Do your fruit-bearing plants produce lots of beautiful flowers but little or no, fruit? If so, you should probably hand pollinate.
When it comes to pollination, there are two types of plants: those with self-fertile flowers and those with separate male and female flowers. Watch the following video (or read below) to learn how to hand pollinate each type.
How to Pollinate Self-Fertile Plants
Self-fertile (sometimes called “self-pollinating” or “self-fruitful”) plants include:
Use a small paintbrush to stimulate pollen release for self-fertile plants like tomatoes.
The flowers of these plants have all the necessary parts to produce fruit. So hand pollination is not usually necessary if you’re growing outdoors, as even a slight gust of wind can often facilitate pollination. But for good measure, here are two ways you can pollinate a self-fertile plant:
Carefully shake the plant or blow on its flowers to stimulate pollen release; or
Gently swab the inside of each flower with a small paintbrush or cotton swab to transfer pollen into the pistil (middle part of the flower).
How to Pollinate Plants with Separate Male and Female Flowers
Plants that produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant include
In order for these plants to produce fruit, pollen from a male flower must make its way to a female flower. So naturally, these crops tend to struggle with pollination more than self-fertile plants.
Typically, male flowers (which have slender stalks and pollen-laden stamens) bloom first. These fall off a few days after blooming. After a couple weeks, you should start to see female flowers (which usually have small budding fruits at the base).
Cucurbit plants like squash, cucumbers and others produce separate male and female flowers.
It’s easiest to pollinate early in the morning when the blooms are open, using the following techniques:
Swab the inside of the male flower with a small paintbrush or cotton swab, and then swab the inside of the female flower to transfer the pollen; or
Pick a male bloom, peel off its petals, and lightly dust pollen onto the pistils of the females with the male stamen.
For best results, you should hand pollinate every few days or until you begin to see fruit. If you don’t see fruit after a week or so, the problem may actually be something else, such as a lack of light or extreme temperatures.