Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Hard-shelled Gourd, Calabash
Lagenaria siceraria 'Birdhouse'

Family: Cucurbitaceae (koo-ker-bih-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lagenaria (lag-en-AR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: siceraria (sy-ker-AR-ee-uh) (Info)
Cultivar: Birdhouse
Additional cultivar information: (aka Martin House)

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

35 members have or want this plant for trade.

Vines and Climbers

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Not Applicable

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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6 positives
4 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral dianne99 On Jun 12, 2010, dianne99 from Brookville, KS (Zone 5b) wrote:

I just planted these out, so no rating yet. All of this is according to Suzanne Ashworth in Seed to Seed. Lagenaria siceraria will not cross with any other member of the Cucurbitaceae family. So you can safely save seeds while growing one variety of this with one each of C. maxima (squash), C. mixta (squash), C. moschata (squash), C. pepo (squash), C. ficifolia (Malabar Gourd or Chilacayote), and C. foetidissima (Calabazilla) without any crossing possible. Of course, any fruit would not be affected, only the seeds would be affected if you planted more than one of each.
Great book, she does such a thorough job of explaining. Some very useful gourds from ancient civilizations are becoming extinct, so we should all try to protect one variety for other if you have any, please share with a seed bank.

Neutral gray_53 On Jun 12, 2010, gray_53 from Mcdonough, GA wrote:

Mine always get yellow and white spots on the leaves, and it seems to damage them. Any suggestions?

Positive passiflora07 On Feb 18, 2009, passiflora07 from Fern Park, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Just wanted to say thanks to onalee for such a thorough note!!

Positive CurtisJones On Nov 24, 2008, CurtisJones from Longmont, CO wrote:

From your friends at Botanical Interests: Birdhouse gourds make great birdhouses. Once cured, these hard-shelled gourds will last indefinitely and can be painted, carved, cut, or drilled as you would do with wood for literally hundreds of craft projects. They can be made into pots, planters, bowls, toys, and even hanging baskets. The 15’ to 35’ vines can be grown along the ground or up a VERY STURDY trellis or fence.

Positive tiLLybuG On Feb 8, 2007, tiLLybuG from Murphysboro, IL wrote:

We had great success growing birdhouse gourds along our fence row in Southern Il. They can benefit from being fertilized during flowering and fruiting stages as long as you keep the nitrogen content low.

Positive Daisyriver On Oct 16, 2005, Daisyriver from Windom, MN (Zone 5a) wrote:

harvested 30 gourds from two plants...also harvested 8 dipper and 6 corsican gourds. Sowed indoors in peat pots may 1 and planted in garden on Memorial Day. Harvested the first week in October. This summer was warm and humid with well spaced moisture. I did not feed. Most of the gourds are are of sufficient size for purple martins.

Neutral zemerson On Sep 26, 2005, zemerson from Calvert County, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I have grown this two years in a row but neither year did I get any fruit off of it. The little baby fruit developed but out of hundreds of little fruit, none grew any bigger. But the plant I measured growing 5-6" a day! This thing covered my front porch completely within a month. I would assume it would do better with a longer growing season.

Positive IslandJim On Jul 6, 2005, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Easy, satisfactory plant to grow. I let mine crawl up a tree where it added to the summer shade canopy over a garden bench.

Positive onalee On Oct 11, 2004, onalee from Brooksville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

If you have a growing season of at least 90-100 days and plenty of space, you can be the proud owner of several hard-shelled gourds (Lagenaria siceraria), sometimes known as Birdhouse Gourds, by fall.

The vines will quickly cover a trellis, hide a chain-link fence, wrap around trees, and then keep growing! Despite the vine's need for vast amount of space, it's a fascinating plant to grow that adults and kids love. The resulting gourds can be made into birdhouses, feeders, baskets, dishes or planters.

The vine requires a long hot growing season of 90 - 100 days. Since gourds demand a long growing season, they can be started indoors 4 weeks prior to planting outdoors. I have successfully started gourds in regular pots with soil and transplanted them to the garden although instructions I have seen on the internet say that gourd seeds should be planted in individual containers, such as peat pots, since their roots will not like being disturbed during transplanting. You may want to try some each way to see what works for you.
If you started your plants indoors, you need to start "conditioning" the plants to the great outdoors a few days before transplanting. Outdoors generally has lower humidity, less frequent rainfall and higher light levels, and if you plant your babies out directly, they may wilt. Instead, start taking them outside in the shade for a few hours a day—then letting them have some direct sunlight for a couple hours a day, shade the rest. Let them wilt just a tiny, tiny bit while they're outside. Give them at least 3-4 days of this sort of "abuse" before you plant them out. This is called "hardening off' and it generally results in plants that just keep right on growing without breaking stride. Once the danger of frost is past and your plants are hardened off, plant the peat pots in tilled soil that has a bit of compost or fertilizer added.

