Identifying Squash Plants By Leaves

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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If you’re looking to learn how to identify squash plants by leaves, you’re in the right place.

Once you know how to recognize them, squash plants are easy to distinguish from one another.

For example, some leaves are rounded and mottled, whereas others are deeply-lobed. It all depends on the plant. You can also identify these plants by their size, what their seeds look like, and their weight and color, among other things.

Let’s take a look!

Squash Plants

Squash comes from the Cucurbita genus, whose fruit is quite popular.

Specifically, C. Maxima, C. Mixta, C. Moschata, and C. Pepo are members of this genus.

Squash plants in a garden
Squash plant

Their cultivar names are spaghetti squash, acorn squash, zucchini squash, buttercup squash, and banana squash, to name a few!

These originate in both North and Central America, in hardiness zones 3-10.

In general, squash either grows on vines or on a bush. The vines are trailing, whereas the bushes are more compact, and prickly.

These plants produce flowers that are either orange or yellow! The fruit is green, white, or yellow.

The shape of squash can vary from round to peanut-shaped and has either smooth or ridged skin, all depending on the variety.

So, let’s take a look!

Pepo, Oaxacan

Pepo, Oaxacan have deeply-lobed leaves, which may have light mottling.

Pepo Oaxacan squash plant
Pepo Oaxacan

Its blossom is shaped like a star. Their stems are 5-sides, also resembling a star.

The fruits are:

  • orange
  • yellow
  • green
  • white
  • or peach

The fruit is elongated, round, or blocky.

The seeds are quite flat, and large compared to some.

Fruit can reach up to 30 pounds – wow!

Pepo, Atlantic 

Like the Pepo Ocaxacan, the leaves of the Pepo Atlantic are deeply-lobed.

Pepo Atlantic squash plant
Healthy Pepo Atlantic squash plant

They may also be prickly. Its fruits are white, green, and/or yellow, and they only weigh up to 5 pounds, typically.

The fruit is round, necked, or blocky. The seeds are small. 

Mixta

Next, we have Mixta. These are known for having jagged leaves, sometimes deeply lobed.

The leaves can also be heavily mottled. The stem is cork-like in shape and texture.

Identifying Squash Mixta plan
Squash plants Mixta

The petals are star-shaped but are typically rolled up.

As far as the color of the fruit, you can expect Mixta squash to produce:

  • white
  • green
  • orange
  • or yellow fruit

These fruits are likely to be roundish in shape or necked. The fruit weighs up to roughly 15 pounds, and the seeds are rather large.

The skin of Mixta squash may also be cracked. 

Moschata

Moschata is unique in its large, round flowers (rather than the stars of Pepo and Mixta).

The leaves are smooth and frequently mottled. The stems are 5-sided, and they are wide around the fruit itself.

Identifying Squash plant Moschata
Squash plant Moschata
Identifying Squash Plants By Leaves
Identifying Squash Plants By Leaves

Another giveaway that you have a Mochata squash is that the mature, ripe fruit is almost always tan in color!

The unripe fruit may be:

  • light green
  • dark green
  • or tan/buff in color

As far as shape goes, Moschata squash is often elongated and necked, as well as blocky.

The seeds of the Moschata squashes are often small, with dark edges around pale seeds.

These squash can also reach an impressive 30+ pounds in total!

Maxima

Maxima squash is some of the easiest to identify, as its leaves are plain and smooth.

The fruits do not have necks and are instead rounded or blocky.

Squash plant Maxima Identifying
Healthy Squash plant Maxima

The most common colors of Maxima squash are green and orange, with some variants that are more of a peach color!

Unlike the star-shaped flowers of, say, Mixta, Maxima squash has round flowers.

These flowers are also exceptionally small, compared to Mixta and Pepo.

This is of the best ways to distinguish them from each other! Another easy way to tell a Maxima from another squash type?

The fruit can reach well beyond 40 pounds. Generally, if you have a 40+ pound squash, it’s probably a Maxima.

The seeds can be brown, which is unusual for squash in general. The seeds are also quite large.

There are many giveaways that you have a Maxima squash plant if you know how to look!

Temperature (Climate)

If you’re looking to plant any of these lovely types of squash, you’ll need to know their preferred temperature.

