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CUCUMIS sativus

Image of Cucumis sativus

Stephen Ausmus, USDA/ARS

Family

Cucurbitaceae

Botanical Name

CUCUMIS sativus

Plant Common Name

Cucumber

General Description

Fresh or pickled, cucumbers are a favorite garden vegetable that are as easy to grow as they are tasty. They grow on vines that can be trellised if space is limited and there are literally hundreds of cultivars and types to choose from.

Native to South Asia and cultivated since ancient times, cucumbers are frost-tender annual vines that thrive in warmth and sunshine. They have large, broadly lobed leaves that are green and scratchy to the touch. When mature they produce yellow flowers that are either male or female. Pollen-bearing male flowers are produced first, followed by the fruit-bearing female flowers. The female flowers are easily recognizable by the elongated, bulbous ovaries at their bases.

Mature cucumbers are elongated or rounded, can be various shades of green and have small prickles on their skins. Some cucumbers are bred to be harvested young for pickles while others are raised to be harvested when more mature and used for slicing. Overripe specimens turn yellow and have softer flesh and large, firm and inedible seeds, so it’s best to harvest them when they are young and crisp.

Grow cucumbers in full sun and fertile, evenly moist, perfectly drained garden loam. After threat of frost is past, sow cucumber seeds directly in the ground. If transplanting container-grown plants take care to not damage their tender white roots unless they are root-bound. Root-bound plants can be saved only if their roots are gently teased apart before planting. Cucumbers are usually harvested after 60 to 80 days, depending on the cultivar. Be sure to harvest fruits regularly, so they will continue to flower and produce fruit.

Cucumbers may be trained on a trellis or cage or allowed to ramble freely across the ground. There are many selections, so choose a variety best suited to your climate, soils and regional insect-pest expectations. Dwarf varieties can be container-grown and are great for urban gardens.

There are many regional cucumber types that vary in size, shape, color and cultural tolerances. Americans are most familiar with slicing cucumbers, which tend to be broad, thick skinned when mature and have tougher, more prominent seeds. Thin skinned cucumber types include long, straight Asian and English cucumber. Pickling cucumbers have a pleasing shape and dense flesh and are picked immature. Lemon, or dosakai, cucumbers are almost completely round, yellow-skinned and originate from India. Middle Eastern types, like the nearly seedless Persian and sweet beit alpha cucumbers, are well-adapted to dry climates and small fruited. Oddly enough, some favorite “cucumbers” are actually in the same species as cantaloupes (Cucumis melo). The best known of these is the curved, thin-skinned Armenian cucumber (Cucumis melo var. flexuosus).

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • Sunset Zone

    A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    6"-10" / 15.2cm - 25.4cm

  • Width

    3'-12' / 0.9m - 3.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Hybrid Origin, Southern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Vining/Climbing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Yellow Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green, Yellow Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes