How to Dry and Preserve Pumpkin on a Stick for Decorations

If you want a one-of-a-kind fall decoration, pumpkin on a stick plants are a must-see. They are easy to grow from seeds in your garden or a pot. The most intriguing fact about these miniature pumpkin-look-alikes is that they are ornamental eggplants. Plant pumpkin on a stick in the spring. It grows like other eggplants over the summer and is ready to pick in the fall. They grow moderately fast, usually ready for harvesting about 75 days after sowing from seeds.

Solanum species are also called nightshades. They include these ornamental eggplants, other eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes and are toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Pumpkin on a stick also known as ornamental eggplant, makes a unique and eye-catching addition to fall decor. While not an actual pumpkin these vibrant orange eggplant fruits borne on long stems create a stunning harvest display.

The key to enjoying pumpkin on a stick all season long is proper drying and preservation after harvest. With the right techniques, you can create beautiful dried arrangements that will last for months.

Here is a complete guide on when and how to dry pumpkin on a stick for decorations and holiday accents.

Overview of Pumpkin on a Stick

Pumpkin on a stick (Solanum integrifolium) is a type of ornamental eggplant grown mainly for decorative purposes. It produces green fruits that ripen to a bright pumpkin orange color in late summer to fall. The fruits naturally form on long, dense stems lined with large leaves.

Unlike regular eggplant, pumpkin on a stick has tough, bitter flesh. It is technically edible when orange but mainly used dried in flower arrangements wreaths and displays.

When dried the eggplant fruits shrivel into mini pumpkin shapes while retaining their stem attachment and intense color. The dried plants keep for months and add a festive autumn look.

When to Harvest Pumpkin on a Stick for Drying

Timing your harvest is important to capture peak color before the plants die back:

  • Monitor plants in late summer and watch fruits change from green to orange.

  • Harvest stems when fruits reach their deepest orange shade before any frost hits.

  • Cut whole branched stems with multiple pumpkins and attached leaves.

  • Light frost won’t damage fruits, but avoid cutting after hard freezes.

Harvesting stems when fruits are fully ripe but before frost ensures you get the best color for drying.

How to Dry Pumpkin on a Stick Stems

Follow these steps for successfully drying pumpkin on a stick into preserved decorations:

Harvest Stems

  • Use clean, sharp pruners to cut each stem at its base when pumpkins are ripe orange.

  • Select stems with plump, vivid fruits still attached. Discard any dead or damaged stems.

  • Cut stems of various lengths – long pieces for big impact or short ones for arrangeability.

Remove Excess Foliage

  • Strip off most leaves, but leave a few attached for visual interest. Too many leaves slow drying.

  • Check stems for thorns and remove if needed. Wear gloves when handling prickly plants.

  • Keep fruits intact on stems, resisting any urge to detach pumpkins from branches.

Air Dry Stems

  • Gather 2-3 cut stems together and tie ends with twine or a rubber band.

  • Hang tied bundles upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sun.

  • Attics, sheds, and covered patios work well. Choose areas with good air flow.

  • Check bundles every few days until leaves and stems feel crisp and dry.

Proper air drying retains color while drying stems and leaves completely.

Optional Varnish Coat

  • For extra preservation, lightly coat dried pumpkin fruits with clear acrylic varnish.

  • Spray from a distance to avoid heavy dripping. Let dry completely.

  • Varnish isn’t required but adds shine and helps fruits last longer.

Display and Use

  • Once fully dried, cut bundles apart and remove leaves if desired.

  • Incorporate stems into wreaths, floral displays, tablescapes and more.

  • Hang longer individual stems or bundle together for dramatic impact.

With the right harvest timing and careful drying methods, your pumpkin on a stick will stay vibrant for autumn and holiday decorating all season long.

Tips for Growing and Caring for Pumpkin on a Stick

Achieving an abundant harvest of pumpkin on a stick for drying starts with proper care all season:

  • Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost date. Harden off before planting outside.

  • Transplant seedlings into full sun and fertile soil after danger of frost. Space 18-24 inches apart.

  • Water regularly to keep soil consistently moist. Add mulch to conserve moisture.

  • Stake tall plants and prune lower leaves to promote air circulation.

  • Apply liquid fertilizer monthly when plants begin setting fruits.

  • Monitor for pests like aphids that may attack leaves and stems. Remove by hand or use insecticidal soap.

With supportive care, pumpkin on a stick will reward you with numerous stems loaded with decor-ready eggplant “pumpkins”.

Alternative Methods for Preserving Pumpkin on a Stick

If air drying proves difficult in your climate, here are a couple options:

  • Dry in dehydrator – Place freshly cut stems on trays in a food dehydrator at 115°F until completely dried.

  • Freeze first – Freeze harvested stems for 24 hours before air drying. Freezing breaks down cell walls for faster, easier drying.

  • Dry with desiccant – Place stems in an airtight container with silica gel packs to absorb moisture. Monitor closely to avoid over-drying.

Test different methods to see what works best in your unique growing conditions. Proper drying retains color while fully preserving the stems.

Using Dried Pumpkin on a Stick in Fall Decor

Let your imagination run wild when putting dried pumpkin on a stick displays together:

  • Place a bundle of stems in a tall vase or pitcher for bold texture.

  • Hang an individual stem above your front door or on the wall.

  • Incorporate stems into harvest wreaths on both sides for added dimension.

  • Use short stems to embellish candle centerpieces and table arrangements.

  • Make a pumpkin on a stick garland by wiring dried stems onto fishing line or twine.

  • Put three large stems in a heavy vase for instant drama at your holiday table.

  • Create mini pumpkin on a stick bouquets by binding stems together with raffia.

