In this article: Learn the answer to the question What does a watermelon plant look like? And how to tell the difference between a watermelon plant and cucumber or other melons.
When seedlings are small it can be hard to tell the difference between different cucurbits. (Cucurbits are a family of plants that include watermelon, cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds).
But as the plants grow differences emerge that make it easier to identify which plant is which.
So if you are new to gardening and didn’t label your seeds well. Or if you just have a mystery plant growing in your yard and want to know what it is. This guide will help you determine what a watermelon plant looks like and how to tell the difference between other cucurbits.
What Does a Watermelon Plant Look Like: A Picture Guide
As I mentioned, in the seedling stage when cucurbits only have a couple of leaves cucumbers and watermelons looks pretty close to identical.
You can usually tell squash apart because squash plants tend to be larger, have thicker stems, and grow faster.
But once the true leaves emerge you will easily be able to tell the difference between these plants.
Step 1: Look at the True Leaves
Below is a picture of a young watermelon plant:
As you can see, it has lobed leaves. These deep lobes are characteristic of all watermelon plants.
Some might compare it to the shape of an oak leaf.
In contrast, below is a picture of a cucumber leaf:
You can see that the cucumber leaf is more triangular in shape, with somewhat serrated edges.
Just like the watermelon leaf can be compared to an oak, a cucumber leaf can be compared to a maple.
And finally, below is a picture of a cantaloupe melon leaf:
This one is somewhere in between. It is more rounded than a cucumber, but not as deeply lobed as a watermelon plant.
Related Reading: How to Grow Watermelon from Seed to Harvest
Step 2: How Does the Plant Vine?
Another difference between watermelon plants and cucumber plants is their vining behavior.
Both crops are vining and will send out long vines from the main stem.
Watermelon plants however do not form very dense umbrella above the developing fruits. The leaf cover is further apart and soil will be visible beneath.
Below is a watermelon vine:
Cucumber plants however form a very dense cover. This shades the fruits and the soil.
Below is a cucumber vine:
Step 3: Look at the Developing Fruits
The fruits of these developing cucurbits are an easy, tell-tale way of figuring out if you have a watermelon plant or a cucumber.
If after looking at the true leaves and vines, you still don’t know if what you have is a watermelon, then it’s time to look at the fruits. All of these plants have both male and female flowers and the fruits will develop under the female flowers.
Below is a developing watermelon fruit:
As you can see it looks very much like a tiny little watermelon. Round or oval in shape, with some striping.
Now for a cucumber fruit:
Again, it looks very much like a small cucumber. Oblong in shape with spines.
And finally, a cantaloupe melon:
This one doesn’t look quite like a cantaloupe, the mottling on the skin that cantaloupes are known for won’t come until much later. But many melons are somewhat fuzzy when they are small.
Okay, so those are 3 different things to look at when you find yourself asking yourself “what does a watermelon look like??”
I would like to note one more thing, which is cross pollination. Many different cucurbits can cross pollinate with each other, which means if your mystery plant is a self planted seed from compost or from last year’s garden, and you grow lots of different cucurbits in close quarters, you may end up getting a hybrid plant.
Though, not all cucurbit will cross pollinate together, so in most cases if you identify your plant as a watermelon, it will likely still be a watermelon and not an odd cucumber-melon hybrid. Here’s a good article explaining the cross pollination of cucurbits.
Check out more gardening articles: