Extensively grown in Asian countries, Snake gourd thrives in warm, humid environment. If your place has ideal temperature ranging from 70-80F, then you can enjoy growing this vine in your backyard.
Growing snake gourd plant or potlakaya is easy if you can provide essential requirement like the soil that drains well, mixed with organic matter or fertilizer like old compost and need at-least 6 hours of sun exposure.
This long coiled vegetable is prominent for its health benefits to improve digestion, detoxify kidneys and revitalize skin texture.
If you want to restrain from chemical fertilized vegetables, then growing this annual vine in your backyard is the best option.
Wonder, how to grow snake gourd at home?
You don’t need have prior experience to start gardening in container. Spare few minutes on this article and am sure you’ll have enough knowledge about growing snake gourd plant.
What is Snake Gourd Plant?
Trichosanthes cucumerina, is the scientific name of this vegetable and snake gourd is common cultivated variant.
For those who would like to know about this plant. It’s a narrow, elongated fruit edible while immature in Asian countries. Pulp of mature snake gourd fruit can be used as a tomato substitute.
Snake gourd leaves, its shoots and tendrils are all edible.
You may not find this vegetable in a local market, unless you want to grow at home. However, it’s very common in Asian cuisines. Northern Australia, Florida and some parts of Africa regarde this plant as native.
Though Europeans and Americans were introduced to this vegetable long back in 1720, it is not cultivated because it needs warm nights to yield.
It is also known as serpent gourd, chichinda, padwal and potlakaya (Telugu).
Also Read: Growing Ivy Gourd at Home
Snake Gourd Varieties
Don’t skip this, though it may sound boring to know different varieties of a plant. It is important, as it helps to decide which variety you’d like to grow in a container.
Two main varieties of this vegetable include the one which I listed above Trichosanthes cucumerina (T.anguina) is edible with soft skin and other variety with hard-shelled.
This vegetable belongs to Cucurbitaceae family and it can reach upto 6 feet length. Texture of snake gourd is akin to zucchini when immature. With its abundant nutrients, this annual vine is used as a cooling ingredient and known for its ayurvedic benefit.
How to Grow Snake Gourd?
Cooler climate states aren’t best location to grow snake gourd. Warmer climates are suitable for this vine.
Soak seeds overnight so that it gives a quick start for the germination process.
Choose well-drained soil for germination.
You can either sow them directly in your backyard or germinate them indoors and transplant the seedlings later.
Seeds germinate within 10 days, in some cases it may take few more days depending on climatic conditions in your region.
You can expect the harvest in 45-60 days, based on the snake gourd variety you choose.
Before that, to encourage optimal growth of snake gourd plant, you must provide soil that drains well, full sunlight, regular watering, enriching the soil with fertilizers and using fungicide or pesticide to get rid of pests and fungal infestation.
Soil for Snake Gourd Plant
Soil is essential aspect to grow plants. Snake gourd plant can grow in wide variety of soil conditions. However, gardening experts say sandy loamy soil help to increase yield and growth of this annual vine.
Dig your backyard and fill sandy soil along with organic matter. This will improve quality of the fruit.
Snake Gourd Seed Germination
You can buy snake gourd seeds from local store. Soak them overnight in water to improve germination rate. To avoid fungus attack, experts recommend washing seeds in 0.2% of bavistin (controls diseases) for 6 hours and dry in shade, else enquire if your local store has done this.
Another tip to speed seed germination is to crack seeds. Use pliers to gently crack the hard shell and soak the seeds overnight.
You can germinate seeds through paper towel method or just sow them in coco peat containers. Keep the container moist with water and within 10 days you’ll see sprouts.
Choosing Location to Plant Snake Gourd Seedlings
If you’re planning to grow in backyard, choose the location where it is exposed to sunlight for maximum time. Same goes with containers.
As you see the seed starts to sprout, transplant 15-20 days old seedlings to container or backyard.
Container to grow snake gourd plant must be at-least 15 inch wide and 9-10 inch of depth. Fill the container with sandy loamy soil with organic matter to provide enough fertilizers for the plant.
Mix upper soil with organic matter if you’re planting in backyard. Check pH of the soil, it needs to be 5.8 to 6.4.
Spacing Between Every Snake Gourd Plant
Plant the snake gourd seedlings with enough spacing between them. Experts recommend 7-8 feet spacing, as they grow on trellis and also to avoid diseases. Water them regularly twice in a week or whenever you think the soil is dry.
Snake Gourd Pollination
When the plant starts blooming, natural pollination occurs between male and female flowers through flies. If your garden has no flies, then you can attract them by adding a small light bulb to the structure.
Else, you must try hand pollination by touching male flower and female flower with your bare hands.
Watering Snake Gourd Plant
Like a small baby you must regularly visit your snake gourd plant and see if it has enough water.
Over watering or under watering isn’t good for the plant. It needs water every day in summer season. You can try drip irrigation to water your backyard.
Check this out: How to Grow Pointed Gourd Plant?
Best Fertilizers for Snake Gourd
Homemade fertilizers are free from chemical ingredients and economical on your budget.
Mix upper part of the soil with organic compost to improve the yield. Comfrey fertilizer, cow or sheep manure can do wonders on your plant.
