How to get more female flowers on squash?

It’s early July, and squash plants of all types are beginning to bloom on farms, in gardens, and even in balcony containers. Every year at this time we start hearing from would-be squash growers with a mysterious complaint: The plants appear healthy, the leaves are bright green, plenty of flowers are opening, but the fruits seem to wither from the blossom end. Instead of producing nice, plump fruits, they turn from green to pale yellow. Some just fall off the plants. This is the result of incomplete squash pollination.

Let’s look at how squash pollination works.

Male squash blossoms, borne on long, narrow stems

Female squash blossoms – at the base is the ovary, which will befome the fruit when fertilized

Squash biology is actually pretty cool stuff. All squash (including acorns, pumpkins, zucchinis, spaghetti, etc…) are monoecious. This means that each plant bears male flowers that produce pollen, as well as female flowers that receive pollen. Both types of flower produce nectar, so they are both attractive to bees. In the right setting, many male flowers are open, and visiting bees are getting covered in pollen as they search for nectar. At the same time, many female flowers are open, and that pollen is being transferred by the bees.

Two issues make this scenario more complicated. First, the squash plant produces many flowers, both male and female, sequentially, not all at once. Second, it takes as many as twelve visits from a pollen-laden bee to completely fertilize the female flower. Think about this for a moment. It’s within the realm of possibility that a single bee may transfer just the right amount (and type) of pollen grains to the perfect spot in the female flower on the first visit. But on average, many more visits are required to accomplish pollination.

So understanding flower formation in squash plants is helpful. I looked around on the farm for squash flowers to help illustrate this complicated business, and here are some that I found.


This pumpkin has lots of flower buds. One is open, one is faded, and at least five more are coming. But they are all male. No female flowers are visible in the picture. Maybe the plant is training local bees to check regularly for nectar?


This zucchini shows the sequential nature of blossoming. Some flowers are faded, and some are coming. Only one (female) flower is in bloom. For the plant, each flower is a roll of the dice. If pollination does not occur, the plant moves on to the next flower.

This zucchini has a male flower that has closed. it was probably open yesterday.


Here is a female pumpkin blossom that closed yesterday. Was it fertilized? Too early to tell.


On this pumpkin, one female blossom has closed and another will open shortly. Early signs look like the closed blossom might not have been pollinated, as the blossom end is beginning to turn yellow.

On some squash plants, particularly summer squash like zucchinis, a fruit that was not pollinated completely will be obvious. I have seen them plump at the base, but withered and dried up at the blossom end. These failed fruits are aborted by the plant so that no more energy is wasted on them. Once you are sure that a fruit has failed, use a clean, sharp instrument to cut it from the plant. Left on the plant, they will eventually rot, and can cause problems.

Solutions

This whole conversation illustrates the importance of bees in our landscape. It is their diligent work that spreads all of the pollen back and forth. Without bees, many crops would simply fail to produce. The first strategy for the squash grower is to encourage more bees. This is accomplished by planting lots of flowers nearby. Sunflowers planted in the squash bed act like a beacon because they are visible from hundreds of meters away. Other plants bloom in such profusion that no pollinator would pass without a closer look. These include, but are not limited to:

Alyssum
Calendula
Centaurea
Crimson Clover
Nemophila
Phacelia
Sunflowers
White Dutch Clover

In any case, look for annuals with abundant flowers that will be in bloom at the same time as the squash plants. In all cases, when the biodiversity of flowers increases, pollination is improved. Growers need to think of the flowers above as gardening tools — just another aspect of growing a healthy crop.

Where bees are scant, or in settings like balconies that cannot accommodate flowers to attract bees, hand pollination is another option. The principle is fairly straight forward: Pollen is transferred from the open male flower to the stigma of the open female flower. At this point, the male flower can even be removed and dissected, as it is not going to be feeding any bees or serving the plant. A tool like a fine paint brush can be used to transfer the pollen, or the parts of the two flowers can be brought into contact in order to fertilize the female ovary.

