Reply

    How do I over winter 6 nice cucamelon plants in zone 6A 6B?

    • Emily Murphy August 31, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Fred, thanks for writing! Overwintering cucamelons is possible but tricky in colder climates. Your best bet, if growing in a container, is to move the container indoors where the temperatures are mild. Like in a garage or basement. Mulch the top soil with straw or a thick compost and as soon as temperatures begin to rise well above freezing, move your plants back outside. Another option, which worked well for me this past season, is to save cucamelon seeds to be planted next spring and to also encourage volunteers. I like to leave a few fallen cucamelons in the garden. Hide them from critters if you need to by burying them under a layer of soil or mulch and, if conditions are right, you’ll have volunteers in the spring. Volunteers come up at just the right time and tend to be hardy and grow vigorously. Best of luck and please write again with further questions. Thanks! Emily

  10. Amber August 25, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    First year growing. Took entire seed pack to end up with two plants. Planted in pot near raspberry and other garden veggies that attracted bees, and never had any issue with pollination that way. I purchased mine online by Google searching this plant.

    • Emily Murphy September 3, 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Mary C Zak-Holzer October 10, 2017 at 10:34 am - Reply

      LOL I planted a whole pack also, and only got around 4 plants. Struggled all summer growing them. Finally showing fruit. maybe about a dozen. Not sure what the problem was. My lemon cucumbers went crazy. both were planted in pots

      • Emily Murphy October 10, 2017 at 10:48 am - Reply

        Mine are always slow to take as well. It’s as if they’re sleeping in most the day until realizing it’s nearly dinner and it’s finally time to wake up and get to work!

  11. Keri Byrum August 18, 2015 at 9:32 am - Reply

    They are so cute, I want to garnish drinks with them!
    For the past two seasons I’ve grown large plants with lots of flowers but haven’t had any fruit set, any suggestions?

  12. Tink adams August 16, 2015 at 7:48 am - Reply

    These sound awesome ..where can i get seeds

    • Emily Murphy August 17, 2015 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      You’ve got that right, they’re easy to grow, cute and tasty! Find seeds at Territorial Seed Company, Seed Savers or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have. :D