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How To Hand Pollinate Zucchini And Squash Plants


It's that time of year again. Garden plants are getting bigger and everything is so lush and green. I just love this time of year. Some mornings when I go outside, I feel as though my plants have literally shot up overnight.

That was the case this morning. I awoke to two beautiful zucchini flowers, along with my first female flower of the year. I had seen several male flowers before, but never a female to accompany them. 

Now, let's pollinate those zucchini and squash plants! I will be pollinating a zucchini plant today, but the directions are the same for both zucchini and squash.

Before we begin with flower sex identification and pollinating, I should let you know that the best time to pollinate flowers is generally in the morning, as this is when the flowers are the most open, they tend to close themselves during the heat of the day. I like to do my pollinating before 8:00 in the morning.


So, how exactly do you tell the difference between male and female flowers? It's quite simple once you get the hang of it. Let me teach you how.

First, you need to look at the stems attached to the flowers. 

Male flowers generally have a thin, spindly stem.

Two Thin Stemmed Male Flowers

Female flowers, on the other hand, have a thicker, more robust stem that could potentially turn into a zucchini IF it is pollinated properly. The stem looks like a mini zucchini and it will be green or yellow depending on the color of fruit your plant produces. My stem is yellow because this zucchini plant produces yellow fruit.

Thicker stemmed female zucchini

Now, let's take a look at the flowers themselves.

The male flower will have a long single stamen which is covered in a yellow powder called pollen. 

Male Flowers Stamen

The female flower, on the other hand, will have a stigma. This protrusion has multiple filaments. It kind of looks like a flower inside of the flower.

Female Flower's Stigma

The pollen from the male's stigma needs to make its way to the female's stamen for proper pollination and fruiting to occur. Bees and butterflies are great pollinators, but with the bee populations in decline, I don't leave this task up to chance. This is where hand pollination comes into play.

With your finger or a cotton swab, gently rub against the stamen of the male flower. I keep a cotton swab stuck into the ground beside my zucchini plants specifically for this purpose. I use the clean side for pollinating. 

Collecting Pollen From The Male Flower

Take a look at your finger or cotton swab, you should see a yellow powdery substance. This is the pollen.


Move over to your female flower. Gently rub your pollen laden finger or cotton swab onto the stigma of the female flower. Look closely to make sure that you have deposited the pollen onto the filaments and the center of the stigma.

Depositing Pollen Onto The Stigma

Congratulations, you have just pollinated your first flower! Give yourself a pat on the back. I'm serious. Most people will likely live their entire life and never hand pollinate a flower. Now, when you see your zucchini fruit start to grow, you can feel proud knowing that it's all because of your help!

Here's a handy dandy diagram I drew of male and female zucchini flowers. I'm not a very good artist, but it works!

Oh, before you go, I really should mention one more thing. If you happen to have an abundance of male flowers, you should try eating some. They're seriously delicious. You can eat them raw or fried lightly in butter. They're quite the summer treat. The only way I can describe the flavor is dreamy!

Happy pollinating everyone! If you liked this tutorial, please Like my page on Facebook here!