After putting in all the effort required in your vegetable garden, your cucumbers are finally blooming. You’re sure of a bountiful harvest with all the flowers on your cucumber plants. But wait, aren’t those flowers too many, and is there such a thing as too many flowers?
A cucumber plant can have too many flowers. Cucumbers are cucurbits, so they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. However, one cucumber node can only support one fruit. If your cucumbers have more than one female flower on each node, they have too many flowers.
This article explores more details on why your cucumbers have too many flowers (since they are, after all, cucurbits). I’ll also address how to deal with this problem. Let’s dive in.
Why Does My Cucumber Plant Have Too Many Flowers?
Sometimes, too many flowers could be a reason to worry. At other times, you just need to wait for nature to take its course with your plants.
Your cucumber may have too many flowers because of poor or no pollination, a lack of either female flowers or male flowers, or unfavorable temperatures. In most cases, too many flowers is a concern because it can be accompanied by the cucumber plant having little or no fruit.
So, let’s discuss each of these reasons in detail.
No Female Flowers
As we’ve mentioned earlier, cucumbers are cucurbits (just like pumpkins, squash, watermelon, and zucchini). Moreover, cucumbers are monoecious plants, meaning that they produce both the female and male flowers on the same plant.
They produce male and female flowers in equal measures. However, there’s a catch: cucumbers don’t produce male and female flowers at the same time.
The male flowers in a cucumber come first, followed by the female ones. Cucumbers produce the male flowers first to ensure enough pollen to pollinate the female flowers once they start budding.
Once the female flowers start budding, you’ll think that your cucumbers have too many flowers. However, this doesn’t always spell bad news for your plants.
After pollination, your cucumber plants will shed off the male flowers. Your plants will start developing fruits to replace the female flowers.
No Male Flowers
If you’re growing your cucumbers in a greenhouse, you might not see too many male flowers on your plants. However, there might be an upsurge in the production of female flowers.
If this is the case, your cucumbers are the gynoecious variety. This means that they only produce female flowers because they don’t need pollination to bear fruit. Such breeds usually do well in greenhouses.
Female cucumber flowers multiply because of the high temperatures in the greenhouses. However, if your cucumbers are outdoors and still produce little or no male flowers, try giving them shade to make them cooler.
Poor or No Pollination
According to the University of South Dakota, bees are the best pollinators for cucumber flowers. However, if you’ve been experiencing heavy rainfall in your area, there might be a shortage of bees.
No bees mean that your cucumber flowers aren’t being pollinated as they should. The outcome of such an incident is too many unfruitful flowers on your plants.
Note: If you notice low pollination rates in your cucumber plants, you might have to resort to other pollination strategies such as hand pollination. The New Mexico State University recommends that you do this by transporting pollen grains from the male flowers to the ovary of the female flowers with a thin painting brush.
Too High or Too Low Temperatures
While cucumbers grow both male and female flowers on the same plant, the temperatures in your garden determine how many flowers your plant has. The ideal temperatures for your cucumbers are 75 – 85 °F (23.89 – 29.44 °C).
Female cucumber flowers thrive in warm temperatures. If you notice a high number of female flowers in your cucumber, the temperature is likely higher than normal for your plants. This may mean that your cucumbers are getting too much sun.
On the other hand, if your plants have more male flowers, the temperatures are lower than the ideal for proper flowering and bearing fruits for your cucumbers.
How to Differentiate Male and Female Cucumber Flowers
If your cucumbers have too many flowers, you need to control them. However, you can only do that if you can identify the different features in male and female cucumber flowers. These features include the size of the stem, presence of pollen grains, and the presence of fruit at the bottom of the female flower.
Here’s how to differentiate them:
Male cucumber plants have thin stems and have no fruit-bearing capabilities. You’ll notice them because they don’t have small fruits on their stems, unlike the female flowers.
The male flowers have pollen grains and usually grow in groups of five. They’re usually the first to appear on your cucumber plants to ensure enough pollen to pollinate the female flowers.
Female cucumber flowers come later than male flowers. They have a thick stem attaching them to the plant. You’ll also notice them by the tiny fruit they have at the end of the flower.
Once the female flowers become pollinated, they shed off to allow the fruit to develop.
Tip: One cucumber node can only support one fruit. If your cucumber nodes have more than one female flower, shed them off and leave only one for a bountiful harvest.
What Should I Do if My Cucumber Plant Has Too Many Flowers?
Cucumbers naturally shed off excess flowers after pollination to give room for fruit-bearing.
If your cucumber plant has too many flowers, you can remedy the situation by either pruning them, hand-pollinating the plants, or regulating the temperature of the place you’ve grown your cucumbers.
Prune the Flowers
If you’re growing gynoecious cucumbers, male flowers will only hinder your cucumbers from growing more fruits.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove the flowers:
- Identify all the male flowers on each cucumber plant; you can easily notice them because they don’t have a small fruit or swelling at the base.
- Cut off the flower at its base using your hands or gardening scissors.
- Repeat this process for every cucumber plant in your garden.
If you’re growing monoecious cucumbers and the flowers are too many, use the process above. You can remove both male and female flowers in this variety. However, be careful to leave at least one female flower on each node for a great harvest.
Regulate the Temperatures
Male cucumber flowers thrive in cool temperatures. If your plants have too many male flowers, adjust the temperatures to be warmer. By doing so, you’ll reduce the production of male flowers and encourage the growth of female ones.
On the other hand, female cucumber flowers grow more in warm temperatures. If your female flowers are too many, lower the temperatures in your greenhouse.
One of the reasons your cucumbers might have too many flowers is that no pollination is going on. While bees and other insects are the main pollinators for cucumbers, weather conditions may deter the process. If this is the case, you should hand pollinate to ensure that your cucumbers bear fruits as required.
Hand pollination is pollinating your cucumber flowers manually. There are different ways in which you can hand pollinate:
Using a Small Paintbrush to Transfer Pollen
You can use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female ones.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:
- Clean and dry your paintbrush to remove any purities that may hinder pollination.
- Brush the paintbrush on the pollen grains on the male flowers to gather the grains on the brush.
- Gently brush the paintbrush on the female flower to transfer the pollen grains.
- Repeat steps 1-3 on all the flowers you want to pollinate.
Plucking the Male Flower to Pollinate the Female Flower
Another way to pollinate the flowers on your cucumber plants and reduce the flowers is by plucking the male flower to pollinate the female flower directly.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use this process:
- Pluck the male flower from the plant.
- Remove all the petals from the flower, leaving the pollen grains exposed.
- Roll the pollen onto the stigma of the female flower to pollinate.
Note: According to UC Davis, hand pollination can only be successful if you use freshly opened flowers. Cucumber flowers open early in the morning and are only receptive for one day. You’ll have to work in the early mornings for best results.
Are Many Blooms Always a Bad Thing?
Many blooms in cucumber plants aren’t always a bad thing. It may indicate something wrong, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes, the flowers only mean that your cucumbers are healthy. They could also mean that you should get prepared for a bountiful harvest.
If, after studying the many flowers on your cucumber, you’re convinced that they’re doing well, there’s no need to take further action. Continue attending to them for a great harvest.
While flowering is part of a cucumber’s growth process, a cucumber can have too many flowers. This could be due to too many male or female flowers, unfavorable temperatures for the plants, and no or little pollination going on.
If you notice too many flowers on your cucumber plants, you can prune them, adjust the temperatures or use hand pollination.
However, if you’re sure that the many flowers on your cucumbers are an indication of good health, give them time to bloom into fruits.