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Why are my Squash Flowering but not Producing?

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Do squash flowers need to be pollinated?

Squash flowers do need to be pollinated in order to produce squash. Moreover, the flowers on your squash plant are a combination of male flowers and female squash flowers. So even if your squash are flowering, they may not produce a good harvest if your squash flower and pollination aren’t in sync.

So let’s get into how to encourage squash to produce fruit!

The female flowers are the ones that will grow fruit. But they’ll only produce fruit if there’s a male flower blooming when she’s open. And there needs to be a pollinator to transport the boy parts to her girl squash flower parts. If that doesn’t happen, you won’t get squash.

female squash flowers

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

More than just zucchinis & butternuts are in the squash family.

The squash family includes many common vegetable favorites. So, that means summer and winter squash have male and female flowers. As well, most cucumbers, pumpkins and gourds do too. Tooo, you can count melons among these plants as well.

Do I need more than one plant for my squash to get pollinated?

Different plants grow their flower sex organs differently. Some plants have different male and female blossoms on the same plant, like squash flowers.

But many plants have flowers that contain both male and female organs in the same bloom. However, this isn’t the case with squash flowers.

Additionally, other plants are individually male or female. So, for instance, there are female sea buckthorn trees and male sea buckthorn trees. That means you won’t have female flowers (or fruit) on a male tree of this species.

Moreover, in most situations, plants won’t produce fruit unless its female parts receive pollen from the male parts of a different plant. This is generally the case with squash. However, there are some plants called self-fertile. And some cucurbits (aka squash family plants) are among these. In these situations, a plant may produce fruit without exchanging pollen with another plant. If you aren’t sure if your squash plant is self-fertile, assume it isn’t!

Sometimes male squash blooms & female flowers open at different times…

Sometimes squash flowers just don’t want to cooperate in our gardens. We’ve had years where loads of female squash flowers open on all of our butternut squash plants. Yet not a single male is blooming at that time. When this happens, the fruits on the female shrivel because they don’t receive the pollen they need to mature. You can learn more about poor pollination here.

But, usually when the timing it is off, it’s the boys that open first. Then the girls begin to flower. Shortly after more boys catch up with the late blooming female squash blossoms.

And then you’re wondering what in the world to do with all the zucchini suddenly piling up on your counters!

Even in small space gardens, you can get sufficient squash flowers blooming.

If you’re still struggling to get your vegetable garden growing strong, we can help!

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3 comments on “Why are my Squash Flowering but not Producing?

  1. Rich on

    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 on

    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. Garden Mentors on

    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. 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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