Hand Pollination of Vegetables

Use small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Here the female flower has a small undeveloped fruit at the stem end of the flower.
hand pollination
Hand pollination; a male flower stamen is rubbed against the female flower pistil transferring pollen.

Hand pollination is the manual transfer of pollen from the stamen of one plant to the pistil of another–that is from a male flower to a female flower.

Members of the Cucurbit family–squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers–often have pollination problems because the male flowers commonly open days before the female flowers and so often drop before pollinators such as bees can transfer pollen from male to female flowers.

When female flowers are not pollinated, the fruit will never appear. The nascent fruits–bulging embryos–at the stem end of female flowers will shrivel and die if not pollinated.

If fruit is not forming on your Cucurbit family plants, you can help. Rub a small brush or cotton swab on the stamen of a male flower (it will be dusty with pollen) then rub the brush on the stigma of the female flower. 

Hand pollination
Use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Here the female flower has a small undeveloped fruit at the stem end of the flower.

Alternatively, you can remove the petals from a male flower and brush the stamen against the stigma of a female flower.

Which flower is male and which is female? Female flowers have a small bulge (a small immature flower) where the stem meets the flower. Male flowers are shorter than female flowers and often appear in clusters.

Also of interest:

Self-Pollinating Vegetables

How Vegetables are Pollinated

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


Comments are closed.
  1. My leaves on the tomatoes are yellow and cucumbers I can’t see any insects on leaves my beans seem to dying to I’m watering them I’ve never had this problem before Thankyou for reading my problems

    • Do not let the soil dry out; keep it just moist, not wet. Feed the plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 10 days, or feed with a 5-10-10 fertilizer following the label directions.

    • Stunted corn husks and exposed ears are the results of environmental stress, a combination of severe stress before or during pollination that is then relieved in the initial weeks following pollination. The most common combination of conditions that results in this oddity is severe heat and drought stress that is then relieved by cooler temperatures and rainfall. Short Husks & Exposed Ears

  2. There are many beans of various sizes on my scarlet runner bean plants, and I don’t know how large they should get before harvesting. Please advise.

    • Beans are ready for picking when the seeds inside the pod are just visible. Don’t wait too long. If you want to harvest dry beans, allow the pods to dry on the plant, then pick when the pods begin to burst.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

How to Start New Plants from Cuttings

USDA map

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map