Growing Cucumbers In Pots – Step-by-Step Guide

Homegrown Cucumbers taste so much better than shop-bought ones, there is no doubt about that. And if you don’t have much space, but still want to taste delicious fresh cucumbers, why not try growing cucumbers in pots.

Even if you only have limited space or a balcony, you can still get the fresh and yummy taste of homegrown cucumbers this summer.

In this step-to-step guide, we will show you everything you need to know about growing cucumbers in pots.

Cucumber Varieties That Grow Well In Pots

cucumber haning from plant

When it comes to growing cucumbers in pots, it is important to choose the right variety. Because not all types of cucumbers will do well in containers.

Bush varieties are most suitable for growing in pots, as they tend to grow that high. They also adapt well to being grown in a container.

Also, varieties that produce small fruits can be grown in pots. Here are some cucumber varieties we would recommend you try.

Baby F1: this variety produces small cucumbers that taste sweet and are perfect to snack on. Because it produces small fruits, this variety is perfect for growing in pots.

Socrates F1: this hardy variety will produce tasty mini cues, which has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit. It’s an all female flower type, so won’t need pollinating.

Marketmore: this reliable variety produces straight dark cucumbers and has been awarded the RHS Award for Garden Merit. It is also said to be mildew resistant.

It should also be said that cucumbers are normally put into two categories. Those that are grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel and the ones that are grown outdoors. Varieties that are grown in a greenhouse tend to be bigger plants and the fruit they produce is long and smooth. They will look like the ones you can buy.

The reason they need to be in a greenhouse is that they require very warm conditions, which our British summer cannot always give them. They also don’t need pollinating to produce fruit. On the contrary, it’s better that they don’t otherwise the fruit can become bitter.

The outdoor cucumbers, also ridge cucumbers, only need a sunny spot to thrive, as they don’t need the same heat as the greenhouse varieties. Generally, outdoor cucumbers produce smaller and fatter fruits, with ridged skin, hence the name.

Any cucumbers that can be planted outside need to be pollinated to produce fruit. That means they will grow male and female flowers. 

While bush varieties work best for containers, growing cucumbers in pots will work with all varieties.

Growing From Seed Vs. Buying Plug Plants

Cucumber plant with flowers and fruits

When growing cucumbers in pots or outside in a bed, you can either grow them from seed or buy plug plants. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I personally prefer to grow cucumbers from seed. 

The main reason is that you have so much more choice when it comes to buying seeds. Apart from the most popular cucumber varieties, you can also buy unusual ones. This is what mostly convinces me to grow most of my vegetables from seed.

Another reason is that I know that my young plants had the best start when I grow them from seed. When you buy a plug plant, you just have to hope that they are robust and healthy. 

However, the reason why most people grow from seed is the price. A seed packet is much cheaper than a plug plant. So you get more plants and, therefore, cucumbers for your money.

Of course, plug plants are less work, because you just buy them and then harden off and plant them. So, if you are short on time, then plug plants can be a great alternative.

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Growing From Seed

growing cucumber plants from seed

You can start sowing your cucumber seeds in late winter or early spring. Fill small pots with good quality compost, ideally peat-free. Then plant two seeds per pot. Make two holes, about 1-2cm (1/2in) in each pot and put a seed in each hole. Ensure you plant them on the side, otherwise they might not come up.

Then cover lightly with a layer of compost. Give them a good soak and leave them in a heated greenhouse, propagator or on a sunny windowsill. You have to make sure wherever you put them, that they have it warm, at least 20°C, otherwise they won’t germinate. 

Cucumber seeds normally germinate in a week to 10 days. If both seedlings come up, remove the weaker one. This way, you get a stronger and healthier plant. 

Let your cucumber seedlings grow until they have their first true leaves. Then it’s time to pot them on in to bigger pots, ideally, 8-10cm (3-4in) pots. They will be ready to be planted into their final pot when they have two or three leaves, but more about that later.

Buying Plug Plants

If you prefer to buy plug plants, do so in late spring. You can buy these at your local garden centre. Nowadays, you can even order them online. If you do order them online, make sure you buy them from a reputable supplier to ensure they are disease-free.

