Sumo Gardener

How Long Does Watermelon Last? On the Vine, After Picking, After Cutting

In this article, we’ll answer questions like “How long does watermelon last?”, “How do I know when a watermelon is ripe for harvesting?”, “What is the best way to harvest a watermelon?” and more!

Watermelon is one of the most iconic fruits of the summer, with its juicy, pink, sweet flesh making the perfect snack on a hot, sunny day. Watermelon is best enjoyed ripe, but it can be tricky to know when to harvest this fruit and how to best keep it fresh.


How Long Does Watermelon Last On the Vine, After Picking, After Cutting

How Long Does a Watermelon Last After Cutting?

Watermelon is one of the most iconic fruits of the summer

Once a watermelon has been cut, you should refrigerate it and eat it within 5 days. It’s easiest to store if you cut it into slices or wedges and store it in foil, plastic wrap or an airtight container.

How Long Does a Watermelon Last Uncut?

If your watermelon hasn’t been cut into, you can store it on your countertop in a cool, shaded spot for about 2-3 weeks. The temperature should be between 50 – 90 degrees – any high or lower and the flesh will start to deteriorate.

How long it lasts also depends on when it was harvested – if it's just been picked, it will last much longer than one that has been on the store shelf for a week or two. 

Remember to put your watermelon rinds in the compost or worm farm, as it’s one of the worm's favorite foods!

How Long Do Watermelons Last at Room Temperature?

If you’ve cut open your watermelon, it will last about 2 hours at room temperature. After that, it must be refrigerated. This is because bacteria multiply very quickly in warm weather, when the temperature is between 41-135 degrees.

Should I Refrigerate a Whole Watermelon?

If you have a whole watermelon, it’s best not to refrigerate it. Research by the USDA showed that storing it in the shade on a cool spot on your countertops is best, as this ensures the best flavor and nutrition in a watermelon.

Once cut, you should refrigerate it if it has been out for 2 hours.

Should I Buy Pre-Cut or Whole Watermelons?

A couple buying watermelon

As soon as a fruit is cut and exposed to the air it starts to go bad faster. If the slices of watermelon were pre-cut that day or the day before, it should be fine.

However, you have to trust that the seller has refrigerated the fruit properly, wrapped it to avoid exposure to contaminants and bacteria, and kept it out of the sun.

Whole watermelons are generally the safer choice, as the thick skin protects the fruit well and prevents bacteria and contaminants from getting in.

Look for stock from local farms that has been stored in a dry, cool spot, and select a fruit with an undamaged skin.

How Do You Make Watermelon Last Longer?

The best way to make cut watermelon last longer is to cut it into sections and store in an airtight container, or wrap it in plastic. It will last 5 days. For a whole watermelon, you should store it at room temperature out of the sun. It should last up to 3 weeks.

How to Tell if a Watermelon Has Gone Bad?

If there are any soft, soggy spots on your watermelon, chances are that it has gone bad and you shouldn’t eat it. Similarly, it is best to dispose of your watermelon in your compost bin or pile if you can see any patches of green, while or blue mold. 

(If you are in the market for one, see our review of the best compost bins here.) 

If the skin is firm and mold-free, you should check the flesh when you cut it open. If there are any dark spots, a slimy feel to the flesh or a sour smell, rather dispose of it.

If the fruit looks and smells fine but tastes sour or fizzy, throw it out. Rancid watermelon can make you quite sick!

Here are some tips for making compost at home, so you can put watermelon rinds as well as fruit that has gone bad to good use.

How Long Does Watermelon Last on the Vine?

How to Harvest a Watermelon

You’re going to be everybody’s favorite neighbor if you grow watermelon at home! Like any fruit, it will last well if you leave it on the vine, but that doesn’t mean you should leave it forever.

The plant will cut off water and nutrient supply to the fruit after it’s ripe, and the fruit will start to lose its flavor and sweetness, and it will eventually start to decay in the heat. 

Ideally, you want to harvest it within two weeks of it reaching peak ripeness. Once harvested, you can keep it for 3 weeks whole or eat it immediately.

Right Time When to Pick Watermelon

If you are growing your watermelons from seed, the packaging will give you a date – around 80 days or so, or 35 days from blooming – when the fruit will be ready to harvest.

Keep in mind that different varieties have different time frames, so it’s best to also look for the following indicators:

  • The tendrils that grow around the stem where the vine meets the watermelon turn brown.
  • The skin of the watermelon goes dull.
  • Where it’s touching the ground, the skin of the watermelon turns lighter or yellow.
  • When you knock on it gently, it gives a dull, hollow sound.

As a reference, these are the average ripening times for several common species:

  • Early midget – 65-70 days
  • Little baby flower – 65-70 days
  • Sugar baby – 75-80 days
  • King and Queen – 90 days

How to Harvest a Watermelon

How Long Does a Watermelon Last Uncut

If you want your watermelons to last, they need to be harvested properly. Here are some tips:

  • Get the date right – when the tendrils are brown and enough time has passed from when you planted the seeds, it’s time to harvest. They won’t get any sweeter if you leave them on the vine – in fact, leaving the harvest too late can mean flavorless fruit.
  • Water as needed – About one week before the harvest date for the species you are growing, only water just enough to keep the vines from wilting. Watering too much can dilute the sugar in the fruit. The tendrils should have turned a bit yellow at this point.
  • Don’t pull – Use sharp shears or gently twist the watermelon to snap it off. Do not pull the fruit free, as that can damage the vine and the skin of the watermelon, creating a space for bacteria to enter the fruit and reducing its shelf life.

Watermelon FAQs

Do watermelons keep better in the fridge or on the counter?

Watermelons typically last for around a week on the countertop or stored at room temperature, while watermelons stored whole in the fridge will keep for two weeks.

If diced, watermelon lasts around 4 days. So whatever state your watermelon is in, it’s always best to store them in the fridge.

What happens if you eat old watermelon?

Eating spoiled watermelon can lead to severe food poisoning. The high water content can quickly lead to bruising or splits in a watermelon becoming bad, allowing bacteria into the fruit.

If one part of a watermelon is bad, then the chances are the entire fruit is bad, and will cause some stomach upset.

Can you keep your watermelon on the vine after it is ripe?

Watermelons should be harvested as quickly as possible after ripening. Like any soft centre fruit or vegetable, the flesh is designed to feed seeds, and as the seeds ripen the water content is diminished as flavour, moisture and texture will worsen.

Aim to pick watermelon from the vine within about a week of ripening for the best flavour.

Can you freeze watermelon?

Watermelon freezes well for use as ice cubes, or for blending into smoothies or cocktails, but will not defrost with any structure. Like tomatoes and other soft fruits, watermelon becomes mushy when defrosted so is best used in drinks if stored in the freezer.

Now You Know How Long Does a Watermelon Last

Now you know how long is watermelon good for, the best ways to harvest and store watermelon to make it last! Remember, cut watermelon only lasts about 2 hours at room temperature and should be refrigerated after that, keeping it fresh for 5 days.

If you have a whole watermelon, you can leave it on the counter for 2-3 weeks before enjoying it! Now you know how long does watermelon last!

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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