Cucumber plants can get very tall if they have good growing conditions. Sometimes they can even get so tall that it can be difficult to reach some of the fruit. That’s a shame because the fruit is, after all, the primary reason why most of us grow cucumbers and if you don’t harvest it in time, the plant might stop producing more.
That’s why I have written this article, where I share four ways to keep your cucumber plants from getting too tall. Here is a quick summary.
The two easiest ways to keep cucumber plants from getting too tall are to train the plants to climb sideways or downwards or simply top them as needed. You can also grow your cucumbers on the ground without a trellis or choose a bush variety that grows like a dense bush rather than like a vine.
In this article, I explain each of the four tricks in more detail, so you know precisely what to do. I reached out to a true gardening expert with over 50 years of experience to get one of the tips I share in this article.
Top Your Cucumbers to Stop Them From Getting Taller
The easiest way to keep your cucumber plants from getting too tall is to simply top them. Topping cucumbers just means that you cut the top off the plant when it reaches the maximum height you want it to be.
Before I wrote this article, I wanted some input from an expert, so I called the gardening support line at one of my go-to garden centers where I was lucky enough to talk to Arne, a gardener with over 50 years of experience. This is what he told me about topping cucumbers.
Topping cucumbers is a great way to keep the plant from getting too tall, but you have to keep in mind that when you cut the top off the plant, secondary vines will start growing horizontally from the main vine.
Topping your cucumbers is a good way to control how tall they become, but as Arne (the expert) told me, you need some horizontal space around your cucumbers if you do that since they will start growing sideways. Of course, you can also keep cutting the secondary vines to keep the size of your cucumber plants under control, but it’s something you have to keep in mind.
If you do this, try to avoid removing more flowers than necessary, because the plant needs flowers to produce fruit. If you are interested in this, I recommend that you read this article where I explain what to do when cucumber plants are flowering, why it happens, and much more.
The exception to that rule is for male flowers, which you generally should remove to keep your plants producing. You can learn how to tell male and female cucumber flowers apart on this link.
Arne also recommended another way to keep cucumbers from getting too tall. A method I have actually also used with my own cucumber plants. That’s my next point.
Train Your Cucumber Plants to Grow Downwards or Sideways
A good way to stop cucumbers from getting taller is to train them to climb in a certain way. Training cucumbers is easy and a good way to control where they grow and how tall they get.
Cucumbers come in vining varieties and bush varieties. Bush varieties generally don’t get so tall and don’t need to grow on a trellis, so they don’t need to be trained. I’ll get back to bush varieties later in this article.
Vining varieties, on the other hand, grow best when they have a trellis to climb on. Since the sunlight comes from above, the plants will naturally grow upwards, but you actually have a lot of control over this. This is what “training cucumbers” is.
To train your cucumber plants to grow sideways or downwards, simply take the top part of the vine and move it somewhere else on the trellis where you attach it. Do this continuously throughout the growing season so make sure the plant grows how you want it to.
Here is a photo of a cucumber plant I did this exact thing to. It can be a bit hard to see but notice how it doesn’t grow above the trellis and that it is more dense at the top than at the bottom. That’s because I continued to train it to stay on the trellis rather than getting taller.
If you prefer that your cucumbers grow sideways instead of getting taller, getting a trellis that is long instead of tall is a great way to do it.
Whatever you choose, using a trellis to grow your cucumbers has a lot of advantages that you can read more about on this link. That said, you don’t have to use a trellis if you don’t want to. That brings me to my next point.
Grow Cucumbers on the Ground to Keep Them From Getting Tall
A lot of people use a trellis for growing cucumbers and as I explained above, there are several benefits to doing that, but you don’t have to. You can also grow cucumbers without a trellis by simply letting them sprawl on the ground.
Growing cucumbers on the ground is definitely a good way to keep the plants from getting tall, but it also has some disadvantages. For example, the plants and fruit are much more exposed to pests and diseases, which can mean that you won’t get as much fruit.
If you are curious about growing cucumbers on the ground, I recommend that you read this article. In it, I share four simple tips that can help you reduce the risk of pests and diseases and get more out of your cucumbers growing on the ground overall.
Cucumbers growing on the ground take up a lot more horizontal space than if they grow on a trellis, so if want to grow your cucumbers in a greenhouse, growing them on the ground might not be a good idea since it takes up a lot of space.
This is one of the differences between growing cucumbers in a greenhouse and outside, you need to keep in mind if you have to make that choice. There are more differences, though, which you can learn about on this link.
11 Bush Cucumber Varieties That Don’t Get Tall
Bush cucumbers are varieties that (as the name indicates) tend to grow like a dense bush instead of like a vine. Bush varieties are great for people who prefer that their plants don’t get so tall.
I’ve found 11 examples of popular bush cucumber varieties that you can consider growing if you prefer shorter plants.
- Burpless Bush
- Bush Champion
- Bush Pickle
- Parks Whopper
- Pick a Bushel
- Salad Bush
Bush cucumber varieties typically need more horizontal space than vining varieties, but they won’t get very tall, which can make harvesting and other things easier. Just remember to give them enough space or you will run into several problems down the line. You can read more about what happens if plants don’t get enough space on this link.
If the reason you want to keep your cucumbers from getting too tall is that you don’t have the space for them, I recommend that you head over to this article, where I share some gardening methods that work well in small spaces.