Learn how long carved pumpkins last, so you can carve your Halloween pumpkin at the best time. Plus, get tips on how to make carved pumpkins last longer.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated August 13, 2020
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While it may be tempting to show off the impressive results of your use of pumpkin carving stencils throughout October, it’s a smart idea to learn how long carved pumpkins last first so you can carve your Halloween pumpkin at the best time. To make sure your carved pumpkins last until Halloween, we’ve consulted a couple pumpkin pros for their top tips. Follow their advice for when to pick and carve pumpkins, and your masterpiece is sure to look fresh on Halloween night—though you can practically guarantee your jack-o’-lantern will look great on Halloween by learning how to make pumpkins last longer.

When to buy your pumpkin

The best time to pick a pumpkin is within a week of when you plan to carve it, according to Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. “Look for a large pumpkin, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin,” Evan says. And be sure to avoid the telltale sign of an older pumpkin: a dry, brittle stem. Instead, look for a fresh, green stem that’s about three to five inches long.

“You can tell when a pumpkin is ready to harvest when its skin hardens,” says Sarah Perreault, senior editor at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The best test is to press your fingernail into the flesh. If it’s difficult to do, the pumpkin is ready, but if you can pierce it easily, it’s not ripe yet. And whether you’re picking right from the patch or plucking from the aisles of a store, avoid any gourds with visible blemishes, cracks, or soft spots. “Be sure to check the bottom of the pumpkin, too,” Perreault says.

Where to store your pumpkin

Once you’ve picked your pumpkin, how you store it will determine how long it lasts. “Store in a cool, dry bedroom (under the bed is good), or in a cellar or root cellar—anywhere with a temperature around 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” Perreault says. Resist the temptation to show off your pumpkin on the stoop or in a sunny window, where the warm temperature will cause it to decay quickly. If you can’t stand the idea of an empty stoop this fall, buy some pumpkins to leave on display outdoors and hide those you intend to carve indoors, out of direct sunlight.

How long carved pumpkins last

How long carved pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns last - jack-o'-lantern
Credit: Getty Images

How long your pumpkins last will depend on the temperature; if warm weather is expected, they may only look good for about one week, though they may last longer if temperatures are cooler even without preventative measures.

So, how long before All Hallows’ Eve should you start working your DIY magic (or start learning how to carve a pumpkin)? The later, the better, the pros say. “Carve no more than three days before Halloween,” Evan recommends. If your main Halloween celebration falls on the weekend before or after Halloween, pick a pumpkin carving date a few days before then—or even the day-of, if you have time on Halloween morning and there are still pumpkins to be found.