How to Hand-Pollinate Flowers

Overview

According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, honey bee populations have been steadily declining since the 1970s. This decline means that some cash crops that rely on bees for flower blossom pollination now require human pollination in order to produce fruits and vegetables. Gardeners who produce plants in high tunnels or green houses also must hand pollinate to make up for the lack of bees in the controlled environment. Hand pollinating flowers is also a reliable way to produce hybrid varieties of plants. There are several methods to pollinate flowers.

Step 1

Determine if a plant is male, female or self-fruitful. Male plants produce pollen, while female plants produce fruit and seeds. Apple and pistachio have separate male and female trees. Some plants, such as pecan trees, have separate male and female flowers. Tomato plants have both male and female organs in the same flower.

Step 2

Identify the male and female organs in each flower. The male organ is called the anther. The anther often resembles the head of a pin. It typically has pollen grains stuck to the end of it and emerges from the center of a flower. The female organ is known as the stigma. The stigma often resembles a cotton swab and has a sticky end for trapping pollen.

Step 3

Remove the anther with a pair of forceps, or collect pollen from the anther by brushing it with a paint brush.

Step 4

Transfer the pollen to the stigma by touching the pollinated tip of the anther to the sticky tip of the stigma. Or, brush the stigma with the pollen-coated paint brush.

Step 5

Tap or gently shake self-fruitful plants, such as tomato vines, to shake the pollen of these plants loose. The pollen will pollinate the stigmas in the same flower this way.

Things You'll Need

  • Forceps
  • Paint brush

References

  • New Mexico State University: Why Fruit Trees Fail to Bear
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Decrease in honey bee population impacting crops
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Home Vegetable Garden Techniques: Hand Pollination of Squash and Corn in Small Gardens

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: High Tunnel Melon and Watermelon Production
  • Washington State University Extension: Why Blossoms Of SomeVegetables Fail to Set Fruit
  • Gardening in Western Washington:Tomato Pollination
Keywords: pollinating flowers, hand propagating flowers, creating produce

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."