The Q&A Archives: Squash Plants

Question: My squash plants have just bloomed beautiful yellow flowers, and then they fell off with no fruit behind them.

Answer: Most squashes and cucumbers have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. So, to produce fruit, pollen from male flowers must be transferred to the female flowers. The female blossoms have what looks like a tiny squash or cucumber behind the flower. The tiny fruit is the ovary, full of eggs not yet fertilized via pollen from male flowers. Male blossoms have long-stalked stamens, each with pollen-filled anthers. Visiting bees and other types of insects provide the transfer of pollen from the male to the female blossoms. Don't worry if the earliest blooms on squash or cucumber plants fall off before they set any fruit. The male flowers of cucumbers and squash often bloom and wither before the female blossoms start appearing. So be patient with squash and cucumber plants. Eventually, most will produce both male and female flowers. Once blossoms of both sexes are opening at the same time, and if there is still no fruit formation, there may be poor pollination. Sometimes Mother Nature needs help. If you have a shortage of pollinators, you can transfer pollen from male to female blossoms with a small watercolor paintbrush. Research has shown that growing cilantro, yarrow, wild buckwheat, white sweet clover, tansy, sweet fennel, sweet alyssum, spearmint, Queen Anne's lace, hairy vetch, flowering buckwheat, crimson clover, cowpeas, common knotweed and caraway attract natural pollinators and other beneficial insects including natural predators to gardens.

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