In my personal experience, when I used tea compost it attracted ants and the damage they did to the fruit is unforgivable. However, I used garlic water to get rid of ants. Wonder, it worked!
Simple natural way to fertilizer your container (apart from adding organic matter before planting) is to add banana peel powder. It’s simple. Instead of throwing banana peel, dry them till they lose moisture. Now grind them and spread the powder on upper part of the soil. Nutrients in banana peel get transferred to your plant.
Check NPK value of organic fertilizer you buy online. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are essential nutrients that help plant to grow its root, leaves and produce fruits.
Snake Gourd is a Climber or Creeper?
Climbers are plants that can climb up tall objects like trees or trellis. Stems of these plants twine around the tall objects.
Creepers are second type of vines that grow close to the ground. However, if you give them support they too grow to some extent but not as tall as climbers.
Back to our topic, snake gourd is a climber. You must build trellis so that this vine climbs up without any difficulty. You can try wooden or iron trellis in your backyard. (Source)
Also Read: Growing Bitter Gourd on Trellis
Snake Gourd Growing Season
Though know for tropical regions, snake gourd plant can grow in wide variety of climatic conditions. However, it required 18C temperature at initial stages and for optimal growth it needs 25° to 38°C temperature.
Can I Grow Snake Gourd Plant in Container?
Indian scientists are very much interested in this vegetable because of its good yield and pest free culture. You can find different varieties (kaumudi, baby, TA-19) of snake gourd plant here in India. (1)
Yes, you can grow this annual vine in container or pot.
Container gardening is helpful as it takes less space. We urban gardener have no to very little space. Containers or pots save space and you can literally shift the plant if needed. However, in case of climbers or creepers it’s not a good option.
Make sure you supplied enough amounts of fertilizers, soil and water to your plant, you can enjoy fresh organic vegetables in your balcony.
Must Read: How to Grow Ridge Gourd at Home?
How to Increase Yield of Snake Gourd Plant?
You can try homemade liquid fertilizers like mixing 1 liter rice water with 2 tsp of mustard cake powder and 2 liters of normal water. Keep this solution for 2-3 days and then feed your snake gourd plant with this homemade fertilizer to improve yield.
Yield of snake gourd plant depends on the soil and climatic conditions. However, you can expect 4-5 fruits at a time from a plant.
Pruning Snake Gourd Plant
Lateral branches that grow with the plant aren’t good for the yield. You must remove few among them and allow the tip of the pant to reach trellis. Once the plant grows long enough, cut the tip of the snake gourd plant to allow the branches to grow and increase yield.
To avoid curly fruit, tie pebble at the end of the long piece. This will keep the gourd straight.
Snake Gourd Harvesting
You can start harvesting the fruit from 45-60 days of sowing the seeds; anyway it depends on the variety you choose. (Source)
Also Read: How to Grow Papaya in Pots from Seeds?
Snake Gourd Pests and Diseases
It’s important to keep pests at bay to enjoy the yield. Below mentioned are pests that damage your plant.
Fruit flies: Your fruit drops early and it may turn yellow, because this insect eats internal tissues of the fruit.
Controlling: insecticides can’t avoid them, because they reside in the fruit. Cover the fruits with polythene to avoid insects from laying eggs.
Snake gourd semilooper: A small caterpillar feeds on the leaves of snake gourd plant. To control it, you must hand pick them. In severe cases you must use insecticide.
Epilachna beetle: This pest feeds on leaves and tender plant parts leaving only veins. Spray insecticide will work or you can manually remove the eggs.
Pumpkin beetle: Beetle damage roots and leaves by making a hole in foliage. Grubs feeds on root and also damage flowers that touch the soil. Destroying them is the only way to prevent these pests.
Stem gallfly: Maggots damage distal shoots and a thick layer is formed on shoots and stem.
Aphids: These small sap sucking plants will result in curling of leaves and feed on leaves.
Downy mildew results in yellow spots on upper part of the leaf. Removing the affected leaf will restrain the infection.
Powdery mildew disease in snake gourd plant results in small white spots on stem and leaves. This will reduce yield and leaves turn yellow. Trying insecticides will save your plants from the disease.
Mosaic virus is carried by white fly, which affects the growth and yield of the plant. Uprooting the affected plant is one way to save other plants from this disease.
Snake Gourd Germination Time
It takes 10 days for seed germination. It can take few more days depending on the seed you choose and temperature in the region.
For easy germination, soak seeds overnight and use cocopeat for germination. Once the seedlings reach certain height you can transplant them to a pot or backyard.
Ensure to support the fully grown snake gourd plant with wooden trellis.
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This vine does well in warm climatic conditions. Maintaining ideal temperature is very important for optimal growth of snake gourd plant.
People living in cold regions should use greenhouse to grow such veggies.
Tropical and sub-tropical regions are best suited for this vine.
You just need to ensure to choose quality seeds for germination and the potting soil or garden soil should drain well. Adding organic compost while potting gives the plant initial boost.
Apart from the regular watering and adequate sunlight of about 6 hours is needed for plant growth.
Support the vine with trellis or wire to ensure it climbs easily.
Did you ever grow snake gourd plant in pots? Share your experience in comments.