Sexing Squash (no mood music required)

B. Male, C. Female – Illustration courtesy of ANR Repository/UCCE Riverside

A common complaint I’ve heard among gardeners is that although their squash flowered, the blooms eventually fell off without setting any fruit.

One of the reasons for this occurrence is that the blossoms were probably male. Squash plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The males produce the pollen, and the females set fruit.

Typically, the first flowing of the season is male. The female flowers will come next and the fruit should form. However, check to see if the squash is a hybrid. If so, the squash will produce female flowers first, but fail to develop fruit unless there are male squash flowers and bees nearby.

To determine the sex of the flower, look at the base of the flower. The male flowers are slender while female flowers have a bulbous part (ovary) at the base.   Knowing the sex of the flower can help ease concern over fruit set because if its a male flower, then there is no expectation of fruit set.  If, on the other hand, female flowers are forming but fruit is not setting, the fruit is misshapen or fruit yields are low, then poor pollination is probably the culprit.

Cucurbit Centerfold -- (Left) Female (Right) Male

Cucurbit Centerfold — (Left) Female (Right) Male

Next up, Getting Your Pollination On