How to pollinate flowers?

Identifying a Female Pumpkin Flower

When Do Pumpkin Flowers Appear?

About 8-10 weeks after planting your pumpkin seeds, you should see yellow flowers begin to appear on the vines. Within a few days of their first appearance, the flowers fully open. They are star-shaped flowers with five distinct points.

The first set of blooms on the vine are always the male flowers, and there are usually a large number of them. Do not be alarmed when they open one morning and are gone the next! New male flowers will bloom just in time to pollinate the female flowers.

Identifying Female Pumpkin Flowers

If you are paying close attention to your pumpkin plants, you will notice a proliferation of male flowers and no females. This is normal; the female flowers start to bloom approximately two weeks after the males.

Once the female pumpkin flowers bloom, you should be able to see a distinct difference in the two of them. The males have a little stamen in the center of the flower that sticks straight up and is covered with pollen. The female flower, on the other hand, has a small group of stamens called a stigma.

The female pumpkin flowers also grow close to the vine and have a small pea-sized ball directly under it, between the vine and the flower. This small nodule will eventually be a pumpkin.

Pollinating Pumpkin Flowers

Female pumpkin flowers are usually pollinated by bees carrying pollen from the male flower to the female flower. However, if you want to be sure of a successful harvest you may choose to pollinate the flowers by hand.

The tools you will need for hand-pollinating are simple ones you should already have:

  • Gloves for handling the prickly vines.
  • Small cotton swabs.
  • Magnifying glass.

Tip: The magnifying glass is not a necessity; instead, it just makes it easier to see what you are doing.

To hand pollinate, gently brush the cotton swab over the male stamen and collect pollen on it. Then, transfer the pollen to the stigma of the female flower.

Identifying Successful Pollination

Once you have pollinated the female pumpkin flower, it will close up and disappear. If pollination has been successful, the green pea-sized ball at the base of the flower will begin to grow rapidly. Within a few days, it will be exponentially bigger and undeniably a healthy pumpkin fruit. In this way, whether you hand-pollinate or allow nature to have her way, you can tell if pollination has occurred.

If pollination has been successful and the female pumpkin flowers grow fruit, you can almost guarantee a plentiful pumpkin harvest.

While planting pumpkin seeds, you usually only expect vines and fruit. What most people don’t know is that blossoms are necessary for fruit growth. Bright orange or yellow colored flowers that grow before the fruit appears are called pumpkin flowers.

There are two basic types: male and female pumpkin flowers. They both vary in appearance and their contributions to the growth of pumpkin fruit vary too. The flowering time can differ according to the pumpkin species and the conditions provided. The pumpkin vines need full exposure to sunlight and some essential nutrients such as phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen to grow blossoms.

There’s a lot to know about pumpkin plant flowers such as their varying visual aspects, their growth, which of them turn into pumpkins, their applications and what happens to the pumpkin plant when you only get one gendered blossom or when they don’t open up at all? Here are all the things you need to know about pumpkin plant flowers:

Types of Pumpkin Flowers and Their Appearance

The flowers that pumpkin seeds produce are beautiful, funnel-shaped blossoms of a vibrant orange or yellow color. They may be approximately 4-5 inches wide in diameter. Pumpkin plants produce both male and female flower parts called staminate and pistillate respectively.

Male Flowers

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Male flowers appear about a week before the female ones on a narrow pumpkin stem that is about 8-12 inches long. The first open flower that you see should be a male blossom. The region directly under the blossom should consist of a long, slender stem that connects it to the vine, without any bumps at the base of the blossom. You can look directly inside the open blossom to find the central stamens. They are gathered together in a cylindrical structure.

The stamen anthers of these flowers produce the pollen that is a fine powdery substance, consisting of microscopic grains. Each grain of pollen is known to consist of a mature male haploid germ cell that can inseminate the female ovule. Although each male flower has a short life-span of several hours, new ones open each morning to lure bees. The bees then transfer the pollen from male flowers to the female ones.

Female Flowers

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Female flowers appear close to the base of the plant about two weeks after the appearance of the first male flower. They grow on a short, thick flower stock. They have a little round bulge just below the base of the bloom; it is a mini, infant pumpkin waiting to grow. The tiny, swollen ovary develops into a pumpkin fruit once is it pollinated by bees.

To confirm that the blossoms growing after the male ones are female, you can check the central portion of an open female flower to find the stigma. It looks like a non-uniform, deep indented ball. The female flowers open early in the morning just for a few hours and close themselves by late afternoon. This continues for weeks ensuring a plentiful crop. The female blossoms are responsible for fruit.

Do All Pumpkin Flowers Turn Into Pumpkins?

All pumpkin flowers do not produce pumpkins. Although male flowers play a vital role in the process, female blossoms are mainly responsible for developing fruit. Pollination is an essential factor to get fruit from your plants. It is the process of transferring pollen from a male to the stigma, ovule, flower, or plant of a female to allow fertilization.

The female flowers appear after 8 to 9 weeks after the seeds are sowed and a few days after the male ones appear. The male flowers produce the pollen that pollinates the female flowers, which have an expanded ovary at the time that transforms into a pumpkin after pollination. To hand pollinate, you can use a cotton bud to move the pollen from the males to the females. About 7 days after the female flowers appear, you will see that the pumpkins start forming.

Sometimes the female blossoms also fail to produce fruit. There are multiple reasons for this issue to occur. One of them can be poor pollination. If the pollination isn’t successful, baby pumpkins tend to wither, die, and drop from the vine. Fertilizer issues such as an abundance of nitrogen or lack of calcium can also put miniature pumpkins at risk. One more factor that can result in blossoms not turning into a pumpkin is excessive temperatures. You can prevent this by providing a layer of mulch to your soil.

Problems Related to Pumpkin Flowers

No Flowers Emerge

When growing pumpkins, patience is the key. Pumpkin flowers usually emerge about 6-8 weeks after the seeds are sowed, although it greatly depends on the climate and surrounding conditions. Controlling the levels of phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen is highly recommended. It is known to promote and encourage blooming. Cutting back on nitrogen-based fertilizers also helps as they are known to delay blooming.

Only Male Flowers Emerge

First, make sure that you are able to differentiate between the male and the female blossoms. Now, remember that the female flowers can appear after about 2 weeks of the male ones appearing. If you have already waited for 2-3 weeks and are certain that your plant is only producing male blossoms then there are chances that you will have no pumpkins with the particular plant.

Planting the seeds too close, bad weather and soil conditions and not providing your plant with proper care can result in blossoms of a single sex.

Only Female Flowers Emerge

It is not very common for female blossoms to appear before the male ones. Although rare, this does happen and the male blossoms are likely to appear in a short period of time. This is believed to happen because of soil fertility level issues, cold snaps, phosphorous, and nitrogen levels. If you are certain that your plant is only producing female flowers, you can opt for hand pollination. Refrigerate the male blossoms in a glass of water, and pick off and transfer the pollens with a cotton bud to the females.

The Blossoms Don’t Open Up

The flowers usually open up early in the morning and close themselves in the late afternoon. Usually, the people who believe that the blossoms don’t open have missed the occasion. Rainy and cloudy weathers can also cause the blossoms not to open.

How Long Does It Take for the Flowers to Turn Into Pumpkins?

Once you’ve established the gender of your blossoms and the pollination process is a success, the pumpkin takes about 45 to 55 days to grow mature. The pumpkin grows bigger in size and the color changes according to the variety you’ve planted.

Are Pumpkin Flowers Edible?

Yes, pumpkin flowers are edible. This ingredient has significant culinary important and is used to create exquisite treats. Although pumpkin flowers are not as much in demand as the fruit itself, they are often prepared like vegetables. As they have a light, smooth texture, they can be used in various salads, soups or sprinkled over dishes like rice and quinoa. Creating dishes with male blossoms is recommended after pollination, as the female ones are responsible for fruit production.

Pumpkin Flower Applications

Environmental Importance

Pollinator species of bees play an important part in pollinating the pumpkin flowers for fruit growth. Pumpkin flowers and their sweet scent lure honeybees and thus conserve and promote bee colonies.

Culinary Importance

As discussed above, these flowers are edible and are used as vegetables to create delectable meals. They do not contain much fat, therefore, it is best to cook them in a little amount of plant-based fat to escalate the flavor and increase its nutritional value.


Pumpkin flowers release a soft, sweet, pleasant scent. The essence of these blossoms is used in the making of perfumes, colognes, and cosmetics.


Pumpkin flowers are visually appealing. The bright orange or yellow color and the smooth, delicate texture of these blossoms make them suitable for decorative purposes.

Pumpkin plant flowers play an essential part when it comes to the successful growth of pumpkin fruit. Therefore it’s best to know all about them before you start growing your own delicious pumpkins!

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Hand-Pollinating Pumpkins: A How-To to Make You Blush

Who knew hand-pollinating pumpkins could make you feel so awkward?

The bees had been increasing but we’re not the sort to leave anything to chance, and when you’re looking for a reason to play in the dirt, you take what you can get. Even if it means feeling a bit pervy.

Justin had been reading from Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners about the pollination of pumpkins. It was something he had hoped to do but it seemed our pumpkin flowers only opened in the morning when he was at work. I’m not sure if this was normal or simply a result of our desert heat. This left the job to me.

First, Justin showed me the male flowers. Not sure how to tell a male flower from a female flower when hand-pollinating pumpkins? If the pumpkin flower is open, its maleness is pretty obvious. That thing sticking out? It’s called a stamen. Or you can pull a Tara and refer to it as its “thingy”.

