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How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe thrives in warm weather and needs a long growing season; great news for desert dwellers. Learn how to grow cantaloupe, and add this tasty fruit to your garden and table.

Once cantaloupe is picked, it continues to ripen but does not get any sweeter. When you grow your own cantaloupe, you can pick it at the peak of sweetness. It is so good! 

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

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9 Tips for How to Grow Cantaloupe

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

1. Choose the best location

Cantaloupe prefers a sunny location with well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Amend the soil with compost and a balanced organic fertilizer prior to planting. 

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

2. Choose a cantaloupe type suited to your needs

* = My favorite varieties to grow in the low desert of Arizona.

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

3. Plant cantaloupe at the correct time

Cantaloupe prefers warm weather, so don’t plant it before temperatures have warmed in the spring. Cantaloupe does best when direct sown. Sow seeds outside about 2 weeks after the last frost date when soil temperatures are about 65℉. In the low desert of Arizona, the best time to plant cantaloupe is from February 15 through July

In cooler zones, start seeds indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost date, and transplant outside when the soil is at least 65℉ and nighttime temperatures are above 50℉. Be careful not to disturb roots when planting to avoid transplant shock.

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

4. Reduce chances for pests and disease

  • Rotate where you plant cantaloupe and members of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae), such as other melons, squash, or pumpkins.
  • Once fruits have formed, raise them up off the ground with melon cradles or pots; this increases air circulation and helps with rot and insects. 
  • Grow cantaloupe vertically; they love to climb. Use a melon hammock to support the hanging fruit if desired, but it often isn’t necessary. 
  • If powdery mildew is a problem, consider growing Ambrosia or other disease-resistant varieties. 
  • Inspect leaf undersides daily for aphids and other pests. Consider spraying with water or treating with insecticidal soap if problem persists. Read this post for more ideas for pest control. 

5. Give cantaloupe plenty of room to grow

  • Thin seedlings and keep only the strongest seedling in each group. 
  • Space plants 24-36 inches apart if left to sprawl on the ground. 
  • Space plants about 12 inches apart if growing up a trellis
  • If using square foot gardening methods, allow 2-3 square feet for each plant. 

Vertical Gardening Ideas

Looking for ways to add vertical space to your garden? This post shares 10 of my favorite ideas.

6. Care for cantaloupe correctly throughout the growing season

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe
  • Mulch cantaloupe plants to help retain moisture, regulate temperature, control weeds, and keep fruit clean.
  • Water in the morning and avoid getting water on leaves, which can encourage disease. 
  • Fertilize when vines begin growing. 
  • Be on the lookout for bees. Male flowers will appear first, followed by female flowers. If female fruit withers and dies, consider hand-pollinating future blooms. 
How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe that was not pollinated properly

7. Learn how to grow cantaloupe that is sweet and full of flavor

  • Don’t overwater while fruit is growing. Too much water (or rain) produces bland-tasting fruit.
  • Pick off additional fruit once several fruits have formed. Ripening only one fruit at a time maximizes sweetness. The more fruit ripening on a vine at the same time, the less sweet it will be.
  • Do not prune off leaves or shoots. The leaves produce the sugars which sweeten the fruits. 
  • About a week before melons are ripe, cut back watering as much as possible to concentrate the fruit’s sugars. 
  • Harvest cantaloupe at the right time (see chart below). 

8. Harvest cantaloupe at the right time

Cantaloupe will continue to soften once picked, but it won’t get any sweeter. Leaving it on the vine as long as possible gives you the sweetest flavor.

Not Ready to HarvestReady to HarvestOverripe
Rind is green or grayRind is yellowFruit cracks
“Netting” on cantaloupe is smooth“Netting” on cantaloupe becomes rough 
Stem has to be forcibly removed from melonStem easily separates from melonFruit falls off stem
End opposite of stem is hardEnd opposite of stem is slightly soft; rind has a little “give” Fruit is mushy or soft
No aromaMusky, sweet aromaRotten or overripe smell
Green vinesTendrils around fruit dry out and turn brown 

9. Don’t let cantaloupe harvests go to waste

Melons last 3-5 days if left at room temperature. Uncut cantaloupe stored at 45℉ to 50℉ lasts up to 2 weeks. Once fruit is cut, it will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator.

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

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Tuesday 19th of March 2024

What would be good companion plants/flowers/herbs for cantaloupe?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Basil, thyme, zinnias, gaillardia are all more heat tolerant that can grow well during the summer.


Thursday 25th of January 2024

I'm going to try planting in a container and have them grow vertically. Any suggestion on how tall of a support i should get? Same question for cucumbers. Thanks!

Angela Judd

Friday 26th of January 2024

At least 4-5 feet tall for both. You can also use ladder mesh block like in this post:

albert crockett

Wednesday 30th of August 2023

some of my cantaloupes are smaller than others is there a problem in the soil

Kathy Rumfelt

Friday 15th of September 2023

@Angela Judd,

Angela Judd

Thursday 31st of August 2023

You can get your soil tested to see if there are issues, but size variations (especially when there is more than one fruit on the vine) are normal.

al haag

Friday 28th of July 2023

i planted seeds...after 5 days i had sprouts ...after 2 weeks i have nice 5-6 inch high plants...looking good so far... should i let them climb or rest on the ground(the ground would be easier)

Angela Judd

Monday 31st of July 2023

Nice! It's up to you. If you let them sprawl, consider giving them something to rest on to prevent pest damage. Keep an eye on the leaves and check for pests/diseases.


Thursday 13th of July 2023

I'm growing two cantaloupe plants for the first time and happened upon your site. They are growing well despite a cold, wet spring in Seattle. Please clarify what sounds inconsistent to me: Spraying foliage with epsom salt water vs not getting leaves wet to prevent mildew (which is unavoidable on squash plants in our humidity). Can this epsom salt water go into the soil instead? Thanks for the practical tips.

Angela Judd

Monday 17th of July 2023

I updated the article, to remove the epsom salt recommendation. I haven't seen a real benefit to using that. Best of luck with your crop!