Make sure you inspect your plug plants before planting them, to make sure they are healthy and have no obvious signs of any problems. They will be at the stage when you can plant them at their final destination.

Growing Cucumbers In Pots

Once your cucumber plants are at the stage where they can be planted on, you need to choose the right pot. Because when growing cucumbers in pots, the right container will decide between success and failure.

Choose The Right Pot

Whatever pot or container you select, it has to have drainage holes. Because while cucumbers need a lot of water, they won’t do well in water-locked soil. You need a container that is big enough, so use one that is at least 30cm (12in) wide and 20cm (8in) deep.

Growing bags work quite well, and they are also easy to move. I like them because you can fold and store them easily in winter.

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Because cucumbers need to be watered regularly, a self-watering container is very handy. I have tried this before for my tomatoes, and it is amazing how well it worked. 

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Planting Your Young Plants

Now that we have talked about choosing the right container, let’s get down to growing cucumbers in pots. Once the young cucumber plants have two to three leaves, they are ready to be planted in their final container.

Fill your pot half-way full of good quality compost. You want very rich soil, because cucumbers are heavy feeders. If you can afford it, it is even worth buying premium compost, because it will help your plants to grow strong and produce a good yield. Compost that is also enriched with nutrients is the best.

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Once the container is half full, put your cucumber plant in and hold it in the middle, while you fill up the pot with compost. I prefer this method to making a hole, as it makes sure the plant is not squashed in. 

There are many people who put two plants per pot, but I prefer to only plant one, as this will ensure that the plants have good air circulation and stay healthy.

Give them a good soak and they are ready! For outdoor varieties, you have to harden them off before you put them outside. This means you give them a chance to acclimatise themselves to the conditions slowly. To do this, put them out for a few hours every day in the sun.

After a week or so, they will be ready to move outside. But make sure you only put them outside when there is no danger of frost any more. Place them in a sunny spot where they are sheltered from wind.

Greenhouse cucumbers won’t need hardening off, just put them in the spot you have earmarked for them.

You also want to give your cucumber plants some support. Use a bamboo cane or something similar to give the stems something to grow up on. Keep in mind that cucumbers can be quite heavy, so support is important.

Caring For Your Cucumber Plants

One of the essential things when growing cucumbers in pots is to water them regularly. Any plant that is grown in a container will dry out much quicker than plants in the ground. 

Cucumbers are very thirsty plants and need constantly moist soil. When you water them, do it at the same time of the day, as this will ensure the plants won’t get distressed by irregular watering. Water from below, rather than from above, to minimise the risk of diseases.

To make sure the plant concentrates on growing flowers, pinch out the growing tip when the plant has seven leaves. And remove any side shoots, unless they have flowers on them.

Once your cucumber plants start to flower, you need to start feeding them. This will ensure that they have the nutrients they need to produce tasty fruits. Make sure you use a feed that is high in potash, such as tomato feed.

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Whether you are growing cucumbers in pots or not, this is a vital step you have to take to get a good yield.

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Harvesting Cucumbers

Now we come to the best part of growing cucumbers in pots, harvesting the fruit. To harvest them when they have the best taste, check your seed packet to see what the recommended size for harvesting is.

Generally, for smaller varieties it’s around 10cm (4in), for larger varieties it’s 15-20cm (6-8in). You want to harvest the fruit when they are firm and a uniform green colour.

To harvest them, use a sharp knife and cut them from the stem. Pick them regularly to ensure the plant will continue to grow fruits.

Diseases And Pests Affecting Cucumbers

aphid infestation

No guide about growing cucumbers in pots would be complete without a section about pests and diseases.

Pests

The good news is that if growing cucumbers in containers, you don’t need to worry about slugs and snails devouring your seedlings.

However, there are still some pests that might attack your cucumbers, even when growing them in pots. One of these pests is the whitefly

These little white insects are most prolific on greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes. They feed on the sap of the plants, which can cause problems for the plants. However, the more serious issue is that they also excrete honeydew. This can cause fungal diseases that will stunt the growth of the cucumber plants.

They are easy to spot, because if you touch the plant they will fly up, and you will see a swarm of little white insects. 

