The Q&A Archives: Growing Luffas

Question: I planted luffas in mid-June, about ten weeks ago. When should I expect to see flowers? They have grown to about 10-12 feet tall.

Answer: Luffa's are gourds, which belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, and includes squash, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes and pumpkins.

Dipper gourds, bottle gourds, Luffa gourds and club, pear and miniature gourds all add color and distinction to gardens.

Many people are most familiar with gourds in the Cucurbita genus, the yellow-blossomed ornamental gourds. Some may grow gourds in the Lagenaria genus as well as the Luffa genus. These produce more prolific vines and require more space to grow than the Cucurbitas.

Typical Lagenaria types include the dipper, club, bottle, kettle and powder horn gourds. They're the hard-shell gourds. Luffas are sponge gourds.

Gourds need a long growing season to mature before frost. Because you planted your seeds in mid-June, I don't think they'll set fruit in time to mature before the end of the season. It's best to start the seeds indoors in late winter and transplant into the garden in early spring to give the plants plenty of time to flower and develop mature fruit.

Cucurbita types are ready to harvest when the surface becomes hard and the stems dry and brown. Mature Lagenaria gourds turn from green to tan, and eventually the seeds will rattle. You can pick mature green fruit if you cure them a long time. Luffas are mature when they become paper dry on the outer shell. Pick them then, or wait until vines dry.

Place gourds in a warm, dry spot with good ventilation. Lagenaria gourds may require several months in a warm, well-ventilated place for proper curing. Mature Luffa gourds can be soaked in water until the outer shell breaks down and can be peeled off.

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