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Pumpkin pollination Problems....

Hello all!

My 6 year old son did a fabulous garden project at school this year, and we have been supporting him at home in his quest to grow plants and vegetables as best we can!  (He has really got the bug, it is great to see!) We have a paved garden, but have lots of pots, and he successfully has grown lots of flowers - but his pride and joy are three pumpkin plants in huge builder bucket containers.  He is very proud indeed. 

Being novices, we are have read and reread about pumpkin maintenance, and I know that i need to pick one or two females from the plant to keep.  Here is my problem.  I have 4 or five on each plant the size of tennis balls (or bigger) - and lots more starting at the ends of vine - but NONE of the male flowers have opened yet, and the older female flowers are closing/falling off.  We have opened one male and tried to pollinate ourselves, but how will i know if it has worked? If it hasnt worked will they females just stop growing?

I may be being impatient, but I would hate for these to go wrong after all his hard work!

Thanks in advance for any help...






  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,102

    Bumping up the list.

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,731

    Mandie, it's odd that you have more female flowers than male. It's just about always the other way around. And it's very odd that the males aren't opening. What variety are you growing?

    Not sure what you mean by needing to pick one or two females from the plant to keep. Female whats?

    You already have 4 or 5 baby pumpkins? If they've got to the size of a tennis ball, it sounds like they might have been pollinated. Unpollinated, they tend to wither and die off before that, usually within three or four days. What else do you have in the garden that might have cross-pollinated? 

  • Hi there!  Thank you so much for your post, I cant tell you how much I appreciate it.  

    Sorry, I wasnt very clear about the plants. 

    First,I have no idea what type they are, I picked up the seeds at a local garden centre. They were child friendly apparently!

    Also, you are right, we have many more male flowers (probably about 15) but they are still closed (picture attached) - and there are maybe 8 females that are growing.  I have popped some pictures on, as you can see the female flowers have fallen off the fruit, but they appear to still be growing.  I wonder if my neighbours have something that have cross pollinated....  so, I can assume these are pollinated and growing just fine as they are this big.

    There are probably about another 6 new females on each plant - my understanding is that the plant cannot sustain more that one or two pumpkins, and we should pick off new ones - is this not the case?

    Thank you again!









  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,731

    Mandie, they don't seem to be withering. How long since the flowers fell off the end? 

    A mature plant can support any number of pumpkins on different runners all coming from the one root. I've got 5 or 6 on one plant at the moment. People often limit the fruiting to two or three trying to grow bigger pumpkins on the basis that less fruit means more plant energy for the few.

    I see the plant is against a wall. How much sun is it getting? It needs absolutely as much direct sunlight and warmest temperature as possible

  • Katherine WKatherine W Posts: 410

    Sometimes there is an imbalance in the male/female flowers at the start of the season, but usually these plants find their way to fruiting after a while, and then they pretty much never stop, as long as they are warm and well fed... Make sure to have some flowers about them to attract pollinators. Borage is the best.

    The stems of your little pumpkins do look yellow (not promising)... if the fruit falls off and it keeps falling off consider hand pollinating with a small brush or just by inverting a male flower and rubbing it gently inside a female flower. I only needed to this one year when I planted the pumkins late and the weather was cool, so that the plants were sort of slow.

  • Hi both - thanks again! 

    They are against the wall but they are in full sun all day as spot in the garden they are in is a lovely sun trap. 

    I am glad that we dont need to take the fruits off, I had visions of me taking off the only ones that would have worked!! 

    I will try patience and plenty of feeding, and we will see how we go.  I noticed today that earliest leaves are withering and dying - is this normal?


    Thanks again!

  • Katherine WKatherine W Posts: 410

    Could it be underwatered or overwatered? They like a lot of water but not to be flooded all the time. I supposed it can be tricky in a pot... I only have them in the kitchen garden...

  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,731

    Time will tell with those baby ones, Mandie. For hand pollination you'll have to wait for the male flowers to open. Unopened, they're immature and you won't have the pollen. 

    If and when they do open and you want to hand pollinate, you only have to peel away the "petals" around the stamen of the male flower to expose the stamen covered with pollen. Rub it very gently all over the female flower's stigma until you see pollen adhering to the stigma. Use two stamens if need be to coat the stigma all over. But be gentle. The stigma is easily damaged and you can kill off the flower.

    Morning is the best time to hand pollinate, as early as possible, while the pollen is fresh. The female flower can also close later in the day.

    You need to be careful of overwatering. Stick a finger as deep down into the soil as you can to test moisture levels underneath. Things might look dry on the surface but there can be enough moisture deeper down where the roots are.

    If you're fertilising the plant at this stage, avoid a fertiliser high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will give you plenty of leaves but not much in the way of flowers. You need a fertiliser higher in phosphorous to encourage flowers.

    All fertilisers have an NPK indicator on the packet or container. N = nitrogen; P = phosphorous; K = potassium. You would need a fertiliser with a higher P figure than an N figure. Don't overdo the feeding either.


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