Male vs Female Cucumber Flowers: What’s the Difference?

Female cucumber flowers blooming in a vegetable field
yoshi0511/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Updated: August 22, 2023

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The cucumber is a vegetable in the Cucurbitaceae family and is classified as a creeping vine plant. The plant originates from South Asia but is grown nowadays throughout the world. The fruit of this plant is cylindrical in most cases and grows annually.

You can encounter three types of cucumbers in a garden: slicing, pickling, and seedless. Naturally, there are many cultivars with different characteristics available if you’re interested in growing this plant.

Cucumber cultivars require pollination during the growth process. This is because the cucumber plant has male and female flowers on the same specimen – however, only female flowers can grow cucumbers. This is also one of the reasons why farmers often try to increase the production of female flowers in the cucumber plant.

If you want to know more about the differences between male and female cucumber flowers, then keep reading this article!

Comparing Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers

Male cucumber flowerFemale cucumber flower
AppearanceBright yellow, smallSlightly darker yellow, bigger
Blooming time10 days before female flowers10 days after male flowers
Number of flowers10 to 20 times more than female flowers10 to 20 times fewer than male flowers
DensityClusters of three to five flowersSingle flower, not growing in clusters
Stem Grows close to the stem and has a thin stalk; no fruit attached to the flowerLong stem with a small fruit attached to it
Flower centerFeatures stamen that consists of filaments and anthers that produces pollenFeatures the pistil that consists of stigma (a fleshy, sticky structure that pollen gets stuck on), a style (an extension of the ovary that links the stigma to the ovary), and the ovary, which is filled with ovules

Why Is It Important To Tell Male Cucumber Flowers Apart From Female Cucumber Flowers?

It is important to learn how to differentiate between the two because indoor cross-pollination can lead to bitter cucumbers. As such, if you grow cucumber plants indoors, it is essential to pick off the male flowers after they develop to avoid cross-pollination. Picking off male flowers may lead to sweet, but especially seed-free, cucumbers.

This doesn’t apply to outdoor varieties, however. To produce healthy fruits, both female and male flowers are required.

The Key Differences Between Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers

The key differences between the male cucumber flower and the female cucumber flower are appearance, flower center, blooming time, and flower density.

Given that identifying male and female cucumber flowers is essential to your cucumber production, you must know the differences between the two. There are more situations that require your attention, regardless of what variety of cucumber you decide to plant and where. For instance, you might conclude that your plant produces only male flowers – what should you do in this case?

Here are the answers!

Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers: Appearance

Female cucumber flowers blooming in a vegetable field

The female cucumber flower can be a bit darker in color than the male flower.

The male cucumber flower is bright yellow and relatively small compared to the female flowers. It has no unique features and can be easily mistaken for a common yet a bit crinkled flower.

On the other hand, the female cucumber flower can be a bit darker in color than the male flower. However, the main difference is that female flowers have a much longer stem and a small fruit attached to the flower.

Besides these, there are significant differences in what the flower centers look like. Continue reading to find out what we’re talking about!

Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers: Flower Center

The centers of male and female cucumber flowers are extremely different. While it might be difficult for the untrained eye to notice this, each flower center contains elements vital to proper pollination. The male cucumber flower center features the stamen, with its filament and anthers equipped with pollen.

In contrast, the female cucumber flower center features a pistil. The pistil consists of a stigma, style, and ovary. The stigma is a fleshy and sticky structure designed by nature as a place for pollen to stick to, to ease and improve the pollination process. The style is an extension of the ovary designed to connect the stigma to the ovary, thus transporting the pollen to the ovary. And last but not least, the ovary contains the ovules that need to be pollinated. 

Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers: Blooming Time

Male cucumber flowers usually open about 10 days before their female counterparts. This applies to most cucumber varieties. As such, it becomes extremely easy to identify the male flowers of your cucumber part.

If you’re performing daily check-ups on your plant, you can pick off the male flowers in time and guarantee a sweet and seedless harvest. However, that’s for indoor varieties only.

Male vs. Female Cucumber Flowers: Flower Density

 male cucumber flower

If you’re performing daily check-ups on your plant, you can pick off the male flowers in time and guarantee a sweet and seedless harvest.

Male cucumber flowers are usually much more predominant than female flowers. Usually, there are about 10 to 20 male flowers for every female flower. This is why increasing the number of female flowers is important for farmers and occasional growers.

One way to avoid this natural issue is to get a cucumber variety known for producing more female flowers. You can choose gynoecious varieties which produce only female flowers, for example. However, you’ll still need a monoecious variety with male flowers to fertilize the gynoecious plant. While these might be more expensive, they guarantee a rich harvest.

Another difference in terms of flower density is that male cucumber flowers grow in clusters of about three to five. Female flowers, on the other hand, do not grow in clusters.

How Can You Get More Female Flowers on Cucumber Plants?

There may be many reasons why your cucumber plant has fewer female flowers. First, high summer temperatures may influence female cucumber flower growth. If the plant grows in a greenhouse, you can regulate the temperature. 

Female flowers may be fewer if the plant doesn’t have enough fertilizer. Cucumbers need heaps of organic matter to develop female flowers. This can be achieved by using composted animal manure or by feeding the plant with organic fertilizer (preferably in liquid form) rich in potassium but not too rich in nitrogen because excessive nitrogen levels may delay female flower growth.

Moreover, even if you give your plants fertilizer, this will do no good if you have unwanted weeds and grass around your cucumber plants. That’s because they’ll absorb all the nutrients from the soil. This will lead to fewer female flowers. Consequently, it’s recommended to kill all unwanted weeds in your garden before feeding your cucumber with fertilizers. 

Another great way to have more female cucumber flowers is to get a gynoecious variety that produces only female flowers. However, don’t forget that you’ll still need a monoecious variety, as male flowers are required for fertilization. 

Can a Cucumber Plant Have Too Many Flowers?

Feeding the cucumber plant with extremely nutritious fertilizers and keeping it at the same time in proper conditions might lead to the plant having too many flowers. Consequently, there may be fewer fruits.

One of the main reasons this happens is because there are too many male flowers. You should remove some if they grow in excess before the first females appear. Some gardeners say that removing excess male flowers will also give the plant the energy required to grow female flowers. However, it hasn’t been officially confirmed that this method works.

Another reason you’re having too many flowers in your garden and no fruits yet is that there are no pollinators. In this case, you can pollinate the flowers by hand. 

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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