All About Gourds

Welburn Gourd Farm has been in business over 40 years. Pictured above, founder, Doug Welburn, inspects the bottle gourd crop circa 1996.

Welburn Gourd Farm specializes in thick-shelled Canteen gourds and also gourds for making Hawaiian Ipu and Ipu Heke dancing instruments.

The farm is the largest organic grower in the world, producing over 325,000 gourds per year. It is also the premier source for quality gourd tools, color products, and gourd supplies of all kinds!

Hard shell gourds are very different from the yellow and green ornamental gourds found at Thanksgiving time. They do not rot (gourds were found in the Egyptian pyramids in tact!), and are very similar to wood. They are used for arts, crafts, musical instruments, homeware, and more.

See below to discover more!


Where to Start?

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How Gourds Are Priced

Gourds are priced by size. They are sized by diameter at the widest part of the gourd (not by height or circumference), and size is measured in inches.

Diameter is the distance straight across the gourd at its widest point, not the distance around the gourd, which is the circumference. (Refer to the image at left)

Gourds are measured using a sizing board, which is a board with the holes of the various sizes cut out of it. Some specialty shapes, such as sculpture gourds, are measured by height, and snake gourds are measured by length.

The gourd in this photo is priced as a 9-inch gourd since it passes through the 10-inch hole. Its important to note that even though the gourd is priced as a 9-inch gourd and we refer to it as a "9-inch gourd," it is actually BIGGER than 9 inches and be as large as 9.9 inches in diameter.

For more detail and a complete price list, please see our Pricing page

Gourd sizing table

How to Shop for Gourds

The 3 ways to purchase Welburn gourds are:
• By placing a "Custom Order" over the phone (gourds of your exact specifications, but most expensive option)
By the box (high quality gourds that have been pre-selected, and cost MUCH less per gourd than a Custom Order!)
At the farm (you get to pick out your own gourds and get wholesale prices!)

What's a Custom Order?

If you are needing gourds that meet your exact specifications (shape, size, color, with stems, flat bottoms, etc.) you will need to place a custom order. Custom orders are a very labor intenstive process, which is why they are the most expensive gourds and have a high minimum order requirement.  Custom order gourds are sold dirty, but can be cleaned for an additional cleaning fee.  

For example, an order for (30) 6-inch to 7-inch diameter bottle gourds that have a long, skinny neck and sit up straight (i.e. have a flat bottom), could take the order filling department weeks to fill. They typically must sort through at least 50-100 gourds just to find ONE that will meet this criteria!

Most of the time you can find exactly what you need when you order boxed gourds!

How to Get the Best Price on Gourds:

Boxed Gourds!
Pre-selected boxes of CLEAN gourds give you the chance to get exceptional, high-quality gourds for a fabulous bargain! Boxed gourds have been selected in advance by our staff, and are grouped according to shape, size, and quality. Below is a box of Small Mixed Shape gourds!

Boxed gourds all come cleaned on the outside so you can get right to the fun of creating your gourd art! Since they have been sorted and washed in bulk they are greatly discounted, and are priced an average of 30% less than Custom Order gourds!

*Welburn Gourd Farm only ships gourds that meet strict quality standards, both for boxed gourds and Custom Orders. Only 15% to 20% of the gourds we grow are considered high enough quality for shipping (which is why so many are grown)!

To see the great selection of CLEAN pre-boxed gourds, click here!

Gourds at the Farm!
To get the lowest prices on gourds, buy wholesale at the farm! You'll enjoy leisurely browsing through the gourd racks under a grove of ancient Oak trees, and you'll have thousands of gourds to choose from! Customers will come from thousands of miles away just to see the farm and pick out their very own gourds!

For directions to the farm click here!

A Clean Gourd and an Unwashed Gourd

A washed gourd on the left and a dirty gourd on the right

Most of the gourds in the racks at the farm are dirty but they are very easy to clean!

The image to the left is an example of what a clean gourd (left) looks like compared to a dirty gourd (right). Continue reading "Why Choose Welburn Gourds?" below to see why they are among the easiest gourds to clean!

Click here to watch a video showing you how easy it is to clean gourds when you get them from Welburn Gourd Farm!

Why Choose Welburn Gourds?

