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Watermelon Growing Stages (Life Cycle): Ultimate Guide

Watermelon Growing Stages (Life Cycle): Ultimate Guide

What about growing your own fresh and juicy watermelons for this summer? But an essential first step before you start the actual growth is knowing all about the watermelon growing stage and the care tips that you should follow to get a big and healthy harvest full of flesh and juice. The essential growing stages of watermelon pants are:

  • Sowing seeds
  • Germinating and sprouting
  • Vegetative growth
  • Formation of branches
  • Flowering and pollination
  • Setting fruit
  • Harvesting
  • Drying

This article will tell you about these 8 watermelon growing stages and also about tips that make the plants have a better harvest at the end of the season. 

8 watermelon growing stages

A watermelon plant goes from a tiny seed to a large fruit in almost three months. Let us first look at the watermelon growing stages to make you understand the care needs of each step and the timelines involved.

1. Sowing seeds

Sowing seeds

You may be amazed at how a tiny, tear-drop-shaped, flat black and brown seed, that is no bigger than half an inch can develop watermelons as heavy as 25 lbs. 

Choose the variety of watermelons seeing which kind of watermelons you need, the duration of the growing season, and the conditions you offer the plants. There are more than 1000 varieties of watermelon, so it may be a tricky decision for you. 

You should consider the following:

  • Seeded or seedless
  • Shape, oval or spherical
  • Flavor
  • Size
  • Red or yellow flesh

The growing season of the plant is the most important consideration if you are growing watermelons for the first time. If your region has shorter summers, then selecting an early variety that takes 70-75 days to harvest would be a good choice for you. 

Some popular varieties

  • Charleston Gray – has red flesh, and weighs 25-35 lbs
  • Honey Heart – has yellow flesh, and weighs 8-10 lbs
  • Black Diamond Watermelon –has red flesh, and weighs 30-50 lbs Crimson Sweet – has red flesh, and weighs 15-25 lbs

When growing watermelons in a cold place, grow them in early spring and plant them when there are four weeks till the last spring freeze. It is better to plant the seeds indoors in seed trays and when the temperatures warm up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors, you may consider transplanting them outdoors. 

The exact timeline can vary if you have long sunny summers, but the watermelon growing stages stay the same. Use well-drained and loamy soil and sow the seeds in raised rows. These raised beds retain the sun’s heat while helping the soil to drain properly. Sow the seeds 1 inch deep into the soil and leave at least 2-3 feet distance between them and water them to initiate the germination process.  

2. Germination and sprouting

Germination and sprouting

When you plant the watermelon seeds in the soil, they begin to germinate. It may take between 3 and 14 days for germination to complete. At this step of the watermelon growing stages, the germinated seed produces a tiny stem called a hypocotyl. This makes the seed produce roots in the soil and the seed embryo develops radicles to develop into the primary root. 

When the watermelon plant develops its root system fully, it goes almost 6 feet deep into the soil. You will see embryonic leaves called cotyledons developing as a result of seed germination. These leaves push the soil and emerge as the first visible sign of watermelon plants. 

The phase of germination and sprouting is the most vulnerable among the watermelon growing stages as you must protect the seedlings from animals and cold weather. Don’t overwater them, but keep the soil moist all the time. 

3. Vegetative growth

Vegetative growth

When the seedling sprouts, the growth of a watermelon plant speeds up. It takes almost 5-10 days for four to five leaves to replace the tiny embryonic leaves of the plant, and these are the first set of true leaves. 

True leaves are similar to mature watermelon leaves and they offer more space for the plant to carry out photosynthesis. The plant makes energy through photosynthesis and uses it for additional growth needs. 

The leaves become sturdy and long within a couple of weeks and the plant also produces its main vine in this time. More leaves begin to sprout as the runner vine grows a foot long. You will start seeing dark green leaves sprouting along the vine every 3-5 inches and spiky hairs cover the vine as well as the leaves. 

4. Formation of branches

Formation of branches watermelon growing stages

After a month of planting watermelons, you will see smaller vines developing from the main vine. The vines may grow as long as 10-12 feet, depending on the variety of watermelon you are growing. Through branching, a single vine of watermelon produces multiple fruits, and each branch usually grows one watermelon. 

If you see your watermelon plant struggling to produce robust growth, it is good to cut off weak and excess branches as a healthy plant can support 3-5 branching vines on average. During the branching phase of the watermelon growing stages, the plant needs more water and nutrients. It takes almost one month for the branching phase to complete.

5. Flowering and pollination

Flowering and pollination watermelon growing stages

There are both male and female flowers produced by watermelon plants. The flowers are yellow and 1-3 inches wide and have 4-5 petals. You will see the male flowering emerging and growing first, usually in the branching phase. While the female flowers form later and at the tip of the mature vine branch. 

There is anther covered in pollen in the male flower and a stigma is present in the female one. These flowers usually wither after one day and they allow the watermelon to pollinate. 

An important thing to note is that watermelons cannot self-pollinate, they either need pollinators such as insects, or bees to pollinate them or even humans can do it. Pollination happens when the pollen from the male flower comes into contact with the ova of the female flower. 

When do watermelons start growing after pollination?

You may start seeing a marble-sized fruit within a few days as a sign of successful pollination. This is the most exciting among the watermelon growing stages as it takes less than a month for the tiny fruit to swell into a full-sized watermelon. 

6. Fruit setting

Fruit setting watermelon growing stages

When the flowers on a watermelon vine are pollinated, you will see a small bulge forming behind the female flower, as a sign of successful pollination. This tiny fruit will swell slowly and become a full-grown watermelon in almost a month. The watermelon plant is technically a berry, precisely a pepo with a hard outer skin, called rind, soft juicy, and watery flesh. 

The variety of watermelon you choose to grow determines the size, shape, flesh color, flavor, and rind thickness of the fruit. For instance, the sugar baby watermelon is a variety that produces spherical fruits with a dark green rind and no variegation, whereas, a crimson watermelon has light green and yellow stripes on the oblong fruit. 

The watermelon variety also affects the time it takes for the fruits to mature. The general rule is that smaller varieties mature more quickly than larger ones. When the fruit sets, watermelon seeds grow and develop within its flesh. 

7. Harvesting

Harvesting watermelon growing stages

It takes almost one month for watermelons to reach full maturity after the initial fruiting. However, the watermelon variety you are growing and your weather conditions determine the exact timeline. You can determine whether your watermelons are ripe by tapping at the end when the growing season is coming to a close. If your watermelon is ripe, it will produce a hollow sound on tapping on it. 

Other tips to know whether a watermelon is ripe are that the area where the fruit sits on the grown turns yellow when a watermelon is ripe, and the tendrils that attach the watermelon to the vine turn brown. 

When you determine that the fruit is ripe, start harvesting the melons by using a small pair of shears to snip off the fruit from the vine.

8. Drying

Drying watermelon growing stages

Since watermelon plants are annual plants, the vine starts drying when you harvest the fruit. It is sad to see the fruiting and healthy plants dying at the end of the season, but they reward the growers with mature seeds you can get from watermelons. You can dry these seeds and plant them in the next spring to go through the watermelon growing stages once again. 

Do you see the leaves of a watermelon turning white? Then read about the reasons why leaves of plants commonly turn white: Why my plants are leaves turning white and how to fix them?

Growing tips for watermelons

Now you know about the watermelon growing stages, you should read the growing tips to make sure you grow healthy and juicy watermelons. 

