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Kiwano and Horned Cucumber. Exoticism resonates with the first word, arouses curiosity. The second word, on the other hand, suggests nothing special. In fact, it is the same plant. Instead of names, we should rather let pictures speak for themselves. Or even better: nibble on the prickly fruit. Its origin is in Africa. But their seeds also sprout in local soil. Dare the experiment. With optimal care, it promises a bountiful, delicious harvest.

Kiwano plant

Cucumis metuliferus is the botanical name of this plant. But a curious gardener is primarily interested in the taste. And if he can successfully grow them at home. What is Kiwano anyway? The German name Horngurke gives the crucial clue. But anyone who now suspects a simple cucumber variety will be amazed.

  • Plant forms small prickly cucumber fruits
  • is therefore also called zigzag cucumber
  • the cucumber is considered very tasty
  • her aroma is a mix of lime, banana and of course cucumber
  • she is spooned out like a kiwi
  • the fruit is also decorative

tip: Testing is above studying! How true is that old saying! You will not be able to discover this fruit in every discounter yet. But it is definitely available from us.


It may be that in the meantime small kiwano plants will be offered in specialist shops. But that's not the rule by a long shot. So the question of how the curious gardener should get his first Kiwano plant is justified. Since the plant is cultivated annually, annual propagation must also be ensured. New plantlets develop exclusively from seeds. Just as we know it from "ordinary" cucumber varieties.


Seeds of the kiwano plant need not be tracked down as a rarity. They are available in well-stocked specialty stores. They can also be ordered conveniently and quickly via online shops. Be on the lookout for it in early spring. So you have the seeds ready when the time to sow comes with the first warm days.

If you have a ripe kiwano fruit, you can also use it to harvest seeds for planting:

  • Cut the fruit open and take out the seeds
  • each seed is surrounded by a pulp sheath
  • Place seeds on a soft cloth
  • put the flat blade of a knife on it
  • press gently and move back and forth carefully
  • Shell bursts and releases seed
  • Wash seeds under lukewarm water
  • Spread out on a cloth and let dry

tip: A tea strainer ball is ideal for washing the seeds. In it, the rather small seeds of the cucumber can be cleaned by a powerful jet of water without being washed away.

cultivation possibilities

This cucumber variety comes from Central and South Africa. With lots of light and warmth, she has no trouble developing her full potential there in a very short time. In this country, the summers are more modest, shorter and not always predictable. For this reason, cultivation in beds is only recommended in mild wine-growing regions. But the Kiwano plant is also in good hands in a greenhouse. If you don't have either, you can also grow the pumpkin plant in a pot.

  • the horned cucumber can grow in it to save space
  • fits on the terrace or balcony
  • it stays mobile in the bucket
  • the plant quickly forms a lot of green
  • can serve as a screen

tip: If you grow Kiwano in a pot, you have an additional advantage: you can place Cucumis metuliferus on a south-facing wall, where it will also receive warmth at night from the sun-heated wall.


The earlier you start cultivation, the more valuable time you give the horned cucumber. In this way, many of their fruits can ripen by the cold autumn days. Since the Kiwano does not tolerate frost and in this country it likes to stay until May, you should move the beginning of its existence into the warm interior of the house. Pre-cultivation can begin as early as mid-March.


  1. Prepare small pots or a larger seed tray with special potting soil. This is low in nutrients and largely germ-free. In it, the still tender and not so resilient plants have it easier.
  2. Depending on the size of the pot, add one to three kiwano seeds.
  3. Sprinkle some soil over it.
  4. Dampen the soil with a spray bottle. That way the little seeds don't get washed out of their place.
  5. Cover the pot with clear foil that creates a greenhouse climate. However, it must be aired occasionally to prevent mold from forming underneath.
  6. Set up the potty or growing bowl in a bright place and at a temperature of at least 20 degrees Celsius.
  7. Once the seeds have germinated, remove the cover.
  8. When the young plants get bigger, they need a bigger pot. Use good potting soil, enriched with compost and horn shavings.

outdoor stay

From mid-May you can continue growing the small plants in the bed. You will quickly conquer the space around you. Therefore, plan about 1.5 m between the rows and about 0.5 m from specimen to specimen. You can also continue to cultivate the horn cucumber in the tub. By now, however, she should get the largest possible pot that you can muster. Because she's quickly becoming one giant plant and no more repotting during the summer. Also use a nutrient-rich, loose and permeable soil for the bucket. Since the cucumber is watered extensively, waterlogging must be avoided by the presence of drainage holes. It also doesn't hurt if you put on a drainage layer.


It doesn't matter whether you plant the Cucumis metuliferus in the garden soil or put them outdoors together with the bucket. It always needs a bright and sunny location where the earth can warm up quickly during the day. This pumpkin plant also does not want to be shaded by any other plant.

A potted Kiwano should be in a sheltered spot. Plan enough space right from the start so that you don't have to move the plant later or slow down its urge to grow with scissors. That would be a shame for the lush greenery and would also reduce the possible yield. You can also continue cultivating the plant in a pot in a greenhouse. There it gets the heat it needs more reliably.

watering & fertilizing

Cucumbers are considered to be particularly thirsty. The horned cucumber is no exception. In summer, the amount of rain is rarely enough for her and she has to be watered additionally.

  • the soil must always be well moistened
  • brief dehydration is tolerated
  • allow the surface of the soil to dry between two waterings
  • otherwise fungal diseases can spread
  • water daily during hot periods
  • do not wet the leaves with water
  • Soil in the bucket can dry out faster
  • here it may have to be watered in the morning and evening
  • never water in the blazing midday heat

tip: As long as the sun reaches the soil in the pot unhindered, you should shade this area to prevent the root ball from drying out.

Even if the potting soil has already been enriched with plenty of nutrients, additional fertilizing during the growing season is essential. Like all related pumpkin plants, Cucumis metuliferus is a so-called heavy feeder, which produces a lot of greenery and lots of fruit with the best care.

  • start with a good supply of compost
  • other organic fertilizers are also suitable
  • additionally supply with liquid fertilizer
  • every two weeks
  • throughout the growing season
  • combine with pouring

climbing aids

The horned cucumber quickly forms long shoots that branch out profusely. It can grow creeping on the ground or strive upwards. Climbing up makes sense and is usually the only option when cultivating in pots. This saves space across the width and the fruit does not lie on a possibly wet floor. However, the tendrils of the cucumber are not able to hold themselves upright on their own. The soft shoots need a climbing aid. What you rank for is not that important. It is only important that the trellis is stable. There will soon be a lot of weight to carry. The following solutions are available for a pot:

  • put one or more bamboo sticks in the pot
  • attach a simple scaffold to the side of the pot
  • there are suitable copies in specialist shops
  • alternatively let strings hang from the balcony ceiling
  • or attach a scaffold to the wall

To cut

If you grow this cucumber plant, you will hardly think about cutting when caring for it. But that can quickly become necessary. In a bucket, the Kiwano tends upwards and has little chance of conquering too much space. But it forms meter-long tendrils that can tower over even the highest scaffolding. The number of branches can quickly become overwhelming and require thinning out. Cut away as much as absolutely necessary. Otherwise they deprive themselves of some fruit. Use sharp, clean scissors for cutting.

diseases and pests

Cucumis metuliferus is a robust plant that develops healthily with good care. It causes us less grief than the cucumber varieties we usually grow. Nevertheless, even it is not safe from powdery mildew on particularly dry days. Do not place the bucket too close to other plants. Be sure to keep enough distance in the bed as well. Don't let the vines crawl on the ground.


Kiwano plants bloom in late July and August. Just 14 days later, the first fruits are around 10 to 15 cm long and weigh up to 400 grams. A single plant can produce just a few or up to 50 fruits, depending on care and weather conditions. When a Kiwano is ready for harvest, it is easy to recognize: as soon as the initially green color changes to a rich yellow or light orange, the fruit is edible. When cooler days come, the entire plant can be harvested at once. The effects of frost make the goosefruit inedible. But be careful: the shoots and leaves have stinging hairs. Wear gloves when picking.