Stamen of Male Pumpkin Flower

If the pumpkin flower is closed, look at the stem directly under the flower. A male flower will be only a stem, while a female flower has what will become the pumpkin (affectionately called it’s “lovely lady lump”), its size depending on how soon its flower will open. This is the size of the pumpkin the day it opened, but we first saw it when it was the size of a pea:

Pumpkin Baby Bump

When the female flower opens, it’s difference is easy to tell. Instead of a single stamen, it has a multi-segmented stigma. Or what I lovingly refer to as it’s “girly stuff”.

Stigma of Female Pumpkin Flower

All in all, hand-pollinating pumpkins was incredible simple, albeit a little embarrassing. After asking permission and apologizing profusely, I rubbed a Qtip around the males stamen, picking up the pollen. (You can also use your finger, but I really felt that was taking it too far.) I felt more than a little dirty inserting that Q-tip into the females stigma. We both blushed, had a moment, moved on.

Within the day, the flower had closed up and began drying and it’s baby bump had already begun growing. Five days later, it’s grown exponentially (proof of my prowess, perhaps?)!

5 Days After Pollinating

(This is a Howden pumpkin, BTW, planted for jack ‘o lanterns at Halloween. Who knew they’d also offer so much sex education?)

For more great info on growing from and saving seeds, as well as how to pollinate, harvest and more, I highly recommend the book, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. It is jammed packed with information from cover to cover; nothing superfluous or uninteresting. It even covers some of the history of the plant breeds and crosses. It’s one of our favorite and most used gardening books. (I’ll admit, in my lameness, I read this like I’d read a novel.)

Pollination Of Pumpkin Plants: How To Hand Pollinate Pumpkins

So your pumpkin vine is glorious, large and healthy looking with deep green leaves and it’s even been flowering. There’s one problem. You see no sign of fruit. Do pumpkins self-pollinate? Or should you give the plant a hand and, if so, how to hand pollinate pumpkins? The following article contains information about the pollination of pumpkin plants and hand pollinating pumpkins.

Pumpkin Plant Pollination

Before you panic about the lack of fruit, let’s talk pumpkin plant pollination. First off, pumpkins, like other cucurbits, have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. That means that it takes two to make fruit. Pollen must be moved from the male flower to the female.

The first blooms to appear are male and they remain on the plant for a day and then fall off. Do NOT panic. Female flowers bloom within the week or so and males will continue to bloom as well.

Do Pumpkins Self-Pollinate?

The simple answer is no. They need bees or, in some cases, you to pollinate. Male flowers produce nectar and pollen, and females have higher quantities of nectar but no pollen. Bees visit the male flowers where the large, sticky granules of pollen adhere to them. They then move on to the heavenly nectar produced by the females and, voila, the transfer is complete.

The quality of the fruit is improved by increased pollinator activity. Now, for a number of reasons, despite the presence of both male and female flowers, the pollination of the pumpkin plants doesn’t seem to be happening. Perhaps, broad spectrum pesticides have been in use nearby or too much rain or heat is keeping the bees inside. Either way, hand pollinating pumpkins may be in your future.

How to Hand Pollinate Pumpkins

Before you can start hand pollinating the pumpkin plant, you need to identify the female and male blooms. On a female, look at where the stem meets the flower. You will see what looks like a small fruit. This is the ovary. Male flowers are shorter, lack immature fruit and usually bloom in clusters.

There are two methods to hand pollinating, both simple. Using a small, delicate paint brush or a cotton swab, touch the anther in the center of the male flower. The swab or brush will pick up pollen. Then touch the swab or brush to the female flower’s stigma at the center of the bloom.

You can also remove the male flower and shake it over the female to release the granules of pollen, or remove the male and all its petals to create a natural “brush” with the pollen laden anther. Then just touch the anther to the female flower’s stigma.

That’s it! Once pollination has occurred, the ovary begins to swell as fruit develops. If fertilization did not occur, the ovary will wither away, but I have every confidence that you will be a successful hand pollinator.

Pollinating squash, cucumbers & pumpkins

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The Cucurbit cousins – squash, cucumbers, melons, gourds, and pumpkins – have a reputation for poor pollination. You may find that your plants are covered with flowers, yet you get few fruits. Why? There are a number of factors that can contribute to pollination problems, but first, it helps to understand a little bit more about the Curcubit’s.

Members of this family have separate male and female flowers and in order to yield fruits, cross pollination needs to take place. This is when the pollen from a male flower is transferred to a female flower. It’s easy to tell the two types of flowers apart; male flowers have a straight stem beneath the bloom, while the female flowers have an immature fruit under the bloom. Only the female flowers will develop into a fruit. If no pollination takes place, that immature fruit will rot and fall off.

