How to Pollinate Flowering Plants


Hand-pollinating flowers increases their ability to produce fruit and improves the fruit quality. In nature, either wind or bees pollinate flowers. High humidity limits the ability of wind-pollinated plants to successfully pollinate because the pollen becomes too sticky to be blown from the male anther. The number of bees in the area determines the success of bee-pollinated plants. Remove the guesswork of whether your flowering plants will successfully pollinate by doing it yourself.

Step 1

Identify the male anther and the female stigma on your plants. Some plants, such as lily flowers, have both the male and female organ in one plant. On flowers with both you often find the stamen in the center of the flower and the anther with pollen at the tip. The pistil that contains the female stigma tends to be taller than its male counterpart.

Step 2

Identify the male anther and the female stigma on your plants that have separate male and female flowers, such as cucumbers and squash. On cucumber and squash plants you will find an ovule that looks like a tiny fruit below the flower, whereas male plants will have either a thinner or shorter stalk.

Step 3

Twirl a cotton swab over the male anther on your plant to rub off the pollen. Pollen is often powdery looking. It will tend to be lighter on wind-pollinated plants, and thicker or heavier on bee-pollinated plants. Rub the anther with the cotton swab for about 10 seconds. You will be able to see the pollen on the cotton swab for some plants, but not all.

Step 4

Twirl your cotton swab with the pollen over the female stigma of your plant for about 10 seconds. Repeat the process every couple of days to ensure your flowers get pollinated.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton swabs


  • A Gardener's Illustrated Guide: Hand Pollination 2 - Cucumbers and their Kin
  • A Gardener's Illustrated Guide: Hand Pollination
  • Tom Cothier's Garden Walk and Talk: Genetics for Seed Savers

Who Can Help

  • University of Florida Extension: Home Vegetable Garden Techniques
Keywords: hand pollination, pollinating flowers, fertilizing vegetable flowers

About this Author

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Robin Coe has reported on a variety of subjects for more than 15 years. Coe has worked on environmental health and safety issues in communities across Ohio and Michigan. Coe holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a double-major in international politics from Bowling Green State University. She has also received training and experience as a nurse aide.