How and When to Plant Pumpkins for Halloween

Find out exactly when to plant pumpkins for Halloween so your harvest will be perfectly timed.

Figuring out when to plant pumpkins for Halloween can be tricky to time just right. For starters, pumpkin plants don’t tolerate frost well, so you don't want to plant too soon. But pumpkins also need a long growing season, so you can't delay too much. Plus, if you're trying to make sure you have gorgeous homegrown pumpkins to decorate for Halloween, you have a somewhat narrow harvest window. If you plant pumpkins too late, they won’t be ripe when you want to harvest them, but if you plant them too early, they may be overly ripe and mushy before the holiday arrives.

This guide will help you figure out exactly when to plant your pumpkin seeds. You'll also find recommendations for the best pumpkins to grow for making spooky Jack-o’-lanterns in time for Halloween.

When to Plant Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins are frost tender plants that should not be planted outdoors until after your area's last spring frost date. For gardeners in northern locations, pumpkins are usually directly sown outside in late May. Because pumpkins mature faster in warmer areas, gardeners in more mild climates may want to wait until June or early July to sow their seeds outdoors.

Sow pumpkin seeds outdoors when no more frost is expected and the soil has warmed up. If you have a short growing season, you may want to start your pumpkin seeds indoors in peat pots about 2 to 4 weeks before your last frost date. Using peat pots that can go directly into your planting bed is recommended because pumpkins have tender roots that can be easily damaged when transplanting them into the garden.

How long does it take pumpkins to grow?

Most types of pumpkins require at least 75 to 100 frost free days to ripen, but larger types may need even more time to grow. Check your pumpkin seed packet for details about how long it takes a particular pumpkin variety to reach maturity. Use this information to figure out exactly when to plant your pumpkins for Halloween so they have plenty of time to ripen before the holiday.

Ripe Orange Pumpkin Plants Ready to be Picked for Harvest
Holly Cromer / Getty Images.

Pumpkin Planting Tips

When planting pumpkins outside, make sure your plants have plenty of growing room. This will help your pumpkins to develop fully and grow larger. Pumpkins can be planted in either rows or hills. Hilling can be particularly useful for gardeners in cooler areas because it helps soil to warm up quicker and may speed up germination rates.

For proper growth, pumpkin seeds should be planted 1 inch deep and spaced 18 to 36 inches apart in rows 6 to 10 feet from each other. Alternatively, place 2 to 3 pumpkin seeds in each hill and space hills 4 to 8 to four apart.

It’s important to locate your pumpkins in full sun and add plenty of compost to your soil prior to planting. Keeping your pumpkin patch well-weeded and checking for pests will also help support healthy vines and encourage pumpkins to grow larger.

Best Pumpkin Varieties to Grow for Halloween

Figuring out when to plant pumpkins for Halloween is just as important as choosing pumpkin varieties that can mature before Halloween or the first killing frosts of autumn. For gardeners in cooler climates, that may mean that you’ll need to stick to pumpkin types with shorter growing seasons. Some of the best, fast-growing pumpkins to try include:


A vigorous grower, ‘Justify’ matures in about 100 days and maxes out between 20 and 25 pounds. Pumpkins are deep orange in color with distinctive ribs.


This pumpkin variety matures in 95-100 days. It has orange rinds and dark, strong stems for nice contrast. The nicely rounded, 20-25 pound fruit are perfect for carving.

‘Connecticut Field’

This classic, heirloom type of pumpkin grows a bit slower, ready to harvest in about 110-115 days. It features a golden orange rind on 15- to 25-pound fruits, and a good texture that's easy to carve.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When are pumpkins ready to harvest?

    Pumpkins are usually harvested in autumn after the first hard frost has killed back the vines. Ripe pumpkins will generally have a uniform color and they should sound hollow when tapped. The rind will also be firm and be difficult to pierce with your fingernail.

  • How far ahead can I carve a pumpkin for Halloween?

    Although it can be hard to wait, don’t carve your pumpkins until 3 days or less before Halloween. Uncarved pumpkins last longer, so the longer you wait, the better your pumpkins will look for trick-or-treaters.

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