Hand pollination can be a precise and accurate procedure — there are propagation experts out there who can hand pollinate the fussiest flowers. But in the typical garden setting it is not a sure fire practice. It may work well on some, but not all, flowers.


What’s missing from this squash row? It would be well served by interplanting with sunflowers or Alyssum.

Getting Pumpkin Blossoms – Why A Pumpkin Plant Is Not Flowering

Your pumpkin vines are scrambling all over the place, with huge healthy leaves and vigorous growth. But sadly, there is nary a bloom in sight. If you are concerned about non-blooming pumpkin plants, you may simply have looked away for a day or it is too early. Some other considerations are soil nutrients and possible diseases.

Don’t fret, there are some tricks to getting pumpkin blossoms and harvesting big, beautiful fruit. Fertilizers and some homemade sprays may be just the tip on how to get blooms on pumpkins that are reticent to flower.

My Pumpkin Plant is Not Flowering

What could cause non-blooming pumpkin plants? The most common reason is impatience. Pumpkin plants flower after plants have established and developed several vital stems. When do pumpkin plants flower? The actual time will depend upon when you installed them outdoors, the variety and your climate. As a rule, start looking for blooms 6 to 8 weeks after you set the plants outside.

Next, let’s talk about sex – between flowers that is. Pumpkin plants bear both male and female flowers (same as squash) and each is necessary for pollination and fruit. The first flowers to appear are male blooms. Females follow 10 to 14 days later. If you do not see any flowers, it may simply be because you are not looking often enough. Each bloom lasts only a day and is generally only open in the morning. The early male flowers will usually fall off almost immediately if no females are present to pollinate. You have to have a sharp eye to spot the earliest flowers. Amid the tangled mass of stems, it is easy to overlook some flowers.

You might also be expecting flowers too early. Vines should be several feet long before the first bright yellow flowers appear.

Answering the question, “when do pumpkin plants flower,” requires knowledge of soil, sun exposure, zone, variety and many more factors. Each influences the plant’s drive to bloom. You can enhance blooming by controlling soil fertility and giving the plant additional nutrients which promote flowering.

Pumpkin plants are very sensitive to overhead watering. Several fungal diseases can attack the leaves, and even the buds as they form. Heavily infested buds may simply abort, leaving you with a bloomless plant.

Soil fertility is a common reason when a pumpkin plant is not flowering. While potassium is the macro-nutrient that drives the overall functions of a plant, if it’s lacking, this can affect blooming. It comes in the form of potash or other potassium compounds found in flower and fruit food. Phosphorus is generally responsible for flower and fruit production. Suspend nitrogen applications 6 to 8 weeks after planting the vines. In soils with plenty of organic matter, the vines should have enough nutrients to produce the rampant stems.

How to Get Blooms on Pumpkins

Getting pumpkin blossoms on reticent plants can be achieved with fertilizer. Controlling the level of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus will spur flower production.

Nitrogen produces green leafy growth while phosphorus drives root formation and bloom production. Potassium also aids with blooming but helps plants develop healthy immune systems for stronger growth too.

Professional flower growers rely upon “bloom foods” containing high levels of phosphorus and potassium to grow award winning flowers. Amending the soil with some potash and/or bone meal OR applying a high phosphorus/potassium plant food (foliar spray or granular feed) could help the plant start pumping out flowers.

Be patient because the magic won’t happen overnight. After feeding, give the plant a week or more to uptake the food and use it to create buds, flowers and, finally, those gorgeous pumpkins.

Did you know the largest flower found on earth weighs fifteen pounds and can grow up to three feet! It is called the Rafflesia Arnoldii. And the smallest is the Wolffia and it is the size of a grain of rice. Flowers are more than pretty things, they are responsible for the reproduction of plants and are absolutely essential. Let us learn more about them.

