Anyone with interest in growing vegetables in their garden can find cucumbers very exotic. Cucumbers have many health benefits and can be used to serve various purposes. They can be used in salads, pickles, and whatnot. Cucumbers also come in handy during your spa days. One of the most common questions that gardeners who wish to plant cucumbers are, are cucumbers self-pollinating? If you are someone who has the same doubts, you are at the right place. Continue reading to find out the answers to all your questions related to growing cucumbers in your garden.
Let us first discuss, if cucumbers are self-pollinating or not
Cucumis sativus, or as we usually call it, cucumbers, are self-pollinating plants. Self-pollination does not mean that cucumber plants do not need male pollens to develop fruit; it simply means the cucumber plants possess both female and male flowers on the same plant. As such, they are not required to receive pollen from other plants.
Cucumber plants develop separate female and male flowers on the same plant. The flowers of both kinds are distinct from each other. The male cucumber flowers grow in groups of three to five and have a shorter stem as compared to female cucumber flowers.
Cucumbers depend on external pollinators for transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female ones. The female flower blooms singly; they have a small ovary in the center of the flower and are accompanied by a small fruit at the base of the stem. If your garden is not frequently visited by bees or other insects, which might help in the pollination process, you might need to pollinate them by yourself.
We will discuss the pollination process and how to hand pollinate the cucumbers in great detail later on. Let us first talk about the different types of cucumber plants.
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#1 Monoecious Cucumber Plants
A monoecious cucumber plant is one in which the number of male flowers is higher than the number of female flowers. Therefore such plants do not produce a higher number of cucumbers.
Usually, male flowers formulate earlier than female ones. The male flowers develop in clusters of 3-5 on the main stem of the cucumber plant.
Environmental factors affect the distribution of male and female flowers. For example, if the plant is grown in a high-density area or an area in which a lot of other cucumber or other plants exist, this means that the plant will have to compete against the other plants for water and essential nutrients. The lack of sunlight also forces the plants to compete for sunlight. Such a fight for nutrients leads to stress on the cucumber plant. This stress leads to the development of more male plants. Another significant aspect being mentioned here is that cucumber plants grow in high temperatures and high temperatures foster the maleness of the plant. Lower temperatures are favorable for promoting femaleness.
#2 Gynoecious Cucumber Plants
A gynoecious cucumber plant is one in which the proportion of female flowers is higher than the male flowers. Such plants are capable of producing huge quantities of fruit.
#3 Parthenocarpic Cucumbers
Parthenocarpic cucumbers are seedless. Therefore, these plants do not require pollination for producing fruits. These plants are capable of producing fruits even in the complete lack of pollination. Although, Parthenocarpic cucumber plants are also capable of producing seeds if pollution is done by hand. The very nature of the plant is to be seedless, and hence even after hand-pollinating, these plants are not capable of producing large numbers of seeds. Therefore the pollination of these plants is costly and not preferable.
Also Read: How Long Does it Take for Cucumber to Grow?
Just like any other plant, cucumbers can be quickly grown if you know the right way to do it. Read on to have a look at the right climatic conditions required to grow cucumbers.
Cucumber plant takes only 50-70 days for its maturation, but still growing it in your garden is challenging if you don’t know the right way to do it.
- One most important condition that every gardener who wishes to grow a cucumber plant should know is that the cucumber plant grows faster in warmer temperatures.
- Initially, when the seed is sown for germination, higher temperatures support faster germination.
- The average temperature for the healthy growth of a cucumber plant is between 65 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime is favorable, and a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit is considered to be ideal during the night.
- Cucumber plants grow in areas with higher exposure to sunlight.
- The water requirements of the cucumber plant are above average. As we all know, a cucumber fruit has a high content of water. The water contained in the fruit must come from somewhere. Hence, the cucumber plant needs a higher level of water and needs to be watered frequently. The plant thrives in moisture, and therefore, the soil must be kept moist, and it should not be left to dry out.
- Even after having good exposure to sunlight and being watered frequently, the plant might not grow to be strong. For the healthy growth of the plant, another important aspect needs to be covered. Soil plays an equally important role in the development of a healthy plant. It is important to have well-drained soil with a pH between 0.6 to 0.7.
- The fertilization of the soil at regular intervals is also necessary to ensure your plant does not dry out. Add compost and limestone to the soil at least once a month.
How Can You Tell If a Cucumber is Pollinated?
Before we look at ways to identify self-pollination, let us quickly have a look at what self-pollination is and how this process does takes place.
Self-pollination: Cucumbers are self-pollinating plants which mean the plant develops both male and female flowers on a single plant.
Self-pollination happens when external agents act like pollinators. These agents are usually bees and other insects. These insects transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers and thereby help in the development of fruits.
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How to Notice Pollination?
The natural process of pollination of any flower, including cucumber, is that the flower begins to wilt after pollination. The same is true for the cucumber plant too. Once the transfer of pollen from the male flowers has been done to the female flowers, the flower starts to wilt, and a small fruit starts developing. Flowers tend to wilt after one day, after the pollination.
Once make, and female flowers have been produced by the cucumber plant, pollination does not take much time. So if you have been noticing flowers for a long time and do not see the development of fruit, it means that your plant is not self-pollinating. You should step in and act as a pollinator yourself.
The one way to visually check if the flowers on your plant have been pollinated is to see if the flowers are wilting or not. If you notice the flowers wilting, it means it has been pollinated. The male flowers fall off completely once their pollen is spent. So when you notice these two changes, I.e., the drying and falling off of male flowers and wilting and closure of female plants, you can be assured that the population of your plants has taken place successfully.
However, another important point to note is that the wilting of flowers can also occur if the health of your plant is not good. Therefore as a precautionary measure, once you start noticing the wilting of flowers, check the overall health of your plant. If your entire plant is wilting or is drying up, there is probably something wrong with the plant’s health, and the wilting is not a part of the pollination of the plant.
If you notice your cucumber plant has flowers, but no fruits are developing on it, it could be because of one of these reasons
- The overall health of your plant is hampered. It does not get the suitable climatic conditions and essential nutrients to grow. Such plants, which are not strong enough, often fail to produce fruits and vegetables.
- All the flowers in your cucumber plant are female. If all the flowers developing in your plant are female, fruits will not develop because of a lack of pollination.
- The transfer of pollen grains from the male flowers to the female flowers does not happen by external pollinators.
Usually, external pollinators such as bees are not attracted to cucumber plants. If your garden does not have any other plants to attract and invite bees to your garden, the chances of self-pollination fall down. In some cases, despite having other plants to attract pollinators, self-pollination does not take place in cucumber plants because these pollinators are simply not attracted to cucumber plants.
When self-pollination does not happen, you should act like a pollinator yourself and transfer the pollen from male flowers to female ones. This process is referred to as hand pollination.
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How to Hand Pollinate Cucumbers?
The process of pollinating your plants by yourself is a tedious task. It is very time-consuming and takes a lot of effort, but apparently, this is the only option available to you if your flowers don’t self-pollinate.
Before deciding to pollinate your cucumber plant by yourself, you should learn the difference between a male flower and a female flower. It is crucial for you to know this difference because only then will you be able to act as a pollinator for your plant. The male flowers generally occur in groups of 3-5 and have a larger stem compared to female flowers.
Moreover, female flowers develop singly and have a small ovary in the center of the flower. Another important detail that you must keep in mind is that the first few flowers developed by your plant are always male flowers.
Do not immediately start pollinating after seeing the development of flowers.
Wait for at least a week. In a week’s time, both male and female flowers must be present on your plant.
Once you know the difference between the male and female flowers, the next step in the process is to take out the pollen from the male flower using a clean paintbrush.
You can also carefully remove the petals of the flower. The next step in line for you is to rub the pollen from the male flower onto the female flowers. A single male flower is capable of pollinating many female flowers.
The process seems simple, but it is tiresome in nature because of the sticky nature of pollen. In spite of it being a tough job to hand pollinate your plants; many gardeners prefer this process because of its benefits.
Let us discuss the benefits of hand pollination
- Hand pollination can be used when you need to generate greater quantities of the harvest from your cucumber plant.
- The fruits and vegetables developed through hand pollination are better in quality because you can transfer a greater number of pollen from the male flower to the female flower. As a result, the female flower will have more pollen to fertilize, and therefore the quality of the harvest would be better.
- In the process of self-pollination, the transfer of pollen can also take place to an underdeveloped female flower. This leads to bad quality of the harvest, but when you are the pollinator yourself, you can plan your pollination and transfer the pollen to only fully developed flowers.
In conclusion, it can be said that while cucumbers are self-pollinating plants, which have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The pollination of these flowers requires proper care and attention. Even in the case of self-pollination, where the pollen is transferred by bees, the bees need to be attracted so that they visit your garden and help in the process of pollination. If you choose hand pollination for your plants, it will take a lot of time and effort on your end, but the harvest will totally pay off for all your efforts.