Do You Need More Than One Cucumber Plant? (Pollination)


Are you wondering if you need more than one cucumber plant to get fruit?  Some crops do need multiple plants to get fruit, so it’s a good question to ask.

So, do you need more than one cucumber plant for pollination and fruit?  Monoecious cucumbers do not need more than one plant, since they produce both male and female flowers.  Gynoecious cucumbers only have female flowers, so they need another plant with male flowers to produce fruit.  Parthenocarpic cucumbers do not need more than one plant, since they produce fruit without pollination.

Of course, having more cucumber plants means more flowers, which means more bees and more chances to pollinate flowers and produce fruit.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these three types of cucumber plants and how pollination occurs.

Let’s get started.

Do You Need More Than One Cucumber Plant for Pollination and Fruit?

In some cases, you do need more than one cucumber plant for pollination and fruit.  It really depends on the cucumber variety that you are growing.

The three basic types of cucumbers are:

  • Monoecious – they have both male and female flowers on the plant
  • Gynoecious – they have only female flowers on the plant (some might have a few male flowers)
  • Parthenocarpic – they can produce fruit without pollination
cucumber harvest
Some cucumber plants need pollination to produce fruit, and some (parthenocarpic) can do without pollen!

A cucumber plant can be both gynoecious and parthenocarpic.  That is, it produces almost all female flowers, and can produce fruit from those flowers without pollination.

Let’s take a closer look at these different types of cucumbers and what kind of pollination you would need in each case.

Monoecious Cucumbers

A monoecious cucumber variety is one that produces both male and female flowers on the same plant.  However, the catch is that the male and female flowers are not always produced at the same time.

Often, the male flowers on cucumber plants will appear a week or more before the female flowers appear.  This is because plants put their energy into producing male flowers first.

cucumber seedling
A monoecious cucumber plant will produce male flowers before the female flowers appear.

This ensures that there are plenty of male flowers to pollinate the female flowers when they appear later in the season.

Here is how to tell the difference between male and female flowers on cucumber plants:

  • Male cucumber flowers have shorter and thinner stems.  The flowers appear in groups of 3 to 5.  Male flowers produce pollen, but no fruit.
  • Female cucumber flowers have longer, thicker stems.  The flowers appear alone, not in clusters.  A female flower cannot produce pollen, but it does have a small fruit behind it.  The fruit makes the stem behind a female flower look swollen.
female cucumber flower
You can see the swollen part (like a tiny cucumber!) behind this female cucumber flower.

Some examples of monoecious cucumber varieties include:

Do Monoecious Cucumbers Need More Than One Plant to Produce Fruit?

Monoecious cucumbers need only one plant to pollinate and produce fruit.

This is because a bee could visit a male flower on the plant, gather pollen, and then visit a female flower on the same plant to pollinate it.

bumblebee
Bees can pollinate a single monoecious cucumber plant by moving pollen from male flowers to female flowers.

Although you only need one monoecious cucumber plant to get fruit, it doesn’t hurt to have more than one plant.

In fact, having more plants means more flowers, which in turn means more bees.  This will give your plants more chances to pollinate successfully and produce more fruit.

When planting multiple cucumbers, space them 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters) apart without support.  If using a support, such as a trellis, space the plants 1 foot (30 centimeters) apart.

You can learn more about high cucumbers will climb (and how to support them) in my article here.

If you find that there is a lack of bees and other pollinators in your yard, you can take matters into your own hands.

To hand pollinate, all you need to do is move the pollen from inside the male flower to inside the female flower.  There are a few different ways to do this, including the use of:

  • a brush with soft bristles (like a toothbrush or paintbrush)
  • a cotton swab
  • a male cucumber flower (First, break off the flower.  Then, put the stamens in the male flower inside the female flower.  Don’t feel bad about breaking off the male flower – it will eventually fall off anyway, and it cannot produce fruit!)
electric toothbrush
A toothbrush can help you to pollinate cucumber flowers. It doesn’t have to be an electric toothbrush.

When doing hand pollination for cucumber plants, use the newest male flowers you can find.  This increases the chance of successful pollination.

According to the New Mexico State University:

“Each morning collect pollen from the stamens in the center of the male flowers and then transfer that pollen to the stigma in the center of the female flowers. Use a small, soft bristled paint brush to do this. If you are successful, you should see small cucumbers forming within a few days.”

https://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/yard/2008/072608.html

Of course, you can use this same method to transfer pollen from the male flowers on monoecious plants to female flowers on gynoecious plants.

Gynoecious Cucumbers

According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a gynoecious cucumber variety is one that produces only female flowers (or only a few male flowers).

female cucumber flower
A gynoecious cucumber plant has only female flowers (some may have the rare male flower).

One benefit of a gynoecious variety is that more female flowers give you the opportunity to get more fruit from a single plant in a growing season.

One disadvantage of a gynoecious variety is that there are no male flowers (or very few).  If there are no male flowers, then the cucumber plant cannot pollinate itself.

Even with a few male flowers around, the chances of pollination are still decreased.  A lone gynoecious cucumber plant has very little chance of getting proper pollination in order to produce fruit.

Some examples of gynoecious cucumber varieties include:

Do Gynoecious Cucumbers Need More Than One Plant to Produce Fruit?

Gynoecious cucumbers usually need more than one plant to produce fruit.  However, the key is to make sure that the other plant is monoecious.

This ensures that it has plenty of male flowers to produce enough pollen for the female flowers.  Some companies, such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, will include a few monoecious seeds along with a gynoecious variety.

Just remember that planting multiple gynoecious cucumbers will not improve the chance of pollination.

However, as long as you plant a couple of monoecious cucumbers in your garden, there should be enough pollen to go around.

As mentioned earlier, a lack of bees means that you might need to do some hand pollination to get the female flowers to produce fruit.

You may need to be quick about it: female flowers are only open for about a day.  With such a short window for hand pollination, you will need to watch your plants closely every day!

cucumber plant
To get cucumbers from hand pollination, you will need to watch your plants closely and spring into action when the female flowers appear!

However, there is a case when you don’t need any pollination at all: parthenocarpic cucumbers.

Parthenocarpic Cucumbers

According to Wikipedia, a parthenocarpic cucumber variety is one that produces fruit without fertilization (pollination).  This results in fruit that has no seeds.

One benefit of a parthenocarpic variety is that you can get fruit without the need for pollination.  This is helpful if the bee population in your area is down and you don’t have time to hand pollinate.

One disadvantage of a parthenocarpic variety is that there are no seeds in the fruit.  This means that you cannot save the seeds for planting the same variety the next year.

seed package
One downside of parthenocarpic cucumber plants is that you don’t get any seeds to save for planting next year.

You can learn more about saving seeds in my article here.

Some examples of parthenocarpic cucumber varieties include:

Do Parthenocarpic Cucumbers Need More Than One Plant to Produce Fruit?

Parthenocarpic cucumbers do not need more than one plant to produce fruit.  They produce fruit without pollination, eliminating the need for male flowers and the pollen they produce.

When Do Cucumber Plants Produce Fruit After Pollination?

The time to fruit maturity after pollination will vary, depending on the type of cucumber.  According to the Michigan State University Extension:

  • Small pickling cucumbers (1 inch diameter or less) mature in only 4 or 5 days (less than a week) after pollination.
  • Large pickling cucumbers (2 inch diameter) mature in 8 to 10 days (1 to 1.5 weeks) after pollination.
  • Slicing cucumbers mature in 15 to 18 days (2 to 2.5 weeks) after pollination.
pickling cucumbers
Pickling cucumbers are smaller and will mature faster after pollination than larger slicing cucumbers.

If you want to know when to expect cucumbers based on the planting date, you can find out when cucumber plants produce fruit in my article here.

If you are worried about flowers but no fruit on your cucumber plants, remember that the male flowers show up first.  Sometimes, the male flowers appear weeks before the female flowers.

However, if you think there is a different problem, it might be worth looking into.  You can learn more about what causes flowers but no fruit on cucumber plants in my article here.

Another Way to Pollinate Cucumbers

You can also try using blossom set spray to pollinate your cucumbers.  This spray provides kinetin, a plant hormone, which causes flowers on cucumbers to produce fruit without pollination.

You can learn more about blossom set spray works in my article here.

Conclusion

Now you know which cucumber varieties need more than one plant to produce fruit.  You also know how to pollinate by hand, if needed.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jonathon. I’m the gardening guy (not guru!) who is encouraging everyone to spend more time in the garden. I try to help solve common gardening problems so that you can get the best harvest every year!

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