Flower Fail: Blossoms Aren’t Pretty When Zucchini Won’t Fruit

Having trouble growing zucchini in your garden? Here's one possible reason why you're getting a small yield of this popular summer squash.

June 28, 2021
Zucchini Blossom And Squash

Zucchini Plant

Zucchini plants pump out squash and edible blossoms.

Photo by: Julie Martens Forney

Julie Martens Forney

In this feature, garden authority Gayla Trail, the creator of YouGrowGirl.com, answers frequently asked questions and offers gardening advice.

Question: My Zucchini Flowers But Won't Fruit. Why Isn't My Zucchini Plant Producing?

I get this question a lot. Here's the situation as it's usually described to me: My zucchini have beautiful blossoms but they fall off with no fruit. If fruit do develop, the little things rot away. I end up with only one or two zucchini per plant. This happens every year. I water constantly. Why does this happen?

Answer:

Sounds to me like you are doing everything right. Zucchinis need more water during the fruiting stage, so you’re on the right track unless you are quite literally watering constantly! Based on your description, I’d say the reason your plants aren’t setting fruit is because they are not being pollinated. This can be caused by a lack of pollinators or simply because the pollinators aren’t moving between flowers and transferring the pollen.

Zucchini 101

How to Plant and Grow Zucchini

Get tips for planting, growing and harvesting a bumper crop of this super squash.

Most common garden plants produce flowers that have their male and female parts crammed into one. However, the reproductive processes of squash plants are separated into distinctly male and female flowers. A pollinating insect must transfer the pollen from the male flower to the stigma inside a female flower for fruit to develop.

pollinating squash

Pollinating Squash

In this photo of a yellow squash, you can see the female flower with immature fruit (technically the ovary) behind the flower, and the stigma from a male flower being used to pollinate. It's the same for zucchini and any other plant in the squash family, including winter squash and pumpkins.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

Image courtesy of Felder Rushing

In this photo of a yellow squash, you can see the female flower with immature fruit (technically the ovary) behind the flower, and the stigma from a male flower being used to pollinate. It's the same for zucchini and any other plant in the squash family, including winter squash and pumpkins.

The fruit then develops from the female flower only. Squash plants tend to produce loads of male flowers early in the season, sometimes well before the first females start to show up. This can account for what appears to be a fruit set problem early on. The male flowers are useless until the females arrive, but they are delicious stuffed with ricotta cheese and fried in batter!

More Advice

Companion Planting for Zucchini

Zucchini plants will produce loads of fruit if they don't get taken down by common pests and diseases. Try companion planting techniques to boost your zucchini harvest.

Since you have described what sounds like immature fruit dropping off, I’d say your plants are producing females, but are not being properly pollinated. The solution to your dilemma is to hand pollinate the female flowers with the males.

It’s simple. Here’s how.

Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

The first thing you’ll need to do is identify the male and female flowers. Males have a straight, thin stem just behind the petals. They contain the anther inside, which should be loaded up with powdery, yellow pollen. Females are easily identified by a tiny, immature zucchini fruit (or ovary) that sits just behind the petals. Depending on the variety, it sometimes looks more like a thickened stem than a fruit.

How to Hand Pollinate

Zucchini flowers tend to open up wide in the morning and are often closed by the afternoon, so it is important to hand pollinate in the morning. Pluck a fully open male flower from the plant. Peel off the petals to expose the pollen-heavy anther. Gently brush the pollen over the stigma of a fully opened female flower. That’s it!

Over the next few days you should see the small zucchini begin to swell and grow into a fruit. Harvest when it is about 3-6 inches.

Next Up

Tips for Edible Gardening in Small Spaces

Make the most of a small garden space by mixing flowers and vegetables in an ornamental edible garden.

Getting the Most Out of Vegetable Gardens

These tips will teach you how to reap bigger, better and more plentiful produce.

Plant a Soup Garden

Grab your stock pot! Soup’s on the menu when you fill your garden with crops that blend beautifully with flavorful broth.

Perennial Vegetables and Herbs

Fill your dinner table with the homegrown flavors of edible perennials.

How to Plan a Vegetable Crop Rotation

A crop rotation plan is a helpful tool to keep your garden productive and organized.

How to Grow Edibles in a Drought

A California chef offers tips for growing hearty vegetables and herbs in dry conditions.

Grow an Indoor Kitchen Garden

Author Elizabeth Millard teaches you how to grow microgreens and other nutritious edibles indoors year-round.

9 Plants You Can Start From Kitchen Scraps

You can regrow kitchen scraps into vegetables with these handy tips from HGTV.

Companion Planting for Onions

Onions are easy to grow and so ueful in the kitchen. Learn what other vegetables and herbs grow well with onions in the garden.

Companion Planting for Okra

Boost your okra harvest by planting with companion plants, plus learn about creative ways to use okra in the garden.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Flip or Flop

7:30am | 6:30c

Flip or Flop

8:30am | 7:30c

Flip or Flop

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30pm | 11:30c

Home Town

1pm | 12c

Home Town

2pm | 1c

Home Town

3pm | 2c

Home Town

4pm | 3c

Home Town

5pm | 4c

Home Town

6pm | 5c

Home Town

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Renovation, Inc.

8pm | 7c

Hawaii Life

9pm | 8c

Hawaii Life

9:31pm | 8:31c

Lakefront Bargain Hunt

10:31pm | 9:31c

Beach Hunters

11pm | 10c

Island Hunters

11:31pm | 10:31c

Hawaii Life

12am | 11c

Hawaii Life

12:30am | 11:30c

Lakefront Bargain Hunt

1:30am | 12:30c

Island Hunters

2:30am | 1:30c

Renovation, Inc.

2:59am | 1:59c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Related Pages