A male squash flower

Savvy gardeners may also notice that when Curcubit’s initially begin to bloom, the plants produce only male flowers. Don’t worry! This only lasts for a week or two, with plenty of female flowers soon following.

What causes poor squash pollination?

  1. Too few bees and pollinators to move the pollen from the male to the female flowers.
  2. A stretch of very cool or very hot weather when the flowers are in bloom.
  3. Wet weather, or badly timed watering will affect pollen quantity and quality. If you must water, avoid early morning when the blooms first open. As well, irrigate only the soil, not the plant.

A female squash flower (from a Jumbo Pink Banana winter squash)

What’s a gardener to do?

As your Curcubit crops come into bloom, there’s no need to cross your fingers and hope for the best! Instead, give Mother Nature a helping hand by hand pollinating. Hand pollinating is quick and easy, and can seriously increase your yield.

Before you begin, grab a q-tip or a small bristle paintbrush, or pluck a just-opened male flower from the plant. If using a q-tip or paintbrush, press it gently to the anther of a fresh male flower and transfer the pollen to the stigma of a female flower. If you want to pollinate using a male flower, pick a good looking specimen from the plant and remove the petals to expose the anther. Then, simply press it against the stigma of the female flowers.

In my garden, hand pollinating cucumbers, zucchini, and squash results in more fruits per plant and an earlier harvest. Yet, for certain crops, like edible snake, bottle, and luffa gourds, it’s essential to hand pollinate. Many gourd flowers open at night, a time when there are fewer pollinators. Hand pollinating newly opened female flowers results in an excellent harvest.

For more on growing cucumbers, check out the following articles:

Growing cucumbers vertically

Do you hand pollinate your crops?

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PHOTO: Jessica Walliserby Jessica Walliser June 8, 2017

If you’ve been disappointed in the yields or quality of the squash, cucumbers, melons and pumpkins you’ve grown in the past, poor pollination might be to blame. The decline of many pollinators has led to a shortage of quality pollination in many gardens. To overcome this issue, many gardeners use hand pollination of squash and other related vining crops.

Thankfully, hand pollinating members of the melon family is fairly simple. It takes just a few minutes of your time every morning to ensure these crops produce heavy yields of high-quality fruit. Hand pollination of these vegetables also helps prevent deformed fruit with a shortened, stubby blossom end (another sign of poor pollination). Here’s how to hand pollinate squash and other cucurbits.

Step 1: Identify Male And Female Flowers

Unlike many other garden crops, members of this plant family have separate male and female flowers on each vine. In order for fruit to be formed, pollen must be transferred from the male flowers to the female flowers. Because each flower is open for only a single day, that pollination has to take place in short order.

Hand-pollination of squash and other members of this family begins with determining which flowers are male and which are female. Thankfully, this is an easy task.

  • Male flowers have a straight flower stalk. The flowers produced for the first several days of the plant’s bloom time are always male. This ensures that there’s ample pollen around when the female blooms open.
  • Female flowers have a bulbous flower stalk that looks like a little miniature fruit. These are the ovaries of the plant, and in order for them to develop into a full-size fruit, they need to receive pollen.

Once you’ve learned to distinguish the female flowers from the male, it’s time to get to work with the hand pollination.

Step 2: Remove A Male Flower

The next order of business when it comes to learning hand pollination of squash and other members of the cucumber family is to pick off a male flower. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut off a newly opened male flower, including its flower stalk. Do this first thing in the morning, soon after the flowers open.

Once the male flower has been removed from the plant, take a careful look at it, and you’ll notice an elongated, pollen covered anther at the center of the flower. Peel away the large, trumpet-shaped petal surrounding the anther until all you have is the anther attached to the flower stalk. The stalk will serve as a handle while the anther becomes the “paint brush.”

Step 3: Locate Female Flowers And Apply Pollen

Once you have your male “paint brush” in hand, seek out the female flowers with the bulbous base. Gently rub the male anther against the center stigma of the female flower. This is the point on the flower that’s receptive to the pollen. Brush the anther against the stigma three or four times then move on to another flower. Each male “paint brush” can fertilize three to four female flowers. You can hand pollinate female blossoms on the same plant from which you harvested the male flower, or you can use it to fertilize female flowers on other plants.

In order for this hand pollination technique to work, stick with plants in the same species. In other words, male cucumber flowers pollinate only female cucumber flowers, male watermelon flowers pollinate only female watermelon flowers, and so on.

Step 4: Hand Pollinate Every Morning

For the best results, take a few minutes every morning to hand-pollinate squash and other plants. This yields a continuous harvest of fully formed fruits for many weeks. If you miss a few days of hand pollination, it’s not a big deal, but the more consistent you are, the better results you’ll have.

Once the flowers have been hand pollinated, there’s nothing else to do except sit back, relax, and wait for the fruit to grow.

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