Hand Pollinating Melons - How To Hand Pollinate Melons

Melon Plants
(Image credit: Senkumar Alfred)

Hand pollinating melon plants like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew may seem unnecessary, but for some gardeners who have difficulty attracting pollinators, like those who garden on high balconies or in high pollution areas, hand pollination for melons is essential in order to get fruit. Let's look at how to hand pollinate melons.

How to Hand Pollinate Melons

In order to hand pollinate melons, you need to make sure that your melon plant has both male and female flowers. Male melon flowers will have a stamen, which is a pollen covered stalk that sticks up in the center of the flower. Female flowers will have a sticky knob, called a stigma, inside the flower (that the pollen will stick to) and the female flower will also sit on top of an immature, tiny melon. You need at least one male and one female flower for hand pollinating melon plants. Both male and female melon flowers are ready for the pollination process when they are open. If they are still shut, they are still immature and will not be able to either give or receive viable pollen. When melon flowers open, they will only be ready for pollinating for about a day, so you need to move quickly to hand pollinate melons. After you make sure you have at least one male melon flower and one female melon flower, you have two choices on how to hand pollinate the melon flowers. The first is to use the male flower itself and the second is to use a paintbrush.

Using a Male Melon Flower for Hand Pollinating Melons

Hand pollination for melons with the male flower starts with carefully removing a male flower from the plant. Strip away the petals so that the stamen is left. Carefully insert the stamen into an open female flower and gently tap the stamen on the stigma (the sticky knob). Try to evenly coat the stigma with pollen. You can use your stripped male flower several times on other female flowers. As long as there is pollen left on the stamen, you can hand pollinate other female melon flowers.

Using a Paintbrush for Hand Pollination for Melons

You can also use a paintbrush to hand pollinate melon plants. Use a small paintbrush and swirl it around the male flower's stamen. The paintbrush will pick up the pollen and you can them “paint” the stigma of the female flower. You can use the same male flower to hand pollinate other female flowers on the melon vine, but you will need to repeat the process of picking up the pollen from the male flower each time.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.