Pumpkins are a beloved member of the squash family that are most commonly grown for decorative purposes during Halloween. These popular fruits are also grown and bought for their delicious and versatile taste, with pumpkins playing a prominent role in pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin curry, and more.
A little known fact about pumpkins is that they actually start off as flowers. These flowers are yellow or orange and, like the pumpkin itself, are also edible and feature in an array of southwest Asian dishes.
As well as the flowers pumpkin plants grow, there’s an abundance of pumpkin-colored flower species that are perfect for providing a splash of color to any garden.
Whether you’re looking to expand your knowledge of flowers or if you want to add some brightness to your backyard garden, here is our guide to pumpkin flowers!
Male Pumpkin Flowers
As with most plants, pumpkins require both male and female flowers to pollinate. The male flowers bloom first only a couple of months after germination. These flowers are star-shaped and yellow or orange in color, and their role is to pollinate the female flowers that grow shortly after.
Unfortunately, male pumpkin flowers don’t last very long. While they will typically outnumber the female flowers, most of the male flowers will die early. The remaining male flowers are then responsible for feeding pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies.
Even though they die quickly, it’s important not to remove any male pumpkin flowers. Without the help of male pumpkin flowers, the female pumpkin flowers cannot develop, which means pollination and germination won’t happen.
To put it simply, no flowers means no pumpkins. Once a pumpkin begins to develop, however, you can then opt to remove new blooms.
Female Pumpkin Flowers
One to three weeks after the male pumpkin flowers have bloomed, the female pumpkin flowers start to develop. These flowers look fairly similar to the males thanks to their star-shaped structure and yellow-orange coloration, but there are some key differences between a male and female pumpkin flower.
Most notably, the female pumpkin flower doesn’t grow as tall as the male pumpkin flower. Females also exhibit a yellow stigma, and ovary, and a small bump joining the bottom of the flower with the top of the stem. Once pollination has been successful, this bump is responsible for turning into the pumpkin itself. The stigma and ovary are responsible for successful pollen germination.
As pumpkins require pollination to grow, the plants should be planted amongst other pollinating species. Nearby pollinating-friendly flowers are the key to growing happy and large pumpkins!
If you choose to remove the female and male flowers once your chosen number of pumpkins have formed, you can make use of them by adding the flowers to a meal as they are all edible. The flowers are said to taste like regular greenery but with a hint of sweetness – not unlike a pumpkin!
Flowers that look like pumpkin flowers
Like the humble pumpkin, zucchini is grown from the pollination and germination of a flower. Zucchini flowers look very similar to pumpkin flowers, which makes sense considering both are a part of the same genus. A zucchini flower is star-shaped, large, bright yellow, and suitably edible – which is why they are so commonly used in Italian dishes.
As with pumpkin flowers, the zucchini plant bears both male and female flowers. The male zucchini flowers bloom first, providing enough pollination for the female flowers to develop shortly after, which then provides the basis for the zucchini itself to grow. The key difference between both flowers is that the females will exhibit a bump that connects the stem to the flower, which eventually turns into the zucchini.
As with pumpkins and zucchinis, squash is developed by two types of flowers – male and female squash flowers. While squash and zucchini are often terms used interchangeably, both are technically separate depending on the exact type. Their flowers conveniently look very similar thanks to their star-shaped structure and bright yellow coloring!
The male squash flower grows before the female squash flower, which relies on the male for pollination for its development. Once developed, the female squash flower will continue to pollinate and germinate before developing the squash fruit. As the male flowers die off quite quickly, squash plants need to be grown amongst other pollinating flowers to ensure successful growth.
Freesia is a genus of African-native flowering plants. Each species exhibits the same structure of funnel-shaped flowers varying in colors, including purple, red, and most commonly yellow. Their fragrance and cluster-like shape makes freesias a popular addition to bouquets and floral arrangements.
While not technically a pumpkin flower, freesias can possess similar colors to pumpkin flowers (and pumpkins themselves) thanks to the bright yellow or yellow-orange variety.
The marigold genus of flowering plants belongs to the sunflower family, and for good reason! Native to the Americas, marigolds are most well known for their distinctive bright yellow or yellow-orange round-shaped blooms. Marigolds are a popular species grown in gardens across the world thanks to its ability to grow year-round in the right conditions.
Marigolds are also brilliant for growing near pumpkin plants. Not only do they attract pollinators (who will then be drawn to the color of pumpkin flowers), but marigolds have the ability to deter common pests.
Native to North America, Lewisia is a flower genus consisting of 19 species and other varieties that range in color, including pink, white, red, yellow, and orange. The yellow and orange species are most notably comparable with pumpkins and pumpkin flowers for their distinctive sunset-like coloration.
Lewisia flowers are surprisingly hardy and can grow in tough soil, which is why they are most commonly planted in rock gardens as a decorative flower.
If you’re looking for a flower with similar petals to the male or female pumpkin flower, check out hibiscus flowers. The large genus produces an array of colorful hibiscus species, most notably the yellow or orange varieties that mimic the same color as pumpkin flowers.
The texture of the petals is the most like pumpkin flowers, as the flowers are trumpet shaped, delicate, and slightly crinkled in texture. These flowers are most commonly grown as ornamental flowers or to attract pollinators.
Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata)
As the name suggests, the black-eyed Susan got its name for the dark brown center in the middle of each flower. This center stands out against the bright orange or yellow petals, making for a stunning contrast to a garden.
Black-eyed Susans are moderately fast-growing vining flowers that are most commonly grown as an annual. The bright coloration helps to attract pollinators, making them a great species to grow near pumpkin plants.
Pansies are a popular hybridized garden flower that come in a variety of colors, including a fiery bright orange. There are a few orange pansy varieties, with some exhibiting the classic dark brown of traditional pansies and others only featuring the orange shade. With such varieties, gardeners have the freedom to choose which vibrancy they prefer – whether it’s more red or yellow.
If you’re looking for a flower that closely resembles an actual pumpkin, check out the orange poppy. Poppies are a popular flower for those wanting to make a garden of wild flowers, thanks to their towering heights and vivid coloration. The orange variety, once in full bloom, opens into a wide and curricular structure that isn’t unlike the shape of a pumpkin.
Plus, thanks to the bright coloration of poppies, they are ideal for attracting pollinators.
The common sunflower is arguably the most well known yellow or yellow-orange flower. Belonging to the daisy family, the common sunflower is known for its distinctive bright yellow round flower heads that resemble the sun, hence the name (and the fact the flowers rotate to face the sun during the day).
Thanks to their large surface area and bright coloration, sunflowers are excellent at attracting pollinators to a garden, which is why they are great for growing nearby pumpkin plants.
Granny Pop-out-of-beds (Calystegia sepium)
Affectionately known as granny pop-out-of-beds, heavenly trumpets, or hedge bindweed, these flowers might not exhibit the bright yellow coloring of a pumpkin flower, but the structure of the petals is certainly similar. The flowers are positioned in a trumpet-like formation, opening up and out like a pumpkin flower with similarly wrinkled and delicate petals.
As you can see, pumpkin flowers aren’t technically a species of flower. Pumpkin plants will inevitably grow flowers in order to grow pumpkins, but you can’t simply successfully grow the flowers without growing a subsequent pumpkin fruit.
If you are looking for flowers that are similar in color or shape to a pumpkin flower, however, hopefully this guide will help you find a species that is ideal for your garden. Whether you’re looking to replicate the bright color of a pumpkin flower or if you want to enhance the chance of successful pollination for your pumpkin plants, there are several flowering species that resemble a pumpkin flower!