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Needed: Male Butternut Squash Flower, Please!

August 09, 2011
butternut squash

Three Tiny Female Flowers (note tiny fruits at the base of the flowers)

The latest in the 2011 weird garden behavior: loads of female squash flowers opening on all of our butternut squash plants. And, they’re opening first — ahead of the male flowers. This is a new one on me. Usually, I find myself complaining that I have loads of male flowers and not a single female. Or, I end up seeing them open off schedule from each other. This year, it’s three girls for every boy — if there was a boy. But so far, those guys are still closed up tight on the stem, showing no sign of opening at all.

Come on boys! Don’t be shy.  These girls are super sexy and healthy. And, they’re right next to the honeybee’s favorite drinking hole. Time for you to invite’m to the dance! Everything’s ready. Please don’t turn them into, um, wallflowers! They’re ready to make me some delicious dinner here.

The type of butternut seed is one I’ve grown in past years with great success. It’s a powdery mildew-resistant variety. And, it is a heavy fruit producer. But, usually it throws loads of male flowers before the girls appear — probably in order to get the pollinators on a regular route to visit the plant. Once the plant knows the buzzing bees are coming, they open a female to get cross pollination. But not this year.

Looks like my only hope is that someone nearby is also growing butternut squash and has loads of male flowers that the bees are visiting. And, that those same bees will buzz on over here to drop a little pollen into these beautiful girls. Otherwise, I might as well eat the flowers.

Anyone have ideas why these girls are opening but not the boys? Here’s a time when readers can really help me out!


  1. Rich says:

    Trying my first attempt at growing Butternut squash and I’m having exactly the same problem. Female flowers falling off before male are open?

  2. nancy says:

    Hi, this year 2012 my first attempt at growing butternut. I used seed I saved from a squash last year. only planted 2 both came up..,.lots of male flowers, and finally got a female today. I attempted pollination just to help nature along….using a paintbrush. I should know soon if it took, however, since I didn’t know if I had to touch the 3 sort-of “heads” in the female, or down between them, I dusted everywhere. Could you tell me what the purple flower is in the photo, by name. thanks, I am assuming that is the flower the bees love.

  3. Nancy, good luck! Dusting all of the “heads” (pistils) is your best bet. Please do let us know how it goes getting the fruits to form. I’ve found that once pollinated, Butternuts are generous plants. Mine are sprawling everywhere this year, but the flowers are still a few days off. Fingers are crossed for a good crop! The flowers in this photo are Love Lies Bleeding, which you can read more about here: http://www.gardenhelp.org/gardening/la-chenille-ne-mange-pas/. It isn’t really a pollinator magnet, but I love the look of it, so I grow it from seed each spring (for the last few years). If you want to add a real pollinator magnet near your squash, try sunflowers, borage, lavender, thyme, zinnia, cosmos or even oregano. Best of luck!

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