Many plants bear gourds. One of the most commonly planted is Cucurbita pepo ovifera, a yellow-flowered vine that produces small ornamental gourds in various shapes and sizes, in both solid colors and stripes; many of the little gourds you see in stores likely come from this plant. Luffa cylindrica (L. aegyptiaca), called loofah, dishcloth gourd, or vegetable sponge gourd, is another yellow-flowered plant; it bears cylindrical, 1- to 2-ft.-long fruit with a fibrous interior that, when dried, may be used as a sponge or cloth for scrubbing or bathing. Lagenaria siceraria (L. vulgaris), white-flowered gourd, produces fruit from 3 in. to 3 ft. long, in round, crooknecked, coiled, bottle, dumbbell, or spoon shapes. Dipper gourds and birdhouse gourds are favorites from this species.
All gourd vines grow fast and will reach 1015 ft. Sow seeds when ground is warm; start indoors if growing season is short. In order to develop fruit by frost, gourds need all the summer heat they can get. If you plan to use the gourds for ornamental purposes, give vines the support of wire or a trellis to hold ripening fruit off ground. Set out transplants or thin seedlings to 2 ft. apart. You can harvest gourds when tendrils next to their stems are dead, but it's best to leave them on the vine as long as possibleuntil the gourds turn yellow or brown. They can even stay on the vine through frosts, but a heavy frost can discolor them. Cut each gourd with some stem attached so you can hang it up to dry slowly in a cool, airy spot. When thoroughly dry, preserve with coating of paste wax, lacquer, or shellac.