The 10 Best Types of Gourds to Grow for Decor, Crafts, and More

These easy-to-grow fruits come in all sorts of gorgeous colors, shapes, and sizes.

Try to describe a gourd and you might find it trickier than you thought. Perhaps the word makes you think of those gnarly squash-like fruits that show up with pumpkins in the fall. However, gourds come in many more shapes and colors, and range in size from a large egg to bigger than a bushel basket. Dried gourds can be stained, painted, waxed, or carved into dippers, birdhouses, toys, bowls, and planters. Musical instruments such as flutes, lutes, maracas, and drums can be fashioned from the hard-shelled fruit. Small gourds, left whole, add splashes of color to autumn decor. And did you know that the luffa sponge comes from a gourd?

pumpkins and gourds assorted colors
Blaine Moats

What Is a Gourd?

Gourds, like pumpkins, melons, squash and cucumbers, are members of the cucurbit or squash family. Like their cousins, gourds grow on long vines. There are three major gourd groups. Cucurbit gourds are small, decorative, colorful, thick-shelled and sometimes warty. Lagenaria gourds are larger and can be used for a variety of utilitarian or decorative functions. This group includes bottle, basket, and dipper gourds. The third group is the luffa gourd. Its elongated fruit contains a fibrous material that is used as a sponge. Most gourds are strictly ornamental, but a few can be eaten like summer squash, if they are harvested young.

Types of Gourds

01 of 10

1. Apple Gourd

apple gourd on white background
Peter Krumhardt

Shaped like an oversized apple, these hard-shelled gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) grow six to eight inches tall and four to six inches across. In India, young fruit is added to curries. The skin is green with lighter green speckles or soft stripes but turns caramel brown as it dries. These gourds are great for crafting into birdhouses, bowls or ornaments. Be sure to leave a two-inch "apple stem" on the fruit when harvesting.

02 of 10

2. Basket Gourd

Bushel or basket gourd
Courtesy of Amazon

Sometimes called bushel basket gourd (Lagenaria siceraria), it's the monster of gourds. If you trim your vine to a single fruit, it may get larger than a bushel basket! These gourds are typically sphere-shaped but may be slightly flattened. Their tough green shells age to tan or gray; once washed, dried, and waxed, they make great storage containers.

03 of 10

3. Bottle Gourd

green bottle gourds growing in garden
Bob Stefko

Also called birdhouse gourd, trumpet gourd, or calabash, the bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) has many uses. When young, it's edible, and can be prepared similarly to summer squash. Allowed to mature, it can be hollowed out to make vessels, utensils, musical instruments, and birdhouses (especially purple martin houses). Each gourd has a rounded bottom and a neck that narrows and then widens to create a slightly bulbed end near the stem.

04 of 10

4. Daisy Gourd

daisy gourds with different colors
Courtesy of Burpee

The small, decorative daisy gourd (Cucurbita pepo) gets about two to three inches in diameter and has a somewhat flattened, rounded shape. It comes in shades of yellow, orange, white, and green, and the stems are surrounded by colorful markings that form a distinct daisy pattern. Once dried, their naturally shiny surface can be coated with furniture polish to seal and enhance the sheen.

05 of 10

5. Dipper Gourd

dipper gourd
Kindra Clineff

Dipper gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) are favorites of crafters for making scoops, spoons and ladles. Each has a sphere-shape base and a long, thin neck. The neck often curves, or even coils, if grown on the ground but will grow long and straight if allowed to dangle on a trellis. Although green on the vine, its smooth surface develops a tan color when dried.

06 of 10

6. Nest Egg Gourd

nest gourds on black background
Victoria Pearson

As their name suggests, nest egg gourds (Cucurbita pepo) are the size and shape of a chicken or goose egg. The small, oblong gourds are even white or light brown. Once dried, their smooth, hard surface makes them a good choice for painting as Christmas ornaments or Easter eggs.

07 of 10

7. Penguin Gourd

penguin gourds growing in garden
Bob Stefko

Also known as powderhorn gourds (Cucurbita sp.), the 10- to 16-inch-tall, crook-neck fruit is especially popular with crafters for creating fanciful penguins, round-bellied Santa figures, and other creatures. They also make cute birdhouses. To obtain gourds in different sizes and shapes, harvest some while they're small and then you can create a whole penguin family.

08 of 10

8. Speckled Swan Gourd

two speckled swan gourds on wooden surface
Ciungara/ Getty Images

An attractive heirloom variety, the speckled swan gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) has a graceful appearance. Its enlarged, six- to eight-inch diameter, spherical base and long, often curved neck with a bulbous tip make it look a bit like a swan. Grow the vine on a trellis so that the fruit can dangle without becoming flattened on one side. Once dried, these gourds can be painted or carved with a wood-burning tool. They are very long lasting, too.

09 of 10

9. Sponge Gourd

sponge gourd Luffa aegyptiaca growing in a garden
Rob Cardillo

The luffa or sponge gourd (Luffa aegyptiaca) can be eaten when harvested very young. If left to mature, you'll be rewarded with a luffa sponge or natural dish scrubber. Harvest the gourds when the shell starts to harden and begins to separate from the interior fibers. Peeling away the shell reveals the sponge, which should be soaked, washed, and, if needed, bleached before use.

10 of 10

10. Winged Gourd

winged gourds overhead and close up
Claudia Cooper / Getty Images

These small, thick-skinned gourds display irregular winged surfaces and may be warty or smooth. Some winged gourds (Cucurbita pepo) are solid-colored, in shades of yellow, orange, green, or white; others are multicolored, often displaying attractive patterns. These gourds, with their vibrant colors and unusual shapes, make a great addition to autumn table arrangements.

Growing and Harvesting Gourds

Gourds need a long hot season (95 to 130 days) to mature, so unless you live where summers are long, you may want to get a head start by sowing seeds indoors. Provide plenty of sun, growing room, and if possible, a trellis so the vines can climb.

Except for the luffa gourd, which is harvested before the skin completely hardens, allow the gourds to mature completely on the vine. Harvest when the stem begins to dry and turn brown, using a sharp knife or garden snips. Leave a short stem attached. Handle the fruit with care to avoid bruising. Wash the gourds in soapy water to remove dirt. Then, wipe down the gourds with a soft cloth soaked in a household disinfectant and let them air dry or towel them dry.

Cure the clean fruit in a well ventilated garage or shed, spreading them in a single layer on newspaper or shelves. They should not touch each other. Turn each gourd every few days and remove any that show signs of rotting. The curing process will take several weeks; you'll know they are thoroughly dried when you shake them and hear their seeds rattle. Dried gourds can be waxed, shellacked, painted, or used just as they are for decorating and crafts.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles