How to Hand Pollinate Your Indoor Plants
3 Quick and easy ways to hand pollinate and help your indoor plants
Having indoor plants transcends simply beautifying a dull indoor space, and that it does… but beyond that, they have been known to elevate your mood, help with stress, and some are even great for air purification and oxygen provision.
But what happens when some of your beloved indoor plants are experiencing pollination problems? After all they are indoors where pollinators are not so frequent.
Pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from the male parts of a flower to the female parts of a flower, in order to fertilize a plant… fertilization is important for a plant to produce seed. Vegetable plants that bear fruits such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and squash all need pollination for the fruit to set.
Vegetables such as carrots, beets and broccoli can produce without pollination because their seed is not a part of the vegetable or fruit. Instead, the seed is produced after the plant has already given off its produce. On the other hand, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers have seeds within the fruit that they bear, so they are actually producing the seed and the fruit at the same time. Therefore those plants need pollination for the fruit to grow.
How pollination happens
There are four general ways that pollination happens and that is through animals, wind, self pollination and human or hand pollination. Some plants are self pollinating, their flowers fertilize themselves either within the same flower or from another flower on the same plant. Most plants are pollinated outdoors by animals as they go from plant to plant searching for food. This includes birds, bees, butterflies and anything really that hops around from plant to plant.
Having an indoor garden or greenhouse garden means you will have some problems with your plants being naturally pollinated. If there are no birds or bees it’s very difficult for pollination to take place.
Another good pollinator is the wind, this is typically how corn gets pollinated. The pollen is blown by the wind from the tassels on the top of the corn plant, to the corn silk that hangs out at the end of each year of corn. Corn is best planted in multiple adjacent rows rather than a single row for this reason, it’s better for pollination.
The third way that plants can get pollinated is by pollinating themselves, these types of plants are called self pollinating. A good example of a self pollinating plant is the tomato plant, however not all. Plants can sometimes pollinate themselves by having the male parts grow into contact with the female parts of the flower, especially if both parts are on the same flower.
How to hand pollinate
The next method of pollination is using your hands. What do you do if you’re growing indoors and the plant does not self pollinate, well you have to do it by hand just like the birds and the bees.
Here are a few ways you can hand pollinate your indoor plants and give them the help they need:
1: Toothbrush or q-tip
To identify the male flowers and the female flowers, usually the male flowers will appear first on the plant and the female flowers can be easily identified by the fruit behind them. The male flowers however, do not have any fruit behind their flowers.
Also if you were to peel back the petals of a male flower you will see the male parts that are protruding, and that is called a stamen. The female plant will often have a hole in the middle and works pretty much the same for flowers as it does for humans.
Once you’ve identified your male and female flowers, take a q-tip or a small paintbrush and go into the male flower and swish it around to get a bit of the pollen on the q-tip or brush.
When you’ve collected enough pollen, take your q-tip or brush and go over to the female flower and place it inside of the flower.
2: Shake the plant
If the q-tip method does not work for you, you can always shake the plants rather than to go from flower to flower with a q-tip. That’s what the wind does in nature. You can do this indoors or run a fan to help with the air circulation so that the pollen can distribute itself.
3: Electric toothbrush
Another method is to use an electric toothbrush and place it on the plant’s stem so that they vibrate and release the pollen into the air.
If you pollinate correctly you will be rewarded with a nice healthy vegetable. If a fruiting female flower does not produce and instead shrivels up, then it is likely that it wasn’t pollinated properly.
Many tomato plants self-fertilize so shaking the plant or using an electric toothbrush works fine. However plants like the cucumber plant will need more than just a shake up, so you may need to go from flower to flower with a brush.
However, if you are looking for plants like cucumber but do not want to go through the process of hand pollination, you can always try to purchase plant seeds that set fruit without needing to be pollinated. These are called parthenocarpic fruits or vegetables, but if hand pollination is not a problem for you, those are three methods you can use to ensure that you have flourishing plants all year round.