What’s the Difference Between Male and Female Pumpkin Flowers?

What do pumpkin flower look like?
Pumpkin flowers can be female or male – what is the difference?

Female Pumpkin Flowers

Although you may not tell at a glance, the female flowers of a pumpkin have outstanding features that distinguish them from the male flowers. The stalk of the female flower is short and thick. Underneath it, is a green ovary the size of a berry. It is this ovary that swells to form a pumpkin after fertilization. 

The female flower wilts out after fertilization takes place. You will also notice that the female flower appears after the male one. Another important fact to mention is that the female flower has a stigma at the multi-segmented center. Its work is to receive pollen grains during fertilization. 

What Do Female Pumpkin Flowers Look Like?

Female pumpkin flowers appear about ten to fourteen days after the first male flower. When they start to bloom, they will have a slight swelling on the stem before the flower appears.

Once the flower appears, pollination occurs, and it gets fertilized; this slight swelling starts to bulge as it develops into a pumpkin. It also has a shorter and thicker stalk than the male blossom. After blooming, when the flower is ready to receive pollen, it displays a cluster of stigmas. 

Pumpkin vines produce female flowers after the male as a strategy to help in effective pollination. The bright yellow male blossoms attract bees as soon as they appear. Once they try the nectar, these bees learn to make frequent visits to the pumpkin flowers as their daily source of food.

When the female flowers start to appear, there are about eight male ones attracting pollinators. It means pollination will occur immediately, and the female flower gets fertilized, ready to form a pumpkin.

Video – The difference between a male and female flower (PUMPKIN)

Short video showing how to compare male and female pumpkin flowers

Male and Female Pumpkin Flowers

It is easy to distinguish between a female and male flower on a pumpkin vine. A male flower sprouts straight up the vine with long stamens, while a female one has a small fruit-like swelling at the base and has a short and thick stalk.

Here are more distinguishing features between male and female pumpkin blossoms.

Male Female 
Male flowers appear first Female appears a few days or a week after the male 
The male flowers are more than the femaleFemale blooms are fewer, with a ratio of male to female being 10:1
Male flowers have a short lifespan but open new blooms each morning to lure pollinatorsA female pumpkin flower is short-lived and lasts only up to four hours. The petals open early in the morning and close in the late afternoon
It has a cylindrical structure of several stamens gathered together to produce pollen grainsIt has multi-segmented stigmas at the center that receive pollen from the male flower
Male stamens are active and produce functional pollen at the topFemale flowers have stamen, but they are dormant and cannot produce helpful pollen

Is there a need to remove pumpkin flowers?

You should remove pumpkin flowers if you want to get giant pumpkins. A typical pumpkin plant will keep producing flowers and baby fruits until frost sets in.

Such a situation can pose competition over nutrients. The plant has only two primary vines, which produce flowers and small fruits along the stems.

You have to prune the small pumpkins and extra flowers once you have the number you want. In addition to that, remember you only remove the female flowers that can develop into pumpkins. 

If you can not easily tell the female flower from the male, remove them all. Before pruning, allow the pumpkins to grow to the size of a softball.

Sometimes the plant has its self-pruning mechanism. Removing excess flowers and fruits enables the plant to provide enough energy for faster, healthier growth.

Picture of Male and Female Pumpkin Flowers

Male and female pumpkin flower comparison
The female pumpkin flower is on the left on the image above

The picture of male and female pumpkin flowers above show the distinctive features used to tell them apart, from the stamens in the male to the multi-segmented stigmas in the female.

The size of their stalks could also be a notable difference. The small swelling at the bottom of the female flower is also a significant difference to note. Check out these pictures of the male and female pumpkin blossoms.

Why Some Pumpkin Plants Have No Female Flowers?

Once you notice the first male flower on your pumpkin plant, you start expecting a female flower within a week or two. Sometimes you may wait unusually long, but there is no sign of female flowers coming. That is when you start to worry about why it is the case. The following reasons could lead to the lack of female flowers on a pumpkin plant. 