  • Fruits can ripen later
  • they can be stored well
  • keep cool at 10 °C to 20 °C
  • they remain edible for another 6 to 9 months

notice: Horned cucumbers should not be stored in the refrigerator. The damp cold inside does not extend their shelf life. On the contrary: they spoil faster!


Horned cucumbers are eaten raw. For this purpose, the cucumber, which is usually around 10 cm long, is cut in half and eaten with a spoon, like a kiwi. The numerous seeds can be eaten. Fruits that are still green can first be left to ripen at room temperature. The pulp of this type of cucumber can also be used for desserts or smoothies. To do this, first carefully detach it from the shell.

tip: The Kiwano not only tastes good, it also has a decorative appearance. For example, the scooped out half of the fruit can serve as a bowl for desserts and the like. Placed on a buffet table, it is an eye-catcher for every party.


Anyone who is still skeptical about the prickly horned cucumber can form their own opinion here based on the experiences of other hobby gardeners.

notice: For reasons of better legibility, small spelling mistakes (spaces, transposed letters, etc.) in the quotations have been corrected. The exact sources are linked under the indication of the respective forum.

“I had Kiwanos years ago and grew them up a trellis. I also got enough fruit but wasn't enthusiastic about it, so I haven't had any since then. Leave to grow in a warm place and provide plenty of fertilizer and water, just treat like cucumbers"

Source:, user: Edelweiss_aus_Schweden

“I pulled 2 Kiwanos for the first time this year. We had some initial difficulties and in mid-May the seedlings only had 2 leaves. I then have them in rel. small pots set and protected from burning with hay and forgotten.
Soon they grew rampant, and how!!
They were standing next to the wall of the house, but in OPEN LAND. And despite the much too late cultivation and outdoor use, these 2 plants brought me 5 almost ripe fruits. I put them next to apples for a few more days to ripen. They were then orange - yellow.
Spooned out and with a good dash of sugar a real treat. Really exotic-fresh, heavenly!!!! More next year for sure!”

Source:, user: Luna1

“[… ] By the way, the Kiwano fruits taste excellent (like passion fruit with a banana undertone) and are also unreasonably expensive in stores. I recently saw them for 3 euros each. […]

Source:, user: [guest]

"I personally don't like the fruits, I only use them for decoration.
However, the prerequisite for this is that you harvest them green. If they are already ripe, they cannot be stored for very long. By December at the latest, they will rot. Harvested green, they usually stay fresh until next May. They continue to ripen and also turn yellow-orange, but don't rot.
It is also important when harvesting that you carefully store them next to each other so that there are no mutual injuries.
I'm always fascinated by the fact that this green fruit then gives off a pink colored juice. It also escapes at the end of the stem when picking.
Allergy sufferers should be careful with the tendrils and leaves when harvesting or clearing away, there are contact allergies"

Source:, user: bea

"Since sowing (mid-April) in my flat share, my Kiwanos have now grown to a proud size of 2.50m (the smallest) to almost 3m (the largest). She is a real "Ranker", she loves warmth and sun more than anything (for me). I have installed several mounting options in the flat share, otherwise she won't be able to do it on her own. I've also started to prune the side shoots on my largest Kiwano, which you can see. It's already blooming profusely. For care (i.e. what I do): Water in the morning and evening (at average temperatures of more than 25°C) and spray three times a day. They have only been fertilized once. That's it. Please be careful if you have sensitive skin. Both the stems and leaves have "hair spikes" that may cause itching (it doesn't bother me, but I've had people visit who are a little sensitive). […]"

Source:, user: alexwag

“I tried the Kiwano a few years ago.
Cultivation works in the same way as a watermelon or a cucumber that likes warmth, i.e. grow indoors from the beginning of April and plant out at the beginning of June. The place does not need extremely much fertilizer, but should be warm and full sun if possible. The size of the plant corresponded to that of cucumbers in my case. In the field I had several fruits that are also ripe.
The taste of kiwano isn't quite my thing (leaning towards cucumber with banana), so I don't grow it anymore.
But just for fun, to shock the neighbors or to add something fun to the Thanksgiving table, she's funny.”

Source:, user: aphid

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