Can I save pumpkin seeds to grow the same variety next year?

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Answered by: Cherie, An Expert in the Vegetables and Fruits Category
Vegetable gardeners can save pumpkin seeds to grow the same variety year after year, but to accomplish this they must plan their vegetable patch carefully to avoid cross-pollination between all of the squash varieties they choose to grow. Once you know the scientific secret behind choosing which pumpkin and squash varieties to grow you can easily save your pumpkin seeds.

Understanding the basic scientific trick to avoiding cross-pollination of vegetables is the most important aspect of saving pumpkin seeds or any other vegetable seed to grow the same variety year after year. Each vegetable is classified by its family, genus and species. Pumpkins are a squash and belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. However, the Cucurbitaceae family also includes watermelon, cucumbers and gourds just to name a few.

The Cucurbitaceae family is further broken down by genus. All pumpkins and other squashes belong to the Cucurbita genus, which is further broken down into six different species; maxima, moschata, mixta, pepo, ficifolia, and foetidissima. In order to grow and harvest pure pumpkin seeds you must grow pumpkins and squashes that will not cross with each other. By reviewing the genus and species when you purchase your vegetable seeds you will know whether or not they will cross.

If a pumpkin or any other squash share BOTH the same genus and species they will cross-pollinate with each other when you grow them together in the same garden space or field. To avoid cross-pollination you should choose varieties that have a different species. The genus can be the same, but the species must differ from other squash varieties you plan on growing. Most seed companies provide the genus and species on the seed package in their catalogs or you can call and ask for this information if it is not readily available.

As an example, a gardener could grow the following for seed saving at the same time and even grow the rows side by side. These varieties won't cross with each other because the species for each is different. You could then save the seeds from each to grow and reproduce the same variety year after year.

Cucurbita maxima: Rouge Vif d'Etampes or "Cinderella Pumpkin"

Cucurbita moschata: Long Island Cheese squash (a light-colored pumpkin)

Cucurbita mixta: Big White Crookneck squash

Cucurbita pepo: Howden Pumpkin (common field pumpkin, often used for pies or carving)

Cucurbita ficifolia: Malabar Gourd or "Chilacayote"

Cucurbita foetidissima: Calabazilla or "Buffalo Gourd"

Choosing two squash or pumpkin varieties with both the same genus and species, as in the example below, would cause cross-pollination to occur and if you save pumpkin seeds from the Cinderella Pumpkin it would result in a cross between it and the Buttercup Squash when grown out the following year.

Cucurbita maxima: Rouge Vif d'Etampes or "Cinderella Pumpkin"

Cucurbita maxima: Buttercup squash

Hybrid vegetable seeds should never be used for seed saving as they are the result of cross-breeding. They will grow if you save them, but you don't know what type of vegetable you will end up with from hybrid varieties. Normally the dominate variety will prevail.

So, when you save pumpkin seeds be sure to look for heirloom varieties, avoid hybrid seeds and choose varieties of different species. If your neighbors are also gardeners it might be wise to coordinate your vegetable varieties with them because the isolation distance for proper saving of pumpkin/squash seeds is a minimum of a half a mile.

Wash and dry your pumpkin seeds and then store them in a dry, cool and dark area. Pumpkin and other squash seed life is normally about 6-7 years under ideal conditions. To learn more about how to store vegetable seeds visit

Recommended Seed Saving Book: "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth.

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