  1. Poor Nutrition 

A pumpkin plant uses more energy in producing female flowers than male ones. So, if you have male flowers but the female is not appearing, you need to improve the soil. If you are growing your pumpkin in a container, you know that it loses more nutrients than a regular garden. 

  1. Lack of Sun 

A pumpkin plant will not produce female blooms if it does not receive the right amount of sunlight every day. Any fruit-bearing plant requires at least six hours of sun in a day for maximum blooming, that includes pumpkin plants. To solve this problem, you need to clear shade if you are planting in a traditional garden, and for container growers, relocate the plant to a sunnier site.

  1. Stress 

Just like animals and humans, plants cannot do well under pressure. Environmental stress like poor watering, extreme heat, sudden colds weather, or plant pastes and diseases can interfere with the plant’s normal functioning. Correct any stressful conditions, and your pumpkin will produce female blooms and subsequent fruits.

  1. Males are more than Females

Sometimes you might feel like the plant is not producing female blossoms because the males are outnumbering the latter. Relax that is okay. The males need to be more so that there is enough pollen to pollinate the females when they come.

Infographic comparing pumpkin flowers – male vs female

Compare male and female pumpkin flowers
How to tell the difference between male and female pumpkin flowers

How to Encourage Female Pumpkin Flowers

If your pumpkin plant is not producing female flowers, you are sure not to expect any fruits. It means that you should think of ways to encourage the production of female blooms.

The first thing is to find out the cause problem before finding a solution. It could result from poor nutrition, stress, or inadequate exposure to sunlight. Here are some possible ways to encourage female flowers.

  • Proper Watering 

Pumpkin plants do not appreciate the overhead watering method as it may lead to fungal diseases attacking the leaves and the buds. Female flowers appear for a short time before closing. If they suffer these infections, they will abort before you notice them. The best way is to avoid overhead watering to protect the buds.

  • Use of Fertilizers

The lack of nutrients in the soil is a significant reason for the lack of female flowers. You can boost the soil by adding suitable fertilizers. Potassium encourages the general functioning of the plant. Phosphorous is best for flower and fruit production.

You can opt for bloom food that contains high potassium and phosphorous levels to encourage the production of female blooms in weak pumpkin plants. 

Why Are My Pumpkin Flowers Not Turning into Pumpkins?

If your pumpkin plant is flowering correctly, but there are no fruits to show for it, it could only be one or all the following reasons. 

  1. Lack of Pollination

If the plant has both male and female blooms and still the female ovary is not bulging to form fruit, then pollination has not occurred. An unpollinated ovary will wilt and eventually fall off. It would be best if you planted bee-attracting flowers near your pumpkin plants. If this is not working, consider hand pollination.

  1. Extreme Heat

Too much heat causes the young fruits or flowers to wither and drop prematurely. The heat stress can also make the flowers dormant that they stop growing. You can implement shade to reduce the heat. Still, increase water during the hot season and trap moisture in the soil using mulch.

  1. Excess Nitrogen

Nitrogen encourages the growth of more vines but not flowers. If the soil contains too much of it, consider balancing it with phosphorous to press flowers.

How Can You Tell if a Pumpkin Flower Is Pollinated?

One sure way to determine if your pumpkin flower has been pollinated is to experiment. When the blooms open in the morning, snip a male flower from its mother and remove the petals, to expose the anthers.

Using this anther, dab pollen on various female flowers. If pollination occurs, the ovary will grow, and the pollen will develop into seeds. If it is poorly pollinated, the flower will fall off the vine.

Are Pumpkin Flowers Edible?

Pumpkin blossoms are edible and popular in southern India and other countries where they are used as an ingredient in soups and cuisine. Not only that, they contain vitamin B9 and bear many health benefits. It also helps with infertility issues and improves the quality of sperm in men. 

Other source related to pumpkin flowers

Why A Pumpkin Plant Flowers But No Fruit – Gardening Know …

How to Differentiate Female Pumpkin Flowers From Males

What Does Pumpkin Flower Look Like? Male vs Female

Picture of male and female pumpkin flowers

Clarisse Walters
Essential Garden Guide