Reasons For White Cucumbers: Why Cucumber Fruit Turns White

Reasons For White Cucumbers: Why Cucumber Fruit Turns White

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By: Jackie Carroll

Many cucumber seeds on the market today are bred to produce white fruit. They often have the word “white” or “pearl” in their name, and the cucumbers are very similar to green varieties in flavor and texture. If you have planted green varieties and get white cucumbers instead however, then it’s time to look for problems.

Reasons for White Cucumbers

One reason that cucumber fruit turns white is a fungal disease called powdery mildew. This problem begins on the upper surface of the fruit and the cucumbers may look as though they have been dusted with flour. As it spreads, the entire fruit may become covered with the mold. Powdery mildew usually occurs when the humidity is high and air circulation is poor.

Treat powdery mildew by making the environment around the cucumber plant less hospitable to the disease. Thin plants so that they are spaced at a proper distance, allowing air to circulate around them. Use a soaker hose to apply water directly to the soil and avoid getting water on the plant.

Two common cucumber plant problems that cause white fruit are blanching and excessive moisture. Blanching occurs when the fruit is completely covered by leaves. Cucumbers need sunlight to develop and maintain their green color. You may be able to position the fruit so that it receives enough light. If not, snip out a large leaf or two to let the sunlight in.

Excessive moisture results in white cucumbers because water leaches nutrients from the soil. Without the nutrients needed for proper development, cucumbers turn pale or white. Correct the problem by feeding the plants with a fertilizer high in phosphorus and watering only when necessary.

Your cucumber plants can trick you into watering them too often. Water evaporates rapidly from the large, flat leaves on hot, sunny days, causing them to wilt. There may be plenty of moisture in the soil, but the roots can’t absorb it as fast as it is evaporating. To determine if the plants need watering, wait until the end of the day when the sunlight and temperatures are less intense. If the leaves revive on their own, the plant doesn’t need watering. Otherwise, it’s time to water.

Is it Safe to Eat White Cucumber?

It’s best not to eat diseased white cucumbers. Those that are white because of blanching or too much rain are safe to eat, although nutrient deficiencies may result in a significant loss of flavor.

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Cucumbers are, by and large, an easy and prolific addition to your vegetable garden. Occasionally, they will fail to thrive. Symptoms include pale color in cucumber fruit, which may also be small and misshapen, on vines that wilt frequently or chronically as an indicator of early death. Causes are varied but can often be diagnosed and treated. Add healthy, crisp, delicious homegrown cucumbers to your summer garden harvest.

The Right Soil Gives the Best Result

If you are adventurous enough to try creating your own nutrient-rich potting soil, try this 8-step guide for making soil for vegetable gardening by Mother Earth News.

Alternatively, you can buy a gardening soil mix for vegetables right at your local home or gardening store. Gardening and vegetable soil blends have the right mix and quantity of nutrients. Look for packages with NPK on the label, which stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can also use fish fertilizer, worm meal, or other soil mixes that are labeled as safe for edible use.

You’ll save yourself some problems by avoiding using landscape soil, which can have bacteria in it that will harm your cucumbers. Landscape soil may also have weed seedlings in it and you won’t want weeds to take over your plants.

Transplanting Cucumbers in Your Garden

Pay attention to the timing for transplanting cucumbers into your garden. Cucumbers hate the cold! The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that cucumbers need soil that is at least 68° Fahrenheit. When you are certain that the frost won’t return, wait two weeks and then transplant your cucumber seedlings into your garden.

Cukes love the sun, so for the best results, choose a garden spot that gets 6-8 hours of sun every day.

Give your cucumbers lots of room in your garden, because the plants grow fairly large. Set young cucumber plants about 12 inches apart in your garden, so they have plenty of room to bear fruit.

Cucumbers are a vining plant and the shoots aren’t strong enough to hold a heavy cucumber up on their own. When the cucumbers are about 3 inches tall, insert a trellis near the plants and coax the vines to grow on the trellis by wrapping vines on it. The California Gardener shows you a couple of different types of trellises on this video.

Keeping your vines off the ground will prevent your cucumbers from having one side turn yellow or white. It also keeps bugs from eating them.