Known for their thick shells and beautiful, natural markings, the Welburn Gourd is the gourd of choice for artists, crafters, and musicians who want quality above all else.

Gourds with thick shells are durable and have less of a tendency to crack or break while being worked with. A thick-shelled gourd is especially important for artists who incorporate heavy cutting or carving work in their gourd art.

Leaf Bowl

Another important factor when purchasing gourds is the quality of the gourd shell in terms of general appearance and performance. Gourds shells that are pitted or dry are difficult to work with when applying color or wood burning.

Welburn gourds are known for their beautiful, smooth shells and good moisture content.

Finally, if you are buying gourds that you clean yourself (such as when you visit our farm to buy gourds), you want to pay attention to how easily they can be cleaned.

When gourds are growing, they have a wax-like skin, which protects them until they are dry. In climates OTHER than ours in Southern California, this skin can become baked on in the drying process, making the gourd VERY difficult to clean!

Welburn gourds clean off easily with just water and a pot scrubber. When you purchase gourds at the farm, one of the reasons you get them at rock bottom prices is because they have not been cleaned. (Although, there is usually a small stock of cleaned gourds available and an additional cleaning fee applies.)

Of course, when you order Welburn Gourds online or over the phone for mail order, they are already cleaned on the outside and ready to craft! (We only ship pre-washed gourds in order to guarantee quality and inspect for cracks or blemishes.)

What You Must Know When Selecting Gourds

(1) How Gourds Are Categorized:

Because gourds are a product of nature, no two are alike. Gourds come in every shape and size imaginable!

Welburn Gourd Farm categorizes its gourds into five main shapes: Bottle gourds, Canteen gourds, Round Body gourds, Pear/Tear Drop gourds, Tall-Body gourds, and Specialty shapes (which include apple gourds, snake gourds, sculpture gourds, and warty gourds). (for photos, see the custom order page)

Here are 5 of the shapes and names that Welburn Gourd Farm uses to categorize gourds.

Within each of these shape categories are countless variations! An example of bottle gourd variations is shown below.

Bottle Gourds

Here is just a small sample of how varied Bottle Gourds can be.

Canteen gourds are the exception to the "countless variations" rule. They tend to grow in a perfect canteen shape every time, the only variation being height.

(2) The Shape Factor

Gourd shape is often specific to size. In other words, not every shape grows in every size. Canteen gourds, for example, don't grow much smaller than 4 inches in diameter.Jewelry gourds, like giant gourds, are grown from a specific seed that is "genetically programmed" to produce that size.

Apple gourds only grow in sizes around 5 inches to 8 inches in diameter. Kettle and Canteen gourds will grow extremely large, but Bottle Gourds and Pear Gourds usually don't (and when they do, the quality is often poor).

Jewelry Gourd

This "jewelry gourd" is under 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

This shape-size correlation has led to a great deal of confusion and debate in the gourd community about how to classify gourds. There are many charts out there that categorize gourds using both shape and size references like the one below.

For example, the "Cannon Ball" gourd, named on some charts, is a gourd that is very round shape, and has a size of approx. 6" - 8" in diameter. A "Martin House" gourd is a tear-drop shaped gourd of approximately 8-inch diameter because this is the size gourd needed for the Purple Martin birds to nest in!

Rather than naming every gourd by their size and shape (which would mean hundreds of categories), Welburn Gourd Farm has 5 main general shape categories.

(3) Size and Quality Correlation

When you order gourds, you will find not every size is available for every shape. This is because gourd quality is actually related to gourd size for certain shapes! For example, one of the most popular gourds we grow is the 3-inch to 4-inch Pear/Kettle gourds. This is because 90% of them are top quality, thick-shelled, perfectly symmetrical, with flat bottoms and stems! All of the qualities Gourd Artists love!

But just because the Pear and Kettle gourds grow so perfectly in this size range does not mean they grow that way in every size! For example, it is very difficult to find high quality Pear gourds bigger than 10-inches in diameter.

Why? Because the seeds that produce the Pear shape have the genetic disposition to grow smaller!

As you get into the larger-sized Pear gourds, quality starts to diminish. Pear gourds over 10" in diameter rarely grow symmetrical. They usually have a flat spot on one side, and often the shell quality is not as smooth and flawless.

