Creative Ways To Use Pumpkins In Decor

Sometime in September (or perhaps even late August), grocery stores, garden centers, and farm stands start filling up with displays of gorgeous fresh-picked pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, and hues. While the first thing that may spring to mind when you see them is how they'll look carved into jack-o-lanterns, that's not the only way to use these gourds to make your home look fall-fabulous. In fact, carving a face into your pumpkin is actually one of the messier, more difficult methods of using pumpkins for decorative purposes.


Whether you're looking for an easy way to make use of the pumpkins you've purchased or you're a hardcore DIY-er who wants to post something outside-the-pumpkin-patch to your social media accounts, we have a plethora of creative ideas suitable for all skill levels. Grab some paints or markers, perhaps a knife and spoon (yes, a few of these projects still require the dreaded pumpkin gut-scooping), and let's get crafting!

Painted pumpkins can be oh-so-pretty

If you're just trying to give your pumpkin a little character, you don't always need to carve it. Instead, you can create a wide variety of effects simply by using paints. If you're going for a tasteful, muted style of home decor rather than something flashy and spooky, Purely Katie suggests using chalk paint on mini pumpkins. While she used artificial pumpkins, you can use fresh ones, since uncut pumpkins don't tend to rot quite as quickly as those that have been sliced open and scooped out. 


Country Living provides a number of pumpkin-painting ideas –- 68 of them, to be exact. Among our favorites are the projects using autumn leaves. You can paint or gild leaves and use adhesive spray to stick them onto your pumpkin, or you can trace a leaf on cardboard and cut it out to make a stencil. Other types of stencils can be used to create patterns on your pumpkin. Here's a tip: use paint pens to fill in delicate details.

If you'd rather decoupage than paint, Country Living suggests tearing newsprint into strips and using these to cover a pumpkin –- today's front page headlines may well result in a pumpkin scarier than any jack-o-lantern face! Or what about using candy bar wrappers? However, if you use candy-themed pumpkins to decorate your porch, you'd better be handing out the good stuff to trick-or-treaters. It's not fair to advertise Hershey Bars if all you're offering is candy corn!


You can even use pumpkins to send a message

One of the simplest ways to send a message via a pumpkin is to paint it teal and put it on the porch. What this signifies is that you have non-edible treats to hand out to kids who are suffering from food allergies. 


You can also use pumpkins to literally spell out any message you're trying to send. While the simplest way is to just grab a fat Sharpie and write each letter on a pumpkin, Kara's Party Ideas has a tutorial for creating those same letters out of marquee lights for a message that can be read after dark.

If you want to use your pumpkin to send what may be the most important message of all — whether you're hosting a Halloween party or waiting for first responders should that party get out of hand — try using one or more pumpkins to display your house number. HGTV has a number stencil templates you can use to paint on the numbers, or you can even carve them into hollowed-out pumpkins if you're feeling ambitious. If you want to make sure those house numbers can be seen after dark, you can light up the pumpkins from the inside, or you can always just go the easy route and use stick-on reflective mailbox numbers.


Turn a pumpkin into a vase or planter

Pumpkins aren't just a symbol of Halloween, but also of the fall harvest in all its bounty. Why not explore this harvest theme by using a pumpkin to hold a fall-themed flower display? 

Ruffles and Rainboots says you can easily turn a pumpkin into a flower vase. You might need to start by cutting a thin slice off the bottom, although you can skip this step if the pumpkin can stand on its own without wobbling. Slice a small-to-medium-sized circle out of the top of the pumpkin, then scoop out those guts. You can either arrange your greenery and flowers right inside the pumpkin or in a vase placed inside the pumpkin, but either way, don't forget to add water! The floral arrangement will last for a few weeks, and slightly longer if you go the vase route.


If you prefer living plants to cut flowers, Gardening Know How says you can fill your hollowed-out pumpkin with potting soil instead and use it to hold nursery bedding plants. As a bonus, once the pumpkin starts to sag, you can just plant the whole thing outside where your organic planter will transform into fertilizer as it rots. If you want to take this route, though, you'll need to make sure that the plants you choose can be planted outdoors in late autumn. If you don't live in a year-round growing zone, PureWow claims pansies and violas will be your best bet.

Make a pumpkin punch bowl or wine cooler

Planning an autumn harvest or Halloween party, or just getting an early start on Thanksgiving ideas? We've got three words for you: pumpkin punch bowl. 

Again, you'll need a pumpkin capable of standing on its own, or you can trim the bottom to flatten it out a bit. Cut the top off the pumpkin, adding some fancy fluting around the edges if you so desire, and make sure to scoop out every last bit of yucky stuff inside. Good Housekeeping says you can even use gourds to make cute little "feet" for your bowl, affixing them to the sides of the pumpkin with cut-up kebab skewers. Fill the bowl with warm apple cider, an autumnal sangria, or a party punch. If you're looking for a recipe, Joe's Daily has a few that feature Captain Morgan's seasonal Jack O'Blast rum.


Another idea involving a hollowed-out pumpkin is to turn it into an ice bucket, as suggested by HGTV. Instead of filling the hollow pumpkin with liquid, just add ice, then pop in a bottle of sparkling wine. If you use a sufficiently large pumpkin, you could also use the ice bucket to keep a bunch of beers or sodas cool as well.

Or how about a pumpkin soup tureen?

You can bring your pumpkin vessel to the dinner table by using it as an edible soup tureen that doubles as a centerpiece. The University of Illinois Extension suggests that short, squatty pumpkins are better for this purpose than tall ones, and they also advise against using the field pumpkins typically sold for jack-o-lantern use. If you know your pumpkin varieties, the ones they suggest are Cinderella or Rouge Vif d'Etampes. 


Before filling your pumpkin with soup, you need to cut the top off, scoop out the innards, oil the pumpkin inside and out, and sprinkle the inside with salt. Bake the pumpkin at 325 F until it's just starting to soften — maybe an hour to an hour and a half. Don't over-bake, though, as a too-soft pumpkin won't be able to support the soup!

If you want to do individual soup bowls instead of one big tureen, Food Network has a recipe that involves filling small baking pumpkins with a squash soup, although you could also use some of the flesh from the baked pumpkins to make a soup, as well. One additional idea would be to actually bake the soup inside the pumpkin shell, which Pâté Smith says was a common way of preparing food during colonial times.


If you want to take part in any of these creative ways to use pumpkins in decor, you need to add a trip to the pumpkin patch to your itinerary — pronto.