2. Poor Soil Quality for Growing Cucumbers

If it appears that your cucumbers are turning yellow early and they also appear stunted, you may have poor soil quality. Cucumbers are generally very tolerant of various soil qualities, but they do require nutrients from the soil to thrive. If you’ve been growing cucumbers in the same area for more than two years and have noticed that the quality of the fruit has decreased, it’s likely due to low soil quality. Here are some ways you can improve your soil:

  • Rotate crops – Planting the same crops in the same location year after year will deplete the soil of the nutrients that the crop needs the most. Rotating crops helps preserve soil quality.
  • Add compost – Compost adds nutrients to the soil.
  • Add fertilizer – Fertilizer, like 10-10-10, adds nutrients to the soil. Try this organic vegetable fertilizer here.


Of all the pests that feed on cucumber leaves, the leafhopper (Empoasca spp.) is most likely to turn the foliage white. Leafhoppers are small, wedge-shaped insects typically yellow, green or brown in color. These pests feed by piercing the leaves with their mouthparts and sucking out the plant fluids. The feeding activity initially causes little white speckles or white stippling to appear on the leaves' upper surfaces. Affected leaves often dry out, and the leaf tips sometimes look burned.

How To Cultivate Cucumber

Cucumbers really don't need much attention once established in the garden. Here are three tips to ensure a great harvest.

Add cukes as succession plantings. Because cucumbers crave heat, they can follow cool spring crops of peas, spinach, and lettuce.

Provide steady moisture. A continuous water supply is necessary for the best quality fruits. A drip irrigation system is ideal in the cucumber patch. If this is not possible, water deeply once a week, applying at least one inch of water. Frequent but shallow watering will reduce overall yields.

Feed cucumbers well. Cucumbers, like other cucurbits (squash, melons, and pumpkins), are heavy feeders. If organic matter was incorporated into the soil prior to planting, fertilizer will not be needed early in the season. However, when the cucumber plants begin to blossom and set fruit, a side dressing of balanced soluble fertilizer will help keep the plants in production.

The causes of chlorosis usually fall into one of 5 categories: plant pests, diseases, nutritional deficiencies, light problems, and water problems.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can identify your problem, and importantly, what you can do about it:

Plant Pests

Aphids (Aphidoidea) on a leaf

You’ve probably come across a variety of different insects on your plants. But did you know that some of them suck the sap out of the leaves?

This is a common cause of leaf discoloration and can cause them to turn yellow.

These are some of the most common:

Aphids – these small oval-shaped insects hang out on the underside of leaves. They are often green or yellow and leave behind a sticky black substance called honeydew.

Spider Mites – suck on the cucumber leaves causing yellow stippling. They are another insect that’s usually found on leaf undersides where they leave behind a silvery, fine webbing.

Whiteflies – if you shake the leaves and see a cloud of tiny, white winged insects rise up, then your plant is infested with whiteflies. Like aphids, they also leave behind honeydew.

You can spray insecticidal soap on the leaves of the plant to get rid of these unwanted bugs.

The Potato Leafhopper

Potato Leafhopper (Empoasca fabae) Source: gailhampshire

These are bigger than the pests mentioned above, but they also enjoy feeding on your plants by sucking the sap from the leaves.

While feeding, they inject a toxin that causes yellowing. And as the damage accumulates, the leaves will eventually fall from the plant.

You can use insecticides to kill potato leafhoppers. But for obvious reasons, that’s not always desirable on plants that you’re using for food.

So another method is to keep the area free from weeds and use row covers over the plants to keep the insects away.

Plant Diseases

Diseases are often responsible for the appearance of yellow spots or streaks on cucumber leaves.

Check to see if your plants are infected with any of these:

Cucumber Mosaic Virus

Are the leaves wrinkled and downward-curving with yellow spots?

Then they might be infected by cucumber mosaic virus.

Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to remove the infected plants because there’s no treatment available. If left, the disease will often spread as it’s carried by aphids and leafhoppers.

Be aware that it can live in the soil and infect new plants the following year.

The same also applies to our next disease…

Fusarium Wilt

Take a close look at the older leaves. Are they turning yellow, starting from the edges and spreading inwards?