This does not mean you cannot find quality 10-inch Pear gourds when you come to the farm. You can if you're willing to look hard enough!

Because it is difficult to find 10-inch Pear gourds that meet the high quality standards of our shipping department, there are usually only a few boxes of these gourds available for sale online. Which means you need to get your boxes right away before they sell out for the year!

The best time to get these larger gourds is in the late spring/early summer, which is when the new crop is ready!

If you want giant gourds (like those pictured left), your best bet is the Canteen or short Kettle shape, which can grow over 25 inches in diameter!

(Diameter is the distance straight across at the widest point, as opposed to circumference, which is the distance all the way around the outside).

These two shapes consistently produce excellent quality in the larger sizes. However, quantities of these gourds are always very limited (only a few hundred are produced each year), so if you are interested in giant gourds, it is highly recommended that you join our mailing list so you receive a notice the moment the new crop is available (usually late spring)!

Simple Ways To Clean Your Gourds (inside and out):

To clean Welburn gourds, just soak them in water for 10 or 15 minutes, then scrub them with a stainless steel pot scrubber (we've found that's what works best!).

No soap is needed, although you may need to place something on top of the gourds to keep them submerged since they do float!

Click here to watch a video showing you how easy it is to clean Welburn gourds!


To clean the interior of the gourd, just dump out the seeds and dried membrane and scrape off the walls. To keep the dust down, you may prefer to clean the inside using water and a scraping tool or an Easy Cleaner Ball!

IMPORTANT: When cleaning the inside and especially when sanding and carving the gourd, it is recommended you use a dust mask . You should also wear some form of eye protection or safety goggles to prevent dust from getting in your eyes.

Cleaning Your Gourd

If you are extremely sensitive and commonly have allergic reactions to things like dust and pollen, a professional mask or respirator, such as the one shown on the left, may be best to wear.

For a complete guide to cleaning, cutting, and working with gourds, you can order books or watch our free videos online!

Why Gourd Markings Are Prized by Artists

Pear Gourd

The beautiful, natural markings on this gourd are caused during the drying process as the waxy cuticle covering on the gourd breaks down and peels off to reveal the shell underneath.

A gourd with designs and markings in the shell is prized by artists who enjoy having the natural characteristics of the gourd to inspire their work and incorporate into their design.

What About Those 'Crazy' Shapes?

Doug Welburn with Sculpture Gourds

Gourds cross-pollinate, which means gourd shapes can get pretty interesting! It also means planting the seeds from a specifically shaped gourd will not necessarily produce gourds with that same shape. In fact, often times the gourds we get come out looking nothing like the gourds we planted seeds from!

This unpredictability with gourd shapes means, for mail order, we can only advertise shapes we know we can grow in a certain quantity.These Sculpture Gourds were the result of a lucky cross-pollination in the fields.

One of the reasons people love coming to the farm is they get to browse through and select from thousands of gourds of every imaginable shape and size!

Why Organic?

Other than the obvious reason of helping to protect our environment and groundwater from harmful chemicals, there is also an important health reason for purchasing organically grown gourds!

Several people have reported having sever reactions when cleaning out gourds that are not grown organically. This is because when chemicals are sprayed on gourds they can become trapped in the membrane and fiber of the gourd.

One East coast customer told us he needed gourds in a hurry one time and did not have time to order our organic gourds from California, so he bought a truck load from a local farmer.

After an hour of cleaning and cutting the gourds, he said he had a severe headache, his eyes were red and watering, and he could actually taste the chemicals inside his mouth! He told us he would never buy a non-organic gourd again!

The Secret to Growing Thick-Shelled Gourds

A Thick Welburn Gourd

One of the most common questions is, "Why are Welburn gourds so much thicker than other gourds?" The ideal climate of Southern California is definitely a factor. That combined with Doug Welburn's over 25 years of experience in gourd growing is the secret!

Through years of trial and error, trying different watering systems and soil enrichment strategies, Doug wasable to produce gourds with shells that average 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in thickness!

The Welburn farm is famous for its Canteen gourds, which have a shell thicker than most other shapes. Pictured left is one of our exceptionally thick canteen gourds, with a shell measuring over 1 inch in thickness!

How Gourds are Grown

Please see our "How Gourds are Grown" page - Click Here.