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Plants are majorly classified on basis of presence or absence of flower into flowering and non- flowering plants. A flower is a characteristic feature of flowering plants and is actually an extension of the shoot meant for reproduction. Flowers are attractive and appear in different colours and shapes to attract pollinators who help in pollen transfer.

Browse more Topics under Anatomy Of Flowering Plants

  • Plant Tissues
  • Tissue System
  • Stem
  • Leaf
  • Inflorescence
  • Secondary Growth
  • The Fruit
  • The Seed
  • Classification of Flowering Plants
  • Anatomy of Dicotyledonous and Monocotyledonous Plants

Parts of a Flower

(Source: anmh.org)

Most flowers have four main parts: sepals, petals, stamens, and carpels. The stamens are the male part whereas the carpels are the female part of the flower. Most flowers are hermaphrodite where they contain both male and female parts. Others may contain one of the two parts and may be male or female.

Before getting into parts, understand the classification of Flowers here.

  • Peduncle: This is the stalk of the flower.
  • Receptacle: It is that part of the flower to which the stalk is attached to. It is small and found at the centre of the base of the flower.
  • Sepals: These are the small, leaf-like parts growing at the base of the petals. They form the outermost whorl of the flower. Collectively, sepals are known as the calyx. The main function of the calyx and its sepals is to protect the flower before it blossoms(in the bud stage).
  • Petals: This layer lies just above the sepal layer. They are often bright in colour as their main function is to attract pollinators such as insects, butterflies etc to the flower. The petals are collectively known as the corolla.
  • Stamens: These are the male parts of a flower. Many stamens are collectively known as the androecium. They are structurally divided into two parts:
    • Filament: the part that is long and slender and attached the anther to the flower.
    • Anthers: It is the head of the stamen and is responsible for producing the pollen which is transferred to the pistil or female parts of the same or another flower to bring about fertilization.

(Source: Wikipedia)

  • Pistil: This forms the female parts of a flower. A collection of pistils is called the gynoecium.

Learn more about Inflorescence here.

Pistil consists of four parts

(Source: Britannica)

  1. Style -is a long slender stalk that holds the stigma. Once the pollen reaches the stigma, the style starts to become hollow and forms a tube called the pollen tube which takes the pollen to the ovaries to enable fertilization.
  2. Stigma– This is found at the tip of the style. It forms the head of the pistil. The stigma contains a sticky substance whose job is to catch pollen grains from different pollinators or those dispersed through the wind. They are responsible to begin the process of fertilization.
  3. Ovary – They form the base of the pistil. The ovary holds the ovules.
  4. Ovules– These are the egg cells of a flower. They are contained in the ovary. In the event of a favorable pollination where a compatible pollen reaches the stigma and eventually reaches the ovary to fuse with the ovules, this fertilized product forms the fruit and the ovules become the seeds of the fruit.

Introduction to Leaf Structure

Solved Example for You

Q: What forms the androecium in a flower?

  1. Petals
  2. Stamens
  3. Sepals
  4. Pistil

Sol: The correct option is (b) Stamens

The androecium is the male part of the flower. A collection of stamens is an androecium.

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Minus bad pickup lines, one-night stands, and other social complexities, plants actually do have sex. When people pluck the sweet-smelling blooms of a plant, they’re actually dismembering the reproductive organs of plants! The “male” portion of the flower is the pollen-loaded stamen, while the egg-holding pistil is the “female” part. Most plants sprout bisexual flowers (which have both male and female parts), but plants like squash grow separate male and female flowers — still others have both bisexual and single-sex flowers. And, as evolutionary biologists have recently discovered, plants with male and bisexual flowers produce more seeds. Why this is true is a new scientific mystery, but it probably has something to do with male flowers hoarding less of a plant’s energy (making more of it available to crank out seeds). So how do flowering plants do it? Using nature as a matchmaker, wind, animals, or water carry pollen to a sticky female stigma. The grains then germinate and grow downward, creeping slowly towards the ovaries. Eventually, the pollen grains bump into some eggs: Ta-da, seeds are born (yes, eating an apple or other fruit means eating an unborn life form!). But flowers aren’t the only way plants know how to get it on . Ginkgo trees have separate male and female plants altogether. Male trees produce spores which hatch into sperm, swimming to an egg inside a female ovule. Still other plants — such as duckweed — abstain from sex altogether. These curious plants produce leaf-like clones that break off and grow into adult plants.

