Cucumbers are a great addition to any garden. They grow quickly, produce lots of fruit, and are easy to care for. But sometimes, cucumbers will have more male flowers instead of female ones. So, the question is, how to increase female flowers in cucumbers? This article explains why this happens and offers tips on how to increase female flowers.
To increase female flowers in cucumbers, do the following:
- Select the Suitable Varieties,
- Grow Them at the Right Temperature,
- Water Frequently,
- Fertilize Them,
- Control Weeds,
- Give Them Space,
- Harvest Regularly,
- Control Pests.
What Is The Difference Between Cucumber Male And Female Flowers?
First, you need to know the difference between male and female cucumber flowers. It is easy to tell the difference. The female flowers have a small fruit behind them, while the male flowers do not.
Cucumbers produce male and female flowers. Female cucumber flowers are not able to produce fruit on their own. They need male flowers to fertilize them. A few male cucumber flowers can pollinate multiple female flowers at once. And that’s how the babies are made… I mean… cucumbers are formed…
What Are The Ways To Increase Female Flowers In Cucumbers?
There are several methods to increase female flowers in cucumbers. So, let’s check these 8 methods plus an important extra tip at the end.
1. Select the Suitable Cucumber Varieties
The best way to increase female flowers in cucumbers is to choose suitable varieties. If you need more female flowers on your cucumber plants, consider planting more Gynoecious varieties (varieties that produce female flowers only) with some Monoecious varieties (varieties that produce male and female flowers). If you grow all gynoecious types, you might lack male flowers. Without male flowers, fertilization would be impossible. Therefore, mix both varieties to get an optimal male and female flower ratio.
There are a lot of cucumber varieties in the market. You can choose them by:
- The color of the fruit,
- The size of the fruit,
- The flavor of the fruit,
- The shelf life of the fruit.
Select the varieties that meet your needs.
Still, cucumber varieties alone will not increase female flowers. You need to care for all other factors mentioned below also.
2. Temperature Requirement for Cucumbers
The ratio between cucumber male and female flowers is highly affected by environmental condition changes. Especially temperatures.
Long summer days and high temperatures can suppress the formation of female flowers.  So, this is why there is an increase in female flowers and cucumbers after the summer heat has passed.
Temperatures can be manipulated if you are growing cucumbers in temperature-controlled greenhouses. But we, regular home growers, should follow the natural cycle of the season. With that being said, it is still possible to get a good harvest of cucumbers. Just ensure you pick the variety that will grow well in your zone and follow the planting instructions on the seed packet. Basically, do not plant your cucumbers too early.
3. Water Cucumber Plants Frequently
Watering is an essential part of growing any plant. By watering regularly, you will avoid root rot or drought stress. If you water too often, the plant’s roots can become damaged. On the other hand, if you don’t give them enough water, plants will dehydrate, and you will end up with small, hard-skinned cucumbers.
Use a “finger test” to determine if you need to water your plants. Simply press your finger 2 inches (5 cm) into the soil. If the soil feels dry, water the plants. If it feels moist, don’t.
Suppose you need to water your cucumber plants. In that case, it is always better to water them in the morning or early afternoon. Plants will have time to absorb the water and nutrients before the day’s heat comes and evaporates the moisture.
Regular soil moisture tests (“finger test”) and watering will help you keep your plants healthy. Healthy cucumber plants produce more female and male flowers.
4. Give Cucumber Plants Enough Fertilizer
Fertilizer is vital for the improvement of nutrients in the soil. However, over or under usage of fertilizers can detrimentally affect the development of female or male flowers in cucumbers.
The soil that is rich in organic matter, such as composted animal manure, will encourage more female cucumber flowers. Adding organic liquid fertilizer high in Nitrogen and Potassium will improve soil quality and promote more female flowers. Nitrogen is responsible for the overall growth of plants, while Potassium is responsible for flower and fruit formation.
Be aware that too much fertilizer can kill your plants. So, always apply fertilizer as recommended on the label. The frequency of application on most labels will state to apply fertilizer every 14 days (2 weeks).
Pro Tip: Do not add fertilizer if it is raining. Adding more liquid can suffocate the roots. Let the soil dry a bit. Read the frequently asked questions about fertilizer for more information.
5. Control Weeds Around Cucumber Plants
Weeds can take over your garden if you don’t control them. They will suck up all the nutrients around the plant. Although they will not hurt the cucumber plant directly, the plant will be deprived of nutrients. If cucumber does not have enough nutrients to form fruit, it will start dropping the female flowers and might not develop new ones. Therefore, fewer nutrients = fewer female flowers.
The best way to prevent weeds from taking over your garden is to use a mulch. Mulching will keep weeds down and also helps to retain moisture.
The best mulch for the fruit and vegetable garden is wood chips. Not only will it act as a weed barrier, but as the wood decomposes, it will leak the nutrients into the soil and feed your cucumber plants.
Pro Tip 1: Avoid using weed control fabrics as they can become a perfect hiding spot for slugs.
Pro Tip 2: Do not use weed control sprays around your cucumber plants. You will kill weeds but also your cucumber plants.
Read more about garden weeds in our “What Makes A Plant A Weed?” article.
6. Give Cucumber Plants Some Space
You can’t have too many cucumbers… Oh yes, you can!
One of the most common mistakes in vegetable gardening is planting cucumbers too closely together. When cucumber plants are overcrowded, some female flowers can just start to fall off. This problem is not limited to cucumbers. Overcrowding negatively affects most plants.
Give your plants some space to grow and flourish. Depending on the variety, cucumber plants should be 18 – 24 inches (45 – 61 cm) apart to produce more female flowers.
Enough spacing between the plants promotes air circulation and gives space to the growing fruit. It also reduces the chances of disease. Proper air circulation will increase the overall health of the cucumber plant.
Pro Tip: Grow your cucumbers vertically using poles or trellises. This way, you can save a lot of space in your garden.
7. Harvest Cucumbers As Soon As Possible
Pick cucumbers when they are ripe or earlier. Avoid letting them go overripe (yellow, bloated, tough skin).
The lifecycle of a cucumber is simple and similar to all other annual plants. The cucumber plant grows to produce seeds to grow again next year. If at least one fruit is overripe, that means that the seeds for the next year were successfully developed. When that happens, the plant slows down or completely halts the flower and fruit production.
By harvesting cucumbers regularly and early, you will encourage the plant to produce more female flowers to increase the chances of forming seeds.
8. Cucumber Pests Control
Pests can damage and destroy female cucumber flowers. Some will chew only on flower petals, and some will eat the whole flowers and small fruits. In contrast, others will suck on plant juices stopping male and female flowers from emerging completely.
Below is a list of the main cucumber pests and the best way to control them.
Slugs are one of the garden’s worst and most destructive pests. They eat leaves, stems, and flowers and can even chew on fruits. Slugs hide during the day, but they will move to the surface during the night.
Control. Avoid using traditional slug and snail baits containing metaldehyde or methiocarb. These are chemical compounds toxic not only to slugs and snails but also to all other animals. Instead, choose organic pellets for slug control. You can also use live biological control by attracting frogs, toads, turtles, salamanders, shrews, and moles. Or, pick snails and slugs during the evening and throw them into a bucket with soapy water.
Cucumber beetles are small, yellow, and very fast beetles with either black stripes or black spots. Adults will chew on plant leaves and can even eat the entire blossoms. Most importantly, these beetles can carry and transmit cucumber mosaic virus and bacterial wilt, which can be detrimental to your plants.
Control. Control organically by spraying Neem oil spray onto your plants. You can also use a live biological control by attracting beneficial insects such as assassin bugs, parasitic wasps, or tachinid flies. These beneficial insects feed on cucumber beetle eggs, larvae, and adults.
Squash bugs are large brown-colored insects. Adults are about half an inch (~15 mm) long. They suck the sap from plants and cause leaf distortion and wilting. Squash bugs are not only harmful to cucumber plants but also to pumpkins, zucchinis, melons, and squash plants.
Control. Control organically by using neem oil spray. Also, attract beneficial insects such as praying mantis, spiders, and tachinid flies to your garden to control these pests.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck plant juices. They are usually green but can be black, peach or orange. Aphids are found on the stem or on the underside of leaves. They can cause leaf deformation, reduction in flower formation, and even fruit dropping.
Control. Aphids can be controlled organically using horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or neem oil spray. You can also attract beneficial insects like aphidius wasps, assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, damsel bugs, ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, minute pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, spiders, praying mantis, and tachinid flies to your garden. Read more about aphids, their lifecycle, and control.
Any of these pests can do significant damage to your cucumber plants. This damage will prevent female flowers (and even male flowers) from forming. So, pest control is essential for increasing female flowers on cucumber plants.
Pro Tip: It is to get your hands on pesticides and spray all bugs off your plants. However, this can be detrimental to your garden. You will not only kill pests but also destroy beneficial insects. In addition, all the chemicals you spay might be absorbed by the plant and end up on your plate.
So, avoid pesticides and work with nature, not against it! You will see the difference with your own eyes 😉
Extra Tip – Cucumber Plant Pollination
Cucumber plant pollination will not increase the number of female flowers but will increase the number of fruits.
Female cucumber flowers might start falling unexpectedly. It happens when there are not enough pollinators to fertilize the cucumber flowers. So, you need to increase the number of pollinators in your garden.
You should grow beneficial insect-friendly plants and attract pollinators, or you can hand-pollinate the female flowers with a small brush, but it can be so time-consuming.
Pro Tip: Usually, the main reason for the reduction in pollinators is the use of pesticides and herbicides. So, avoid using them, and you will see an increase in pollinators and other beneficial insects in your garden.
Hopefully, you have learned all about how to increase female flowers in cucumbers after reading this article. If you apply the mentioned steps and properly take care of your cucumber plants, you’ll surely get more female flowers. More female flower means more cucumbers on your plate!
Check out our How To Grow Cucumbers – Easy Step By Step Guide to learn more.
Also, check out other similar articles in our Gardening How To section.
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