Anywhere between 60-80 F is acceptable, whereas the ideal temperature for any kind of squash is 65-75 F.

This means that, in growing zones 3-10, they can be planted outdoor.

You’ll just want to germinate the seeds first, and only to plant once the last frost is well over!

About Squash Leaves In General

Now that you have a better idea of how to identify your squash, by leaf, stem, fruit color, etc., we’ll talk about squash leaves in general.

Recognize Squash leaves
Recognize Squash leaves

Specifically, what diseases they may be susceptible to, and how you might keep them healthy (or at least address the situation).

Let’s take a look!

Squash Bugs

Squash bugs are a nemesis of not only squash but also other cucurbits, like pumpkins and cucumbers.

How? The squash bug is a renowned sap-sucker. Squash bugs are long, flat, winged, and dark in color.


Have You Noticed: When they suck the sap out of the leaves, they leave behind yellow and orange spots – another giveaway. Their young are smaller and grey in color.


So, How Do You Get Rid of These Squash Bugs, and Protect Your Squash?

There best way is to pick them off by hand and to scrape off the eggs. They are resistant to most pesticides.

Squash plant bugs
Squash bugs

If they’re a real problem, you can also lay row covers over your plants. Or, lay a trap.

This can be done by placing boards and newspapers on the ground and leaving overnight.

The squash bugs will consider this a good place to hide out, and you can lift it up and dispose of them in the morning.

You can also try one tablespoon of dishwashing soap with roughly 1 cup of water, and give your plants a spray.

You’re most likely to find both squash bugs and their eggs hiding out on the underside of leaves.


Fortunately: When it comes to getting rid of them, any of these solutions can do the trick!


Downy Mildew

Downy mildew can be a menace among all squash types, and it almost always appears after damp, cold weather (in temperatures of around 59-68F).

Spreading Downy Mildew
Downy Mildew

It starts out with a series of yellowish, angular-looking spots. From here, a purplish-gray and/or whiteish mold will begin to grow! 

If downy mildew only affects a few leaves, you can still expect a small harvest.


From Experience: If it affects too many leaves, you may find yourself without a harvest, however!


What Can You Do?

First off, you’ll want to make sure that your plants are not too close together.

This can inhibit airflow, and encourage downy mildew to spread. What’s more, you’ll want to pull up any weeds nearby (for the same reason).

Basically, give your squash plants room to breathe, and they’ll be at less of a risk!

If you want to try to get rid of the downy mildew on your squash leaves, you can always try 1 tsp of baking soda with 1 quart of water, made into a spray.

Organic pesticides that contain sulfur may also do the trick!

Bacterial Wilt

Bacterial wilt, as its name implies, causes the leaves of squash plants to wilt.

Bacterial Wilt spreading
Bacterial Wilt

It usually manifests just as the squash plants are beginning to develop vines, which is a bit tragic.

Sadly, there is no known cure for bacterial wilt.

What to Do?

Your best bet is to remove the afflicted plants and dispose of them properly.

The best place for disposal is the trash, as you wouldn’t want it spreading in your compost.

First, a few leaves will begin to wilt, and then the whole vine.

Again, there is no way to cure plants of the disease, so the faster you dispose of afflicted squash plants, the better!

Squash Vine Borer

The squash vine borer is a type of moth that lays its eggs on the base of squash plants (pumpkins are also afflicted).

It’s not the adult moths that do the damage. Rather, it’s the larvae, which hatch in just 1-2 weeks of being laid.


As Their Name Implies: These hatchlings will bore into the squash stems, and sometimes even into the fruit.


Treating Squash Vine Borers

When it comes to treating squash vine borers, it’s important to act quickly.

Squash Vine Borer damage
Squash Vine Borer

If they’ve already bored into the plant, it may not be possible to save it.

If you’ve found eggs yet to hatch, there may yet be hope, however.

Sometimes, folks will cover the plant bottom with tin foil or something similar. It all depends on if they’ve begun boring, yet.

Scraping the eggs off, along with a bacterial spray, may also do the trick!

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it: how to go about identifying squash plants by leaves.

Now that you have the proper info, all it will take is a bit of practice.

Soon, you’ll be able to identify squash easily. You’ll also learn how to identify certain diseases and help keep them in check.

We wish you the best of luck!

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