The cucumber fruit is grown from the Cucumis sativus plant. This is a subtropical plant that is easy to grow in warm and bright conditions. If you are considering growing your own cucumbers, you may be interested to know how long you can expect a cucumber plant to live.
Cucumbers are annual plants. This means that they grow for a single season, and once the season has ended, they will die back to the ground. Unlike perennial plants, which will regrow from the underground roots when spring times rolls around again, annual plants will not re-emerge. They will live for around 80 days, the length of one season, and then cannot be regrown.
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Are Cucumber Plants Annual or Perennial?
Cucumber plants are a type of annual. If you are new to gardening, you may have heard the terms ‘annual’ and ‘perennial’ being thrown around because many types of plants can be grouped into these categories.
An annual plant is a plant that lives out its entire life cycle in one season. It will commonly be planted in late winter or early spring from seed, and by autumn, it will die back down to the ground. The name ‘annual’ for these types of plants is a reference to the fact that you will need to grow new plants every year.
A cucumber plant is an annual, which produces flowers during spring which will then give way to fruit. After fruiting, the plant has completed its life cycle and will die back.
A perennial plant typically flowers for a shorter period of time than an annual plant. However, it has the ability to regrow every year. Like annuals, perennials will typically flower and fruit during spring and summer and then die back to the ground in autumn or winter. However, their root systems remain intact below ground and will send up new plants the following spring.
Perennials often last for just 2 or 3 years, but some are able to live for as long as ten years. Examples of fruiting perennial plants include leeks, raspberries, and figs.
When to Plant Cucumber Seeds
Cucumber seeds are sensitive to cold, and they will not germinate in soil temperatures below 50°F. The seeds can be sown in soils that have a temperature of between 50 and 68°F, though germination will be slow. Ideally, the soil temperature should be between 75 and 85°F for efficient germination, as cucumber plants thrive in these temperatures.
The seeds should be planted at a maximum depth of 1.5 inches below the surface level of the soil, and the soil will need to be kept moist. In cool climates, sow the seeds indoors on a warm windowsill to get a head start on the season, or in warm climates, these can be sown outside in spring.
Caring for Cucumber Seedlings
In ideal conditions, seedlings will sprout from cucumber seeds in between 7 and 10 days. If these have been germinated indoors in a small container, wait until the sprouts are around two weeks old before transplanting them to a bigger pot. This will ensure the roots are strong enough to withstand being moved.
The early seedlings will develop into cucumber vines from which the fruits will be produced. As early as possible, stake the vines to trellis, netting, or fencing. This is essential to prevent the cucumber vine from growing along the ground, which heavily increases the likelihood of disease and rot.
A cucumber vine that is trained to climb will also be better for the fruits since these can dangle from the vine before being harvested. Cucumber vines are delicate, so avoid handling them as much as possible, especially when they are wet.
When do Cucumber Plants Flower?
A single cucumber plant will produce both male and female flowers, which means they are considered to be monoecious. The male flowers will arrive first, at around 35 to 55 days from germination. These flowers will soon die and fall off the plant before a new round of both male and female flowers emerge.
This will typically be between 42 and 62 days from germination. Pollination is then required between both the male and female flowers for the fruits to follow. After a female flower has been fertilized, fruiting will begin between 10 and 12 days later.
When to Harvest Cucumber Plants
Depending on the climate and growing conditions, a cucumber plant can be ready to harvest anywhere between 50 days and 80 days from germination. These are incredibly vigorous plants that will produce an abundance of fruits towards the end of the season.
If cared for properly, you can expect to be harvesting a cucumber fruit from the plant every day for as long as 2 or 3 weeks. You will know when the cucumbers are ready to harvest because they will be firm and have a deep green outer skin. Cucumbers are a fruit that is actually eaten before they are ripe.
If you allow the fruits to ripen on the vine, they will take on a yellow color, and the skins will develop a tough texture. These cucumbers will not be palatable, and they will have hard inner seeds that are unpleasant to eat. It is important to harvest cucumbers at the right time to avoid them going to waste.
When do Cucumber Plants Die?
Once the flowers have been fertilized and the fruits begin to develop, the vines of the cucumber plant will stop growing. At this point, all of the energy that the plant holds will be diverted to the fruits to help them reach their mature size. It is vital that the vines and leaves of the plant do not get destroyed during this time since it is the energy contained in these parts of the plant which will be used by the fruits.
Take care to avoid standing on any vines or damaging them when you are harvesting cucumbers for this reason. After the plant has finished producing all of its fruits and these have been harvested, the vines and leaves will die back to the ground. You can remove these from the garden and put them into a composter, or you can let them degrade back into the soil.
Can Cucumber Plants Regrow?
Cucumber plants are annuals, which means they cannot regrow once they have died. If your cucumber plants have been growing in a container or in a greenhouse, then it is best to pull the vines out of the soil, including the roots, and add them to a compost pile or compost bin. This will free up space for new winter plants to be grown.
If the cucumber plants were growing directly in the ground soil, the plants could be left to die back on their own, where they will decompose into the soil, releasing any remaining energy into the ground where it can be utilized by future plant roots.
Any cucumber roots which are left behind will die, and these cannot regrow the following spring because the cucumber plant is not a perennial. To grow cucumbers next season, you will need to begin the process again, sowing seeds in spring and repeating the cucumber’s life cycle.