When you plan on getting house plants that produce flowers and intend to reproduce the plant by getting seeds from the original plant, you must know how to hand pollinate your flowers. The principle applies whether it is an herb, a flower, or a vegetable. So let’s look at eight easy methods you can employ to pollinate your indoor plant.
Here are eight easy ways you can use to pollinate your indoor plants:
- Shaking Method
- Electric Toothbrush
- Tapping Method
- Male Flower
- Paint Brush
- Zip-Lock Plastic Bag
- Radio or Loud Instrument
In this article, I will give you an in-depth explanation of how to perform these hand pollination methods respectively and add some tips and tricks on how to take care of your indoor plants.
Pollination of Indoor Plants
There are many different ways to pollinate an indoor plant. No matter the method you decide to use when pollinating a flower, the general process of how it is done is roughly the same.
Either gather the pollen from the stamen of the male flower (or self-pollinating flower) and put it on the stigma (that is, the female part of a flower) or on the female flower of a self-pollinating flower.
Repeat this daily. Alternatively, you can shake, tap or vibrate the plant until the pollen has been agitated enough to fall onto the stigma. This only works on self-pollinating plants, though.
Here are the eight ways to ensure your indoor plants are pollinated in a little more detail:
1. Pollination Using Bees
This indoor pollination method is a low-maintenance one that is pretty straightforward to do. You have to place your house plant by an open window and wait for mother nature to do its job by sending some beautiful bee friends.
You can encourage native bees to visit your indoor plant by having a couple of plants that bees are generally attracted to scattered around the plant you want the bees to pollinate. Also, having a small plastic bowl of clean water wouldn’t hurt when encouraging bees to come back.
Plants That Promote Bees in the Area
Bees are attracted to certain plants more than to others. The list of plants they like includes basil, sage, thyme, and lavender. Be sure to let the plants bud and produce flowers. Otherwise, the bees won’t be able to collect nectar or pollen.
While using bees for pollination has many benefits, there are, of course, also some drawbacks.
Let us explore both the advantages and the disadvantages:
- Having bees pollinate your indoor and outdoor plants allows them to have continuous healthy growth.
- Bees pollinating your flowers provide you with fresh seed-bearing produce.
- Bee pollination ensures the continuous production of lovely, fragrant, and vibrant flowers in your indoor growing space.
- When your lights are on, some bees will tend to confuse your lights for the sun and stay inside, thinking it is daytime, which leads to them getting trapped inside and possibly dying from exhaustion.
- Keeping windows open can lead to flies, wasps, hornets, and other pests and the rain getting into the house.
- If you own some pets, such as cats or dogs, you could risk your pet getting swarmed and attacked by bees.
- If you have any children, they might step on a bee on the floor, irritating the colony and getting stung multiple times.
2. The Shaking Method
The shaking method of hand-pollinating indoor plants is relatively self-explanatory. You do the shake method by gently but securely holding the plant by the base below any branches and start softly shaking the plant.
By doing this, you are mimicking a gust of wind, which is in short supply when your plant is indoors. In addition, this soft shaking will cause pollen to fall off the anther onto the stigma. Just be aware that this method only works on self-pollinating plants with downward-facing flowers, such as tomato plants.
3. An Electric Toothbrush
The electric toothbrush method is one of the most effective methods for pollinating an indoor plant. As strange as using an electric toothbrush to pollinate your flowers sounds, there is a method to the madness.
This method of pollination works so well because the micro-vibrations created by the electric toothbrush mimic the vibrations caused by a bee or beetle’s wings when it comes in to try and land on a flower.
You use an electric toothbrush to pollinate your indoor plant by holding the back of the brush (not the bristles) against the branch where the branch and stem meet. This will jolt the flower slowly enough for the pollen to fall onto the stigma without hurting the flower.
As with the previous method, this works best on self-pollinating plants with downwards-facing flowers, such as tomatoes.
4. The Tapping Method
The tapping method of pollinating a plant is very similar to the shaking method, but the only difference is that it’s more localized like the electric toothbrush method. Much like the electric toothbrush method, you will gently tap on the branch where the branch and stem meet.
You have to tap the stem of each flower daily until you can see fruits start to form.
5. A Male Flower
Pollinating a plant with a male flower is one of the most effective methods of hand-pollinating a plant with both male and female flowers or a self-pollinating plant. You will need a pair of small fine-point scissors.
The way you pollinate a hermaphrodite plant is by following these steps:
- Cut one of the male flowers off. It’s best to do this early in the morning when the flowers are fully open.
- Remove all petals from the male flowers. Ensure that only the stamens are left on the flower.
- Use the male flower to pollinate the female flower. Rub the stamen against the stigma of the female flowers.
- Repeat. Repeat this every day until you see fruits start to form.
You can use the same method and pollinate a self-pollinating plant with upward-facing flowers. This also works if you are trying to cross-pollinate two slightly different plants of the same species, such as a chili plant.
The only difference is that both flowers are self-pollinating, so you will have to remove the stamen from the flower you are trying to pollinate. Otherwise, you run the chances of the flower pollinating itself.
6. The Paint Brush Method
Using the paintbrush pollination method is a simple and effective way to pollinate your plants, whether self-pollinating or hermaphrodite. The easiest way to pollinate a flower using a paintbrush is by softly scraping the pollen off the stamen of one of the flowers with a paintbrush.
Then, take the pollen and softly dab or brush it onto the stigma of all visible flowers. Repeat this process daily until you see fully formed fruits all over the plant.
7. A Zip-Lock Plastic Bag
The plastic bag hand-pollination method is a simple and effective method that requires minimal effort. When performing the plastic bag method, it is as easy as putting a plastic zip-lock bag over either a male flower or a self-pollinating flower, closing it, and tapping on the branch until you can see a build-up of pollen in the bag.
Repeat this process until you have built up a fair amount of pollen in the zip-lock bag.
An added benefit is that if it is a self-pollinating plant, the flowers you harvested the pollen from will get pollinated in the process of harvesting.
Once you are happy with the amount of pollen in the bag, you can either put the bag around the female flower and softly shake the bag to get the pollen airborne or use a paintbrush to apply the pollen to the stigma of all the female flowers.
Alternatively, if the plant is self-pollinating, you can simply repeat the harvesting process on all the flowers.
8. A Radio or Loud Instrument
This last method is a little out of the ordinary. But, as unorthodox as this method sounds, it is surprisingly effective.
Pollinating your indoor plants using an instrument or radio is very simple and rather enjoyable for you, and it is beneficial for your plant’s growth. You pollinate your plants using a radio, speaker, or instrument such as a drum set, a trumpet, a cello, a bass guitar, etc.
Instruments with high amounts of bass are preferable due to the vibrations they cause in the surrounding area. When using an instrument, radio, or speaker, you have to play music loudly enough to vibrate the plant you are trying to pollinate.
These vibrations will cause the pollen in the flowers to be agitated enough to fall from the stamen onto the stigma.
The Pros and Cons of Self-Pollination and Cross-Pollination
For indoor gardening, it’s crucial to understand what kind of flowering plants you want to have: self-pollinating or cross-pollinating. This knowledge will help you plan a pollination technique suitable for their needs.
As mentioned, the lack of natural factors, such as wind and insect pollinators at home, can be detrimental to your flowering plants. In addition, you also need to know the pros and cons of each type of plant so you can make an educated decision about which type to keep at home.
The self-pollination process allows a flower to pollinate itself or be pollinated by another flower from the same plant. Plants undergoing this process may seem like the best option to grow indoors, as they often don’t require external intervention.
Still, it’s best to be familiar with the following benefits and downsides of keeping them:
- Self-pollinating plants are great when it comes to the purity of the plant’s genetics.
- When a plant self-pollinates, recessive genes are eliminated.
- Self-pollinating plants do not require any bees or other pollinators.
- Plants that can self-pollinate produce weak seeds that are difficult to germinate.
- Self-pollinating plants are prone to having fruits that produce very few seeds.
- They have very weak immune systems and struggle to fight off infection.
- Plants that pollinate themselves cannot produce new varieties, which leads to weak genetic diversity.
The cross-pollination method works best for outdoor plants, where there are numerous varieties of plants under the same genus which can exchange pollens and create hybrids.
When growing these types of plants, it’s crucial to have multiple plants in the same room. You’ll also need to hand-pollinate them for better chances of reproduction.
Let’s look at some of their advantages and disadvantages:
- Seedlings and new cross-pollinated plants grow strong and healthy.
- Cross-pollinating plants have high quantities of strong, viable seeds.
- New seeds produced by cross-pollinating plants have consistent and strong germination.
- Plants created by cross-pollination can often become new strains or, even on occasion, a hybrid of two completely different plants.
- Plants that rely on cross-pollination have to produce excessive amounts of pollen to survive and produce seeds. Unfortunately, this means that there is a lot of pollen wasted.
- Even with the copious amounts of pollen cross-pollinating plants produce, pollination can sometimes fail due to the distance between two compatible plants or the lack of pollinating insects.
- Cross-pollinating plants can sometimes create offspring with undesirable characteristics when it bears fruit from ill-suited pollen.
- They require pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, to transfer pollen between flowers.
- Due to the fact that cross-pollinating plants have to rely on pollinators like bees, the plants have to produce large nectar-filled flowers to attract pollinators to the plant.
About Pollen Grains
Pollen is a minute yellow powder transported by the wind, insects, and animals to fertilize flowers. They can be anywhere from 10 to 1000 microns in size, depending on the plant producing them, and can travel up to 100 miles from the plant of origin on very windy days.
Their production is in part influenced by the amount of carbon dioxide levels in the area.
Pollen causes 10% to 30% of the worldwide population to suffer from allergies. When you inhale pollen, it can cause your body to produce histamines to try and fight against foreign materials, leading to a wide array of allergic reactions.
Self-Pollinating Vs. Cross-Pollinating Plants
Several trees, fruits, vegetables, and berries are both cross-pollinating and self-pollinating:
All of the following plants are self-pollinating and are unlikely to require any external help to produce offspring. However, they can still be pollinated by hand.
Plants that are cross-pollinating can often result in next-generation hybrid plants when two first-generation plants are compatible with each other. All of the following plants are cross-pollinating and can be pollinated by insects or by hand.
- Runner beans
Hand pollination is a great way to ensure a plant’s reproduction when pollinators are absent. For houseplants, direct pollination methods are more effective than indirect ones.
This is why I recommend you try using an electric toothbrush, the tapping method, a male flower, a paintbrush, or a zip-lock plastic bag rather than trying to attract bees, the shaking method, or loud music.