You’ll find endless uses for your dried ornamental eggplant stems. They keep for up to a year if stored properly.

Common Problems When Drying Pumpkin on a Stick

Avoid these potential issues with careful harvesting and drying:

  • Mold growth – Occurs if stems are dried in humid conditions. Opt for warm, dry areas with good airflow.

  • Shriveled or sagging fruits – Harvest and dry stems when pumpkins are firm and ripe. Cut before heavy frosts hit.

  • Color fading – Stems left in sunlight will fade and brown. Dry bundles in darkness.

  • Brittle, fragile stems – Over-drying causes stems to become crispy and break easily. Check bundles frequently when drying.

  • Pumpkin drop-off – Allowing fruits to over-ripen and become soft will cause detachment from stems. Harvest promptly when ripe.

With the right techniques and care, you can avoid these pitfalls and end up with vibrant preserved pumpkin on a stick for seasonal decorating all autumn long.

Storing Dried Pumpkin on a Stick Stems

To maximize the longevity of your dried pumpkin on a stick decorations:

  • Allow bundles to fully cure for 1-2 weeks after drying before displaying.

  • Check stems occasionally for any lingering moisture and re-dry if needed.

  • Keep stored stems in a cool, dark, dry spot such as a closet or basement.

  • Avoid exposure to moisture, humidity, or extreme temperature fluctuations during storage.

  • Consider lightly spraying preserved stems with clear acrylic varnish for extra protection.

  • Handle dried stems gently to prevent breaking fragile stems or dislodging pumpkins.

With proper storage methods, your pumpkin on a stick displays will last for many months post-harvest.

Favorite Varieties of Pumpkin on a Stick

While all pumpkin on a stick varieties can be dried effectively, certain types have traits that lend themselves well to decorations:

  • Red Pumpkin on a Stick – Grows fruits in a rich reddish-orange hue, darker than typical orange varieties.

  • Yellow Pumpkin on a Stick – Provides a unique color option with golden yellow ripe fruits. Great for contrast.

  • Big Harvest – Sets reliably heavy crops on each plant for bumper harvests.

  • Early Season – Fruits ripen quicker for harvesting decorative stems earlier.

  • Jade Princess – Bears smaller, grape-sized green fruits on long stems all season.

Experiment with different varieties to discover your favorites for colors, plant habits, fruit sizes, and other traits.

Enjoy Decorative Dried Pumpkin on a Stick All Season

With some planning and care, you can easily grow and dry a plentiful crop of pumpkin on a stick for stunning fall decorations.

Harvest the unique stems at peak ripeness, then dry and preserve them to retain their brilliant colors and flexible stems. Before you know it, you’ll have a bountiful supply of ornamental eggplant pumpkins ready to grace your holiday arrangements and displays.

Potting and Repotting Pumpkin on a Stick

You can grow only one plant per pot. You will need large pots, about 24 to 36 inches deep and wide. You can use terra cotta, plastic, or ceramic pots with ample drainage holes. Expect each plant to grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Plants won’t be able to grow or produce fruit if they are in a pot that is too small or if you put more than one plant in it.


This plant requires rich, well-draining soil. Mix compost into the soil before planting. It also likes soil that is high in phosphorous and calcium. If you need to, add lime and compost to the soil about three weeks before you plant.

Pumpkin on a Stick | Repotting, Care and Handling Tips & Tricks


How do you preserve pumpkins on a stick?

Pumpkins on a stick are easy to harvest for decoration once the fruits have fully matured to their bright orange color. Simply use a pair of pruners/shearers to cut the stem well below the fruit and hang in a cool, dry location. Eventually the green stem will dry and the fruits will remain orange.

What to do with pumpkins on a stick?

Harvesting and Using Pumpkin-on-a-Stick Early in the season fruits can be harvested and prepared as you would any other eggplant. They are popular for stir fry dishes. Fruits are usually eaten green, but you will know they are ready to harvest when the skin becomes very shiny.

Do you put pumpkins on a stick in water?

Postharvest. I did not place in water, stems of “pumpkins” held for weeks out of water – pumpkins would continue to ripen and change color, very slowly they dehydrate and take on a new attractiveness and character of wrinkliness!; Doesn’t need anything special.

Is pumpkin on a stick edible?

And pumpkin on a stick is indeed edible, but apparently not too tasty (all reports say it’s bitter). Even so, this eggplant relative is used in some Asian cuisine, but in this part of the world it’s not grown as an edible, but for its usefulness as an autumnal decoration.

How do you harvest Pumpkins on a stick?

Pumpkins on a stick are easy to harvest for decoration once the fruits have fully matured to their bright orange color. Simply use a pair of pruners/shearers to cut the stem well below the fruit and hang in a cool, dry location. Eventually the green stem will dry and the fruits will remain orange.

Do you have to remove the shell of pumpkin seeds?

It is not necessary to remove the shell from pumpkin seeds, in fact it is even more interesting to leave it. However, as a matter of preference in texture, many people prefer to remove the shell.

What is a pumpkin on a stick?

A pumpkin on a stick is a monoecious plant that insects must pollinate to produce fruit, so make sure you have other flowering plants nearby that attract pollinators. As the plant grows to 3 to 4 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide, it develops strong branches that will need support as the fruit matures.

Can pumpkin on a stick be pruned?

Like tomatoes, pumpkin on a stick may also benefit from a fertilizer mix containing calcium to avoid blossom end rot. Tomato fertilizers typically make a good choice for use. Pruning is not usually necessary for pumpkin on a stick. However, broken branches, excess side shoots, and otherwise undesirable growth can be pruned off at any time.

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