How to Grow Bitter Melon


Bitter melon, or Balsam pear (Momordica Charantia), is a healthful Asian gourd that grows in tropical climates or during the summertime elsewhere. The "melon" is actually a warty vegetable that grows to six inches or longer. It is used for food, medicine and as a conversation piece in the garden. Borne on vines with a multitude of yellow blossoms, the bitter melon does best on a trellis or when you grow it against the side of a building, which will support its rather rampant growth habit and provide the warmth it needs. Start bitter melon in the spring and grow it as a summer annual in most climates.

Step 1

Soak seeds in water for 48 hours.

Step 2

Clear weeds in your planting area and then dig in some compost. Plant soaked seeds directly into the garden, allowing approximately five feet between plants because they spread.

Step 3

Give your young plants plenty of water. They also like lots of heat---if you grow the bitter melon against a building this will help to support the vines and give the plant extra warmth that it needs to grow well.

Step 4

Provide a trellis or other means of support when your vines are about one foot long.

Step 5

Fertilize bitter melons with a balanced fertilizer once each month to encourage the plant's health and growth.

Step 6

Control insect pests and diseases if they occur. If you see powdery mildew or symptoms of plant viruses, apply sulfur immediately. You can protect small, developing fruit from fruit flies by wrapping them in newspaper when they are just two or three inches long.

Things You'll Need

  • Bitter melon seeds
  • Garden location with lots of sun
  • Well-drained soil
  • Trellis or other means of support
  • Fertilizer


  • National Bitter Melon Council
  • Bitter Melon
  • Bitter Gourd

Who Can Help

  • Seed Source
  • Recipes
Keywords: bitter melon, Asian vegetables, gourds tropical

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.