Gardeners’ Guide: How to Hand Pollinate

Pollination is an essential process in the life cycle of a plant. Without it, there would be no more next generation for the different species of plants. There are several ways how plants can pollinate, and one of these needs the assistance of humans. There is so-called hand pollination which is also known as mechanical pollination. It refers to a technique used when natural pollination is insufficient or undesirable. Meaning, you can use this process to avoid cross-pollination among varieties cultivated together. If you want to learn how to hand pollinate, this guide is for you.

Why Hand Pollinate Plants?

Gardeners have different reasons why they hand-pollinate plants. Aside from the benefits it provides, some plants need assistance when it comes to pollination. There are times when plants lack pollinators, while other reasons include keeping control of cross-pollination between varieties grown together and creating specific hybrids.

The following are the other reasons why you should learn how to hand pollinate:

  • There are times when the pollinator declines, meaning concentrated pollination needs of monoculture.
  • It is used to avoid wasting space and energy by growing sufficient male plants for adequate natural pollination. 
  • Hand pollination is ideal for small market gardeners and owners of individual plants. 
  • There are species of plants that can’t be pollinated with other varieties because they have different flowering times.
  • Learning how to pollinate is helpful, especially when cross-pollinating two species of plants. This process allows the gardeners to create a new variety of a specific type of plant. Through cross-pollination, you can produce varying colors, disease resistance, or other genetic traits to the new variety.
  • Hand pollination also keeps the plant from self-hybridizing.
  • When you pollinate by hand, you increase the chance of successful pollination, especially in the absence of bees and other pollinators. For instance, pumpkin growers hand pollinate the female flowers to ensure a good fruit set. Even home gardeners can also use the process for corn to provide a full ear.

How to Pollinate

Have you ever wondered how you can hand pollinate? Here are some ways to do it correctly:

Cone Pollination

There are specific plants that produce cones with hidden pollen for seed production, such as the cycad. When hand-pollinating a cycad, make sure to remove some pollen from the cone’s interior. You can do this using a small, spooned tool. Be careful when blowing the pollen onto another cone to ensure that the grains enter the cone’s crevices. Consider diluting the pollen in water to inject it into the cone using an eyedropper.

Shaking or Dusting

Some plants can pollinate by themselves. But it doesn’t always guarantee successful pollination. To hand pollinate self-pollinating plants, you may use a brush or shake the plant. For instance, you can shake a blooming tomato plant which moves the pollen around each flower for pollination. If you have plants with a tassel, simply shake a tassel above the corn’s female silks to dust pollen successfully between the organs.


You may rub the stamen directly against the stigma. Do this until you see the pollen move between the organs. You may also use a small paintbrush to move the pollen between several blossoms for increased fertilization success.

Learning how to hand pollinate is a must for gardeners because not all plants can self-pollinate. With hand pollination, you can help the plants to reproduce their kind or create a new hybrid of plants. Although hand pollination seems challenging, there are several and simple ways to do it. Make sure to follow this guide for successful hand pollination.

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