How to Hand-Pollinate Squash | Almanac.com

How to Hand-Pollinate Squash


Learn How to Pollinate Squash Flowers by Hand for a Better Harvest!

The Editors

Pollinating squash flowers by hand is essential if insect pollinators are scarce or you just want to make extra-sure that your squash will grow! In this short video, we’ll show you how to hand-pollinate all kinds of squash, step by step.

Hand-pollinating squashes is an easy and effective way to boost your yields when natural pollinators are scarce due to weather conditions or when growing under cover in a greenhouse or hoop house. It’s also essential for making sure that squash plants breed true when seed saving.

How to Hand-Pollinate Squash Flowers

The first step is to identify the male flowers and the female flowers. Male squash flowers have a straight, skinny stem behind the base of the flower, while female flowers have a swollen stem behind them (this is the immature fruit that will grow into the squash itself).

Inside the male flower you’ll see the stamen, which carry the pollen. Inside a female flower is the stigma, where you need to transfer the pollen to.

There are two ways to pollinate squash flowers.

  1. You can simply cut a male squash flower off the plant, remove the petals to expose the stamen, and then rub it gently against the stigma of a female flower to pollinate it.
  2. Alternatively, gather pollen from the stamen of a male flower onto a soft-bristled artist’s paintbrush. The yellow pollen will be clearly visible on the brush. Brush the pollen onto the stigma of a female flower to pollinate.

Hand-Pollinating to Save Squash Seeds

Squashes will cross-pollinate with each other, so to make sure that the seeds produced are the same variety as the mother plant, you need to prevent insects from pollinating the plants with other squashes’ pollen.

Choose one or two female flowers and cover the flower with a light, breathable fabric such as muslin, tying it around the stem at the back so the flower is enclosed. When the flower opens, remove the fabric and hand-pollinate as described above. Cover the flower up again and keep it in place until the flower drops off. Tie a ribbon around the stem so you know from which fruits to collect your seeds.

For more information about planting, growing, and harvesting squash, check out our complete Zucchini and Winter Squash Growing Guides.

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katyajini (not verified)

6 months 2 weeks ago

Can you successfully pollinate a female zucchini flower with pollen from male hubbard or butternut squash plantflower?  I understand that most interspecies crosses even if viable the offspring will be sterile.  But in the case of zucchini is pollination between these different types of squash even possible in practice?  Thanks!

Yes, you can cross pollinate any squash with any squash and fruit will develop. However, you can’t really save those seeds if you want the squash to breed true next year.

buford (not verified)

7 months 3 weeks ago

You can use a cotton swab to hand-pollinate allso.

Sally Young (not verified)

7 months 3 weeks ago

This year, I am having tons of male flowers, but no female flowers on my pumpkins. My zucs are barely producing any flowers, I got 2 male flowers over the last 4 days. I am trying to keep them covered so the vine borers don't reach them, I'm wondering if that is it? If I ever get any females, I am going to hand pollinate. But I am not sure if I am doing something wrong or not. The only difference is that they are covered, and it's much dryer this year. Maybe not watering enough? IDK Any ideas?

Tod S. (not verified)

1 year 7 months ago

Replying to James Repine: The University of Arizona's Hydroponics programs found that electric toothbrushes are great for hand pollinating tomatoes. Apparently, the vibration of the electric toothbrushes is very close to the frequency of vibrations of bees' wings such that the anthers spread open to release/deposit the most pollen into/from the brush bristles. Short of bees, last I was at the farm it was the most-used method of pollination.