Cucumber beetle larvae are responsible for its spread as they feed on the plant’s roots.

The same as mosaic virus, the only way to deal with it is to get rid of the infected plants. There are a number of options for cultural and biological control of this fungus.

Another similar fungus is Verticillium wilt. This is common if your cucumber plants are planted in an area that was previously used for vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, or eggplants.

Downy Mildew

The telltale signs of downy mildew are yellow spots on the upper surface of the leaves which turn to brown later on.

These spots are angularly bounded by veins in the leaves, giving an almost patchwork appearance.

And in high humidity, a grey fuzz can be found on the underside of the leaves.

To prevent and manage the disease there are several options:

  • Planting cucumber varieties that have a high level of resistance.
  • Improve air circulation around the cucumber plants and keep leaves dry by using wide row spacing and drip irrigation.
  • Remove infected plants immediately to prevent spread.
  • Contact and systemic fungicides are available that are effective against downy mildew when applied early in the disease progression.

Nutritional Deficiency

Cucumbers need a number of different nutrients to grow properly, and if these are lacking chlorosis can occur.

To accurately assess whether your plant is lacking in specific nutrients it’s a good idea to have the soil in your vegetable garden tested.

The following are the most common deficiencies that can result in your cucumber plant leaves turning yellow:

Nitrogen Deficiency

Not only will nitrogen deficiency turn cuke leaves yellow, but it also stunts their growth. With the plant eventually dying if the situation is severe.

Look out for the older leaves on the plant turning yellow along central veins and at the tips. With newer leaves continuing to look green.

Fortunately, this problem is also very easy to fix. You can increase the nitrogen content of the soil by adding a 2-inch layer of compost.

Or, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of 6-10-10 fertilizer if you start to notice a problem.

Another thing you can do is use a tablespoon of ammonium nitrate when you see the flowers of the plant start to bloom. Add it to the soil again 3 weeks later.

But, be careful not to put too much fertilizer in the soil as it will prevent the plant from producing its fruit, the cucumbers themselves!

Iron Deficiency

If new leaves are yellow with green veins, but the older leaves are still green, then iron deficiency is a possible cause.

To treat this deficiency you can add granular or powdered chelated iron to the soil around the root zone. Or you can spray liquid iron on the plant.

Potassium Deficiency

Cucumbers have a high potassium requirement, and are one of the only crops that need more potassium than nitrogen

The symptoms of potassium deficiency are leaves that turn yellow at their tips and edges. Young leaves tend to be small and dull looking, and are cupped or puckered. The cucumber fruit often have a club-shaped appearance due to being narrow close to the stem.

Using a well-balanced fertilizer can solve this cucumber plant problem. And treat the soil for acidity or alkalinity if needed.

Zinc Deficiency

To identify cucumber plants suffering from a zinc deficiency, look for older leaves turning yellow between the vein. Leaf size is usually small and growth of the plant is restricted.

Spraying with a zinc sulfate solution is an easy way to correct this problem. You can also use organic kelp.

Water Related Yellowing

Be careful not to overwater your cukes. Overwatering can lead to oxygen-deprived roots, a sign of which is the leaves turning yellow and wilting. Including rainfall, cucumber plants only need about 1-2 inches of water each week.

If your soil has drainage problems, consider loosening it with sand. Another solution is to grow your cukes in raised beds instead. Or containers with large drainage holes.

Lack Of Sunlight

Sometimes, the reason for yellow droopy leaves on your cucumber plant is simply that it’s not getting enough sunlight. Try moving them to a location in your garden where they can get at least 6 hours per day.

4 thoughts on “Why Are My Cucumber Leaves Turning Yellow And Dying?”

Six out of my nine cucumber plants have wilted with leaves gone yellow. I have been watering them daily with a little water and on one occasion I added tomato fertiliser liquid to the water. I have stopped watering for the last four days but none of the plants have recovered. The three that are OK seem to be thriving yet received the same treatment. The plants are in the greenhouse which has been extremely hot the last few days. I know now that I have over watered the plants but has the tomato fertiliser and hot greenhouse conditions had and impact as well.

Watch the video: Grow Lots of Tomatoes.. Not Leaves. Complete Growing Guide


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