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What is the difference between male and female zucchini blosoms

About Zucchini

In the culinary world, zucchini is treated as a vegetable, however botanically, zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. Zucchini, as with all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called “zucchini” were developed in Italy probably near Milan; early varieties usually included the names of nearby cities in their names.

About Zucchinin Blossoms (Flowers)

Fresh zucchini blossoms can be cooked and eaten. Many cooks remove the pistils from female flowers, and stamens from male flowers, although both of these are edible and have flavor. The male stamen contains the pollen. There are a lot more male squash blossoms than female and they begin blooming earlier.

Zucchini plants produce male and female flowers on the same plant and for the plants to produce fruit, insects must visit both flowers, taking the pollen from male flowers and transferring it to the female flower. The absence of ideal conditions for pollination and for setting fruits may cause the flowers to fall off before the zucchini develops.

Male flowers are the first to appear on zucchini plants, opening before female flowers. The anatomy of male and female flowers differs. The pollen-producing parts of the male flower are the anthers and filaments located on the stamen. These are often fused together. Male flowers often open, release the pollen and then fall off. Female flowers must remain on the plant until the zucchini starts to grow, and this can only happen when pollination is successful. Without pollination, female flowers fall off and plants won’t produce any fruit.

Female blossoms are connected to the fruit (see images below). Male blossoms have a long, thin stem.

Above –Female zucchini blossoms are directly attached to the fruit (left). Male blossom are attached to a long stem (right)

Look behind the flower for a swollen base. Flowers with the swollen base are female, as this is the ovary that later develops into the zucchini after germination.

Above–Top/Left Male Zucchini blossom showing the stamen. Only the male blossom has a stamen in the center of the flower. The pollen on the stamen is what polinates the female plant. (Above/Right) The female internals (pistil) are more complex with the stigma (top bulb structures) and ovary below

Find the stamen in the center of suspected male blossoms. Male flowers have a single, long stamen that is covered in pollen, while female blossoms have a stigma with multiple stems inside (see images above).

Only female squash blossoms mature into a squash. The male is just there to fertilize them. The male blossoms outweigh and outnumber the female flowers.

Pollination

Normally bees with transfer pollen from male stamen which produces the pollen to female stigma. It is also possible to help pollinate the female blossom by taking a cotton swab and collect pollen on it from the male flowers. Then rub the pollen onto the stamen of the female flowers. This will pollinate the female flowers enabling a fruit to be formed.

Not enough light causes poor fruit set. Most fruiting vegetables do best in full sun all day — they need at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight Also extremely hot temperatures during flowering above 85 degrees can reduce fruit set.

It is possible to hand pollinate the zucchini plant by clipping the male flowers from the vine and rubbing the interior of the male blossom against the interior of a female blossom, transferring the pollen.

For best fruit production pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself early in the morning before the flowers close. The easiest way I’ve found is to cut a male flower from the plant, carefully remove the petals leaving the stamen intact, and then dab the stamen directly into the center of a female flower. Of course if you have plenty of bees or other beneficial insects around the garden, they will take care of pollination for you! Don’t be discouraged at first if all you find are male flowers. Many times squash plants produce more males early in the season.

Dehydrated Zucchini blossoms

You can really intesify flavor by dehyrating zucchini blossoms. Dehydrated blossoms also provide a great garnish. We dehydrate blossoms in September and then vaccum pack them so they last through the winter till the next season.

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