Because they can increase the risk of diseases affecting your plants, it is best to keep them away from your cucumbers. Here are some measures you can take:

  • grow your cucumber plants outside, if they are suitable for outdoors conditions – the greenhouse whiteflies come from the tropics and like heat
  • you can hang up sticky yellow traps that will catch the flying adults
  • use companion planting to keep them at bay. Plant basil, chives, onions or French marigolds next to or with your cucumber plants

Another pest that will attack greenhouse cucumbers is the red spider mite. They are very small insects that, like the whitefly, will suck the sap of their host plants. 

red spider mite on soil

They will ‘adorn’ the leaves and stems of cucumber plants, and other greenhouse plants, with fine webbing. So their presence is easy to spot. With a magnifying glass, you might also be able to spot yellow-green mites and eggshells.

An infestation can stunt the growth of a plant and eventually kill it. Here are some measures you can take to keep them at bay:

  • red spider mites don’t like humidity, so by increasing the humidity you can keep them away
  • make sure you give your plants good air circulation, so plant too close to each other or overcrowd your pots
  • water your cucumber plants and other greenhouse plants regularly
  • weed the beds and pots in your greenhouse regularly, as they can act as host plants for the mites
  • use companion planting – plant chives, onions, marigolds, dill and garlic in your greenhouse to repel the red spider mites – this will also work outside, where the mites can become a problem too in hot dry conditions
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Aphids are very similar to whitefly, but they don’t fly. They are one of the most common garden pests and there are many different species.

Unfortunately, there is also one that feeds on cucumbers. These tiny insects suck the sap from the leaves and stems. Like whitefly, they also produce honeydew, so can cause diseases.

Unlike whiteflies, aphids can occur anywhere, so can also affect your cucumber plants outside. Also, ants love the honeydew and will ‘farm’ aphids. This means they keep them safe from predators. They are capable of removing a ladybird from a plant.

Because aphids are part of the ecosystem and are prey for many other insects and bugs, I recommend that you tolerate them where possible. Here are some measures you can take to get rid of aphids:

  • remove any you see with your fingers and squash them, if you are not squeamish
  • if the plants are strong enough, put some newspaper under the plant and shake it. The aphids will fall down on the newspaper. Remove them to a place in the garden where they can’t do any harm
  • grow plants that repel aphids with or around your cucumbers. These plants include chives, onions, marigolds and thyme. Their scent will keep the aphids away
  • encourage their natural predators such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies. Plant yarrow, marigolds and foxglove in your garden
  • You can also wash plants with insecticidal soap or soapy water
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Diseases

Growing cucumbers in pots unfortunately doesn’t keep them from being affected by diseases. But there are things you can do to minimise the risk.

One disease that is caused by whitefly and aphids is the cucumber mosaic virus. So, by keeping them away the chances of the disease ruining your crop is low.

If a cucumber plant is infected, you will see yellow patches that look like a mosaic, hence the name. It will cause stunted growth and also affect the cucumber’s plant flowering and fruiting.

So it is important you protect your cucumbers from the cucumber mosaic virus.

Once a plant is infected, there is no cure, so prevention is the only way:

  • keep aphids and whitefly away
  • weed regularly to prevent the disease affecting other plants and then spreading to your cucumbers
  • Clean tools and hands after handling an infected plant, as the virus can also spread that way
  • if you see any signs of an infection, remove and destroy the plant. Don’t compost infected plants
  • there are some varieties that are said to be resistant to the virus

Another disease your cucumbers could suffer from is powdery mildew. This fungal disease thrives in warm and wet conditions. 

You will see a white powdery layer on the top of the leaves. The leaves will then turn grey and dry out, until they will eventually fall off.

This fungus is more likely a problem with distressed plants. Which means it can affect older plants that are coming to the end of their cropping period. 

But it can also appear on plants that have not been watered regularly. Here are some tips to prevent the disease:

  • make sure you keep the soil moist and water your cucumber plants in containers regularly
  • water them from below rather than from above
  • give them space, so the air can freely circulate. Good air circulation is important to prevent many diseases
  • remove any infected leaves and destroy them
  • remove the whole plant if the infection is severe

Now that you know all about growing cucumbers in pots, you are ready to start planting. Soon you will be enjoying tasty homegrown cucumbers. Happy Growing!

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