  • The right growing conditions: Check whether your environment offers the ideal growing conditions for your watermelons before you even start planting. These plants grow best in soils with pH between 6.0 and 6.5 and temperatures between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Watering: The amount of water your plants need depends on the growing stage your plant is going through. Water your seeds thoroughly after planting as water is essential for germination. When the plants are producing flowers and vegetative growth, water them consistently to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Reduce watering when you see fruits appearing to get the best-tasting melons.
  • Germination: A helpful tip for germinating seeds outside the soil is to chit them before planting, ensuring that you only produce productive seeds. 
  • Transplanting: It may be difficult and risky to transplant larger watermelon plants. So, when you see a set of true leaves formed on the plant, it is the right time to transplant it.
  • Pruning: If you see yellow and dead leaves on the watermelon vine, cut them off to promote healthier growth. You may also find it good to remove leggy and weak side vines, to make the plant use its energy for healthy growth. 
  • Pollination: Watermelons are not self-pollinating plants, so you may need to pollinate them yourself if there aren’t enough pollinators in your garden. Use a pollinating brush or a cotton swab to transfer pollen from the male flower to the stigma of the female flower. 
  • Seedless varieties: There are sterile hybrid varieties of watermelons that have no seeds.  You must plant regular watermelon plants together with seedless ones to facilitate pollination.Fertilizing: Watermelons need well-balanced fertilizer when they are producing vegetative growth. During the watermelon growing stages, when the fruit starts growing, it is good to switch to a low-nitrogen one.

Also know about the growing stages of onion: Onion Growing Stages (Life Cycle): Ultimate Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions related to watermelon growing stages, then read these to get most of the answers. 

What is the lifespan of watermelon plants?

Since watermelon is an annual plant, it only produces a yield for a single season. It takes between 70 and 90 days for watermelons to produce mature seeds after sowing the seeds. The plant takes almost two months to germinate, sprout, vining, and produce flowers. A fruit takes almost a month to reach its full size after the flowers get pollinated. You can store watermelons in the refrigerator for almost a couple of weeks after harvesting. 

When is it best to plant watermelons?

These plants have a long growing season; they produce a yield almost 80-90 days after sowing seeds. Since these plants despite chilly temperatures, you must plant them when the soil temperature is as warm as 70 degrees Fahrenheit and they are not likely to go through any cold nights. It may be good to sow the seeds two to three weeks after the last frost date during the spring for many places. 

How much water do watermelon plants need?

watermelon growing stages

When going through the watermelon growing stages, you may be wondering about the watering requirements of these plants. Similar to other plants in the veggie garden, watermelons need 1 to 2 inches of water each week to grow well. When the watermelon plant is in the fruiting stage, you must water it regularly. 92% mass of the watermelons is water, so you can only get bigger and juicier watermelons if you keep the plants well-watered. 

Do I need to fertilize the watermelon plants?

Since watermelon plants are heavy feeders, they need fertilization now and then. You should use a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, such as diluted fish emulsion when your watermelon plant is growing leaves, stems, and canopy. But when the plant starts producing and developing fruit, you should switch to a fertilizer with more potassium and phosphorus to help with fruit production. 

How many watermelons does a single plant produce?

Many factors determine the maximum number of watermelons on a single vine, such as your growing conditions, the number of bees and pollination activity in your garden, and the variety of watermelons you are growing. As a minimum rule, each watermelon vine should yield at least 1-2 watermelons on average. 

watermelon growing stages

How long is the duration between sowing seed and harvesting watermelons?

For watermelons to grow to their full size, it takes between 80 and 90 days after sowing the seed and reaching the harvest stage. The smaller varieties of watermelons can even mature in as little as 70 days.  

That’s a Wrap, but Before you go …

Growing watermelons in your home garden is a very rewarding process as watermelons taste amazingly refreshing when eaten straight from the vine on a hot summer’s day. Similar to other plants, there are watermelon growing stages when a tiny seedling turns into a large vining plant with big watermelons, containing thousands of new seeds. When growing watermelon, you must care for the plant differently through each growing stage to get a healthy and juicy fruit ready to harvest.