What Are the Best Tips for Growing Bitter Melon?

Britt Archer

Bitter melon is a bitter-tasting gourd whose interior pulp varies from pale green to white. Growing bitter melon will produce a vine whose fruit is an orange-yellow when mature, and green when immature. One of the best tips for growing bitter melon is to soak the seeds before planting because the seeds are covered by a hard coating, and soaking will ease germination. The seeds can be planted in a container or straight into the ground when attempting to grow bitter melon, but ground planting requires a gardener to wait until the ground is warm. The seeds can be planted a little earlier, but to shield them from nighttime coolness, they should have a protective covering. Growing bitter melon is easiest when the melon can climb on a trellis as it reaches for its full height of 6 feet (1.82 meters), and its fruit will grow straighter if given enough room.

Bitter melon has been used as a folk remedy for halitosis.
Bitter melon has been used as a folk remedy for halitosis.

Despite its bitter taste and need for warm conditions, many farmers and gardeners do well when growing bitter melon around the world, and it is popular as a medicine and a food in Asia, India, Latin America and East Africa. The gourd, which is related to cucumbers, watermelons and squash, contains high contents of vitamins C and A, phosphorous, iron, potassium and beta-carotene. The fruit also is a good source of fiber and some B vitamins.

Bitter melon is used by Brazilians to treat hives.
Bitter melon is used by Brazilians to treat hives.

Several compounds found in the gourd are believed to help diabetics because they lead to lower levels of blood sugar. It is believed the relationship between bitter melon and diabetes acts on the principle that the melon’s special compounds help to regulate insulin production, leading to better regulation of blood sugar levels. Doctors in some parts of the world, such as the Philippines and India, prescribe it for their diabetic patients.

Some cultures use bitter melon as a homeopathic treatment for infants with colic.
Some cultures use bitter melon as a homeopathic treatment for infants with colic.

Native healers around the world make use of this fruit for the treatment of a large variety of ailments. In Haiti, for example, it is used as both an insecticide and to stimulate the appetite, as well as to treat constipation, fever, anemia and skin problems. The Chinese use it to treat impotency, kidney problems, breast cancer and halitosis. Brazilians use it for hemorrhoids, flu, hives, hepatitis, colic, burns, malaria, scabies, leprosy and worms.

The side effects of bitter melon include stomach upset and the possible development of hemolytic anemia. Side effects also can include the inducement of vaginal bleeding, and for this reason it should be avoided by women who may be pregnant. Scientists are unsure how this fruit affects breastfeeding and so they advise breastfeeding mothers to avoid the fruit. Children, too, should refrain from eating the fruit because there have been instances of hypoglycemic coma.

Bitter melon is a popular medicine and a food in East Africa.
Bitter melon is a popular medicine and a food in East Africa.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Bitter melon plants grow best if you thin them out after the seeds begin to break through the ground. The reason for this is because the plants spread out as they grow, and will become overcrowded if you have too many in one particular section of ground.

For example, in a section of your garden that is about a foot wide, you should not have more than 10 bitter melon plants.

Many gardeners do not like to pull sprouted plants from the ground just to let them die. If you feel this way when it comes time to thin out your bitter melon plants, you can easily transplant the ones that you pull from the ground into another section of your garden.


Bitter melon also grows best in areas that get plenty of afternoon sun exposure. If you plant them in an area that is too shady, your plants will not thrive and may not produce any melons.


I have found that growing bitter melon is very similar to growing other types of melons, squash, and gourds. Therefore, one important tip to keep in mind is to make sure that the soil has good drainage. If your bitter melon plants get too much moisture, they will not thrive.

Another problem from too much moisture in the soil is that it may result in the melons rotting before they are ready to be harvested. Adding peat moss to the soil before you plant your melon seeds will help combat a very rainy growing season.

Post your comments
Forgot password?