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Cucumber Flowers: What You Need to Know

Most cucumber crops result when the pollen from male flowers pollinates female flowers. For the secrets of loading your vines with sunny yellow cuke blossoms and your kitchen table with crisp, sweet fruit, read on.

Female Cucumber Flowers

Identify a female cuke flower by the area where its base meets its stem. It looks like a miniature fruit. The flower itself is typically longer than a male one on the same vine. At its center is a stigma, where pollen from a male fertilizes the developing fruit.

Male Cucumber Flowers

On most cucumber varieties, male flowers outnumber females by 10 or 20:1. The males also start blooming earlier, and for one or two weeks they shrivel and die before ever pollinating a female. They usually bloom in clusters of three to five flowers. At the center of each is a tubular, pollen-coated anther.

Expert gardener’s tips:

  • One way to improve your female-to-male cuke flower ratio is to plant some gynoecious cucumber cultivars. They’re bred to produce mostly female flowers. ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘Raider,’ and ‘Slice Master Hybrid’ are popular examples.
  • To maximize the chance of fruit, look for gynoecious seed packets containing a small number of monoecious seeds. They’ll produce plants with enough male blooms to provide your gynoecious cultivars with pollen.

Pruning Cucumber Flowers

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, pruning cuke flowers by pinching them off helps maximize a vine’s yield. To do this, simply hold the buds or flowers between your thumb and forefinger and pinch them off at the bases. Practice pinching when:

  • The baby cukes of the first two or three pollinated female flowers start growing. Snap off the blossoms, swollen stems included. If they get big enough to pick, the vine’s growth and flower production will tail off because it’s already produced seeds for a new generation of plants. Sacrificing the early flowers sends a signal that new ones are needed. The vine will respond with an explosion of flowers and fruit!
  • Whenever flowers appear later in the growing season. Pinching back one-third to one-half of the new buds directs more energy to the remaining flowers’ developing fruit.

If you add regular flower pinching to your cucumber care regimen, your reward will be bushel baskets full of big, healthy cukes.

Aster Yellows and Cucumber Flowers

Deformed, greenish-yellow cucumber flowers sprouting leafy bracts are infected with aster yellows disease. It’s transmitted when leafhopper insects suck fluids from the vines. To eliminate the leafhoppers, spray the plants thoroughly with organic insecticidal soap.

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