I plant my seeds directly in the soil on my fence line, planting about 6 seeds together in a ‘hill’ (I clear a spot about 2’ long and 1’ wide and about 2” below grade so it will hold water, then I make a trench about 12” long in that spot and space them in there), ˝” deep, and allowing 30’ of fence (15’ in each direction) per hill. When they have 2 or 3 of their first real leaves, thin to leave the strongest 3 vines per hill. You may also plant the vines where they can climb onto a STRONG trellis or even a tree. (If you allow your vines to grow along the ground, as pumpkins do, the resulting gourds may not be symmetrical in shape.) Gourds like a soil pH around 6-6.5, slightly acidic. If you plant during dry months, you will need to water the vines until they are established or there is heavy rain at least weekly. Once you have vines growing, do not fertilize them again or you'll have beautiful leaves and few gourds.

Once the vine is about 10 to 15 feet long, pinch off the tip of the main runner so that the plant will send out side branches. It's on these side branches that the female flowers (and gourds) grow. This is very important, otherwise, you may have many flowers but few gourds.

There are male flowers that need to pollinate the female ones. Female flowers have a little bulge behind the flower that looks a bit like a little birdhouse gourd. Male flowers only have a stem. If you have plenty of bees and insects, they will do all of the work naturally for you. Or at night when the flowers open up, take a bit of the male pollen and shake it onto the female flowers. One vine may produce up to 12 gourds, although the average is more like 5 - 6. If a gourd begins growing low on the fence and touches the ground, you may want to put a small piece of Styrofoam under it to keep the moisture in the ground from rotting the gourd.

The vines will love many long drinks of water throughout the summer. But when autumn approaches, do not give them any supplemental waterings. Let the vines wither and die as winter approaches.

Leave the gourds on the vine until a light frost or the stems turn brown. If you need to pick a gourd before the frost, the gourd should be very firm to the touch. Cut the gourd with an inch or more of stem. Wash the gourds in soapy water. Household bleach may be added to the water if desired, and may help delay mold formation. After the first frost, cut the gourds from the vines and put them in a dry warm place on a screen or hang them. It is important that air can circulate all about them, drying them. If a gourd becomes soft and begins to rot or becomes shriveled, throw it away (save the seeds!!). However, a bit of mold on the gourds is fine and normal. It may take 6 months to dry large gourds. They will be ready when they are very light in weight, and you can hear the seeds inside rattle when you shake the birdhouse gourd.

Dry the gourd fruits naturally by placing in an area with good air circulation. Bringing the gourds indoors may help them dry faster, but gourds can be dried outdoors even in cold areas, however repeated freezing and thawing will affect the viability of seeds. When the seeds rattle, the gourd is dry and ready for crafting. How long it takes a gourd to dry depends on the drying environment -- the warmer and the better the circulation, the faster the water will evaporate from the gourd. Most moderate-sized hardshell gourds will be dry by Christmas. Larger or particularly thick-shelled gourds may not dry for several more months. Light may help to retard formation of mold, but the mold on the outside of gourds is a natural part of the drying process; as long as the gourd remain firm to the touch, do not discard it. Turning the gourds and wiping off the mold on a weekly basis may help the gourds dry sooner. If you live in a particularly humid area, it’s hard to get the gourds to dry. I’ve found that wiping them down with a weak solution of weed killer (like ‘Round Up’) will help remove the outside green layer, allowing more air flow to dry the gourd on the inside. Scraping the outside green layer off with the back of a butter knife is another option that works well but is time consuming.

Saving Seeds
Seeds from your gourds, whether they have been dried or not, can be saved for planting next year. If I harvest seeds from a still green gourd, I rinse them off (there is a ‘slime’ on them in the green gourds) and place them in a warm, dry area to dry completely. I store all my seeds in breathable containers (not plastic bags). Make note, however: Growing many types of gourds or squash in close proximity to each other WILL affect your seeds by creating cross-pollinated gourds. The gourds themselves will be fine, but the seeds may well produce something that does not resemble your original. In reality, there is no 100% guaranteed distance to avoid cross-pollination because bees and moths can fly long distances, but I keep my gourds 200 – 300 feet apart to considerably reduce the chances of cross pollination.

Neutral Cine On Aug 6, 2001, Cine from Lufkin, TX wrote:

Green hourglass-shaped fruits 8-10 inches long are decorative fresh and useful when made into birdhouses. Fun project for kids or paint with funny faces.

In full sun, sow 5 seeds over a hill 12 inches tall and 2 ft across with well drained soil. Smaller gardens plant along fence/trellis. When 6 inches tall, thin to 3 plants/hill.

Late to mature. When skin is hard, cut from vines. To make birdhouse, spead in warm airy place until thoroughly dry. Cut a hole for "door", shake out seeds and hang outside. Best left natural for birdhouses.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Loxley, Alabama
Hereford, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Menifee, California
Longmont, Colorado
Brooksville, Florida
Dunnellon, Florida
Fountain, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Venice, Florida
Hinesville, Georgia
Mcdonough, Georgia
Villa Rica, Georgia
Clinton, Illinois
Collinsville, Illinois
Murphysboro, Illinois
Windom, Minnesota
Byhalia, Mississippi
Gautier, Mississippi
Lucedale, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Yonkers, New York
Vinton, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
West Warwick, Rhode Island
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Selmer, Tennessee
Conroe, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Houston, Texas
Lufkin, Texas
Round Rock, Texas
San Antonio, Texas

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