Luffa Gourd (Luffa aegyptiaca)
This heirloom gourd is commonly dried and used as a sponge. 2-foot fruits grow on dark green vines that should be trellised. Young luffa gourds are delicious fresh or gently cooked like summer squash.
- 15 seeds minimum
- Germination: 7-14 days
- Maturity: 90-120 days
- Scarify seeds with file and soak in lukewarm water for 24 hours before planting.
- Direct sow 1” deep in full sun after last frost date.
- Trellising recommended.
- Space seeds 8-12” apart; space rows 24-36” apart
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I started seeds indoors and planted as early as possible in zone 6, Columbus, OH. These would benefit from a longer growing season to dry on the vine, but I have about 12 gourds hanging to finish drying in my basement. I think they will yield sponges around Christmas with patience. The vines were slow to start growing in our wet, cool spring, but then TOOK OFF in summer. I planted on a 4' fence and they could easily have covered one twice as tall. I had to start trimming new growth in September, so give yours more room than you think. I started pinching off young squash mid-September since they wouldn't have time to mature, to send energy to maturing squash. Full size squash are heavy before they start to dry, but vines are strong and ablento support the weight without help. Pollinators ADORED these, especially bumble bees, carpenter bees, and honey bees. Pests largely left these alone, preferring butternut squash and cucumbers. Very young squash are edible, similar to yellow squash (not to my taste but others enjoy). They have two types of flowers, female flowers with a small squash at the base and male flowers on stalks. I will definitely grow these again next year.
We are horrible seed starters, so after that mess-up, we sowed seeds directly in the garden (I believe 9) and eventually ended up with 5 plants total. The seeds take a really long time to germinate and we had all but given up on them when they started popping up. The plants grew great- huge yellow flowers that drew insects in like I had never seen! If you need to attract bees to your garden (and everything else that wants to feast on these), plant luffas! The production was ok. We ended up with about 10 usable gourds, but had to throw out another 10 or so because the started to rot once the frost hit them. The best plan for these plants would be to start them indoors (properly) and let them get a head start on the growing season. Our were put in about 3 weeks to late and it directly affected our harvest. From those usable gourds we collected over 100 fully developed seeds, so it is worth the initial investment if you want to keep growing these. I am in western Kentucky, and we had a HOT summer. We kept the plants well watered.