You can plant, grow, and harvest cucumbers in containers. Cucumbers do exceptionally well in containers. Cucumbers can be grown in containers on balconies, decks, patios, rooftops, and other urban gardens. Cucumbers can also be grown indoors under lights.
There are both bush and vine types of cucumbers. Vine types grow to 6 feet (1.8m) tall and are best grown on a trellis or other support. Bush types grow somewhat compact from about 3 to 4 feet (1-1.2m) tall. Most forms are climbers, in varying degrees.
Cucumbers are commonly grouped into two broad categories by how they are used: picklers and slicers. Slicers are long and green; picklers are short and stubby and bumpy. There are also burpless cucumbers which are bred to eliminate enzymes that make digestion difficult for some people, and there are Asian cucumbers which are long, thin, and crunchy with a mild flavor.
Container growing cucumbers fast facts
- Grow cucumbers as: annual
- Plant size at maturity: 3-foot (1m) diameter for bush types; 6 feet tall for vining types
- Start from: seeds or transplants
- Minimum soil depth or pot: 10 inches (25cm) or greater; 5-gallon container or larger
- Light requirement: Full sun, 6-8 hours per day
- Days to harvest: 50-70 days
- Botanical name: Cucumis sativus
More about growing cucumbers at How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Cucumbers.
- Cucumbers thrive in warm temperatures; they will not tolerate frost.
- Cucumbers are mostly dark green but there are also white-, cream-, and yellow-fruited forms; some are round or oval-shaped.
- The first 10 to 20 flowers produced on each plant are males; there are about 10 to 20 male flowers for every female flower. The first flowers (males) will not produce fruit. Female flowers have a small bulge behind the flower where it connects to the stem.
- Slicing cucumbers are eaten fresh and are longer than pickling cucumbers.
- There are vining and bush varieties of cucumbers. Bush varieties grow more compact and are the best choice for containers.
Container size for cucumbers
- Grow a single cucumber in a 5-gallon container or larger.
- You can fit 3 bush cucumber plants into a container the size of half a wine or whiskey barrel.
- Use a container that is at least 12 inches (30cm) deep.
Planting cucumbers in containers
- Cover the seed with ½ to an inch of soil and keep it moist.
- Plant cucumbers after the weather has warmed in late spring.
- To get a head start, plant seeds ½ inch deep in peat pots 2 to 4 weeks before transplanting seedlings outdoors. Seeds will not germinate until the soil temperature is greater than 70°F (21°C).
- Single plants can be grown indoors in a window during the winter.
Outdoor growing cucumbers
- Grow cucumbers in a sunny sheltered site; cucumbers will tolerate light shade in summer.
- Protect cucumbers from wind, especially in the early stages.
- Grow cucumbers vertically otherwise they will run or spread line any vine.
- All cucumbers are vining plants and need support to grow vertically.
- Grow cucumbers up a stake, trellis, or cage (you can use a large tomato cage).
- Put the support in place at planting time so that roots are not damaged later.
- Fasten a trellis to a large container and train the cucumber on the trellis or up a string. Attach a cross brace at the top of a post and train the cucumbers up strings.
- You can also make a circle or fence of construction wire around a large container and train the vines up the fence.
Indoor growing cucumbers
- Grow cucumbers indoors either in a window or under lights.
- Grow cucumbers indoors under two 40-watt fluorescent bulbs
- Cucumbers grown indoors will need to be hand pollinated. Bees carry pollen from male to female flowers outdoors. Hand-pollinate female flowers with a small craft brush.
- For indoor growing, choose cucumbers with a compact habit such as ‘Pot Luck’, Minicu’, ‘Park’s Bush Whopper’, and ‘Patio Pik.;
Light requirements for cucumbers
- Cucumbers need full sun for 6 to 8 hours per day.
- Grow cucumbers indoors under two 40-watt fluorescent bulbs
Temperature and humidity for cucumbers
- Cucumbers require a minimum temperature of 60°F (15°C); cucumbers germinate best at 68°F (20°C).
- For best results, cucumbers need a humidity level of 40 to 60 percent. This is especially important when growing cucumbers in hot summer regions.
Soil for container-growing cucumbers
- Grow cucumbers in containers in a light, well-drained soil mix. Use a container soil mix or a blend such as equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and potting soil.
- Provide at least 3 gallons of soil per plant.
Watering cucumbers in containers
- Cucumbers are 95 percent water.
- Keep the soil evenly moist; cucumbers produced in soil that dry can be bitter.
- If the soil is not moist 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5cm) below the soil surface, it is time to water.
- Cucumbers need about 2 inches of water per week (1 inch of water per week that is about 0.6 gallons of water per square foot of soil surface space).
Feeding cucumbers in containers
- Cucumbers growing in containers should be given a balanced fertilizer once a week.
- Weekly fertilizers can include a compost tea mix or a diluted fish emulsion or liquid seaweed fertilizer at half the usual recommended rate.
Care for cucumbers
- Pinch back the vines so that they do not overwhelm the support.
- Cucumbers can be trained up a stake or a single twine with only two side branches hanging down at the top. Remove lateral branches and pinch off flowers except for those in the upper half of the plant. Nip off the central tip at the desired height and allow two side branches to grow outward and down. Allow one blossom to develop in every alternate leaf axil.
Care for cucumbers is also discussed in How to Grow Cucumbers That Are Not Bitter Tasting.
Cucumber problems, pests, and diseases
- Cucumbers grown in dry soil can become bitter and hollow.
- Cucumber mosaic virus is spread by aphids. Control aphids with insecticidal soap. Mottled and distorted leaves are a sign of the mosaic virus.
- Powdery mildew can attack cucumber leaves. White patches on leaves are a sign of powdery mildew.
- Do not worry when the first flowers on the plant fall off; these are usually male flowers.
- Check the seed packet to know how large your cucumber fruits should grow.
- It is best to pick cucumbers while they are small and tender.
- Pick cucumbers before they begin to turn yellow, and the seeds harden. Aging fruits left on the vine will inhibit the formation of new fruits.
- For sweet pickles, pick fruits when they are 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6cm) long; for dill pickles, when they are 5 to 6 inches (12-15cm) long; for slicing, 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm).
- Cut cucumbers from the stem about 1 inch above the fruit.
- Green-skinned cucumbers that turn yellow are no longer edible.
More about harvesting cucumbers at How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers.
Cucumber varieties to grow in containers
- Improved Long Green Marketer (60 days)
- Marketmore (67 days)
- Pickling Cucumbers
- Sweet Success (50 days)
- Salad Bush (57 days)
- Suyo Long (62 days)
- Spartan Dawn (51 days)
- Pioneer (51 days)
- Armenian Yard-Long, the vine grows 4 to 5 feet long; fruits can grow to 30 inches long
- Lemon cucumber (60 days), size and shape of a lemon
- White Wonder, snow white color
- Serpent cucumbers (these are not actually cucumbers), grow to 4 feet long and coils in shape.