Cucumber. How to identifying male and female flowers.

Cucumber flowers
Cucumber flowers

Behind the bright yellow female flower is a miniature cucumber.

Female cucumber flower

Female cucumber flower

For indoor varieties you do want to pick off the male flowers otherwise your developing cucumber to be pollinated by the male flower and the cucumber will taste bitter and not very pleasant.



Outdoor varieties known as Cucirbit need both male and female flowers to produce fruit, so don’t pick off the male flowers.

Male cucumber

Male cucumber

The male flower is also bright yellow and grows close to the stem and only has a thin stalk. For indoor varieties the male flowers should be removed as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of fertilising the female flower on the developing cucumber fruit.

Male cucumber flower

Male cucumber flower

Cucumber flower pollination by bumblebee

Cucumber pollination by bumblebee

The Bumblebee visits a male cucirbit cucumber flower to collect pollen.

Bumblebee pollinating a female cucumber flower

Bumblebee pollinating a female cucumber flower

When the bee then enters the female flower, some of the pollen is transfered to the stigma which fertilizes the flower.

The cucumber fruits will swell and hang down as it grows, so provide support and enough space for the cucumbers to grow.

Cucumber growing

Cucumber growing
To grow.




Sow the seeds in February or early March. Plant the see edgeways in 1cm deep in seed compost.

Plant on in John Innes compost No 3 in large pots or growbags

Cucumbers like moister conditions compared to Tomatoes

Planting to harvesting takes about 12 weeks

Indoor vatieties:- F1 Hana, Burpless Tasty Green, Crystal Apple. Luxury, Masterpiece, Zeina

Cucurbit Outdoor varieties:- Crystal Lemon, Bedfordshire Prize, King of the ridge, Puree Hybrid, Zeppelin, Patio Pik, Long white Paris, Japanese varieties, Kyoto, Tokyo slicer

Photography Neil Bromhall.


31 Responses to Cucumber. How to identifying male and female flowers.

  1. I wood like to know how to save the seed of a cucumber. Thanks larry

  2. Hi Larry,
    If you know that your cucumber has been fertilised, let the fruit grow on the plant until the fruit starts to ‘go over’. This will allow the seeds time to mature inside the fruit.
    Scrape out the seeds and wash them in rain water.
    Dry the seeds off and store in a dry dark place until next year when the seeds can be sown.

  3. maggie Rothwell says:

    Do you have to pinch out the male flower of the cucumber plant

  4. If you’re after taste then yes, it’s a good idea to pinch out the male flowers as fertilised fruit taste a bit bitter

  5. Tripp says:

    So you don’t want them to get fertilized? I figured that the fruit would be aborted if not fertilized. This is what seems to happen with squash plants.

  6. Indoor cucumber varieties need the male flowers to be pinched off otherwise the fruit will taste bitter
    However, outdoor varieties need the male and female flowers to remain o the plant as the female flowers need pollinating in order to produce fruit.
    Or you can pick off a make flower and do the pollination yourself by brushing the pollen into the female stigma to fertise the fruit.

  7. Morgan says:

    Thanks for your response. You’ve got great pictures of male and female flowers and this is good advice for greenhouse growing.

  8. Chantal says:

    My plant only has had male flowers, lol, is it chauvinistic or what’s the problem? It’s been a month, still no lady flowers…I want fruits!

  9. Bina says:

    I have the same problem as Chantal, I have only male flowers and they have been flowering for at least a month. Trying to find an answer if anyone knows! Thanks very much! PS Does anyone know if lemon cucumber babies look different? I have never seen them.

  10. Carl Amodeo says:

    Hi Chantal

    Get rid of the plants if they only have male flowers, My dad grows them commercially and will always thrown away these plants

  11. Valerie Smith says:

    Well ours seem only to have female ones at the moment. Is that normal?

  12. Hi Adrien,
    Thank you for your comment. It is however a bumble bee. There are several varieties of Bumble bee, some can be quite big but not al. Generally bumble bees are hairier that honey bees. The Bumble bees also generally have a longer proboscis (tongues) to get deep into tubular shaped flowers where the nectar is produced and fertilise the flower in the process.
    Best wishes

  13. sharon says:

    i have my cucumber plants in the greehouse,they are doing very well at the moment! ive just read about taking off the male flowers to avoid bitter fruit. thanku for your advise,they looked at me very suspicous when i asked them about it at the garden center near me lol!

  14. Lisa Skov Jensen says:

    Do yo need to ‘build’ a support for cucumbers grown outside – or can they just trail along the ground?

  15. Mark hughes says:

    its my 1st time growing cucumbers and i.m growing an outdoor variety in my greenhouse so do i still have to nip the males out? also how long would it be ok to leave the male on before it affects the female?

  16. Harvey says:

    One interesting point to note about greenhouse grown cucumbers is that if they form a shape where they’re bulbous at one end when they’re young, they’re likely to have been fertilized and will be more likely to be bitter. I cut these off to encourage others to grow. It feels like sacrilege to because they’re usually about 40 cm long before they show this sign, but it’s better to get rid of them. I feed the plant afterwards, so that it can recover and get stuck into producing more. (I do this after an early harvest too, and it has given modestly good second harvests)

  17. claire barrass says:

    i have been growing a cucumber plant in my greenhouse im a bit of a novice im afraid i seem to be doing ok we have just picked our first fruit the skin was a bit tough so had to cut that but lovely inside im wondering why it was more the size of a small marrow than long like they are in the shop someone has told me they are female fruit

  18. I have planted English long cucumber s in my greenhouse for the first time. How do I know whether it is a indoor or outdoor variety, male flower off or on?

  19. ashley webb says:

    i was wondering if the female flower is going to fall off and when my cucumbers are going to come out

  20. Simon says:

    how do i tell if it is an indoor variety, dont know if i should pick male flowers or leave them

  21. Mara Lavitt says:

    The photos were very helpful, thank you!

  22. Ian Williams says:

    I am a beginer at growing cucumbers, mine are really nobbly and was wondering what type they were and when’s the best time to pick them!

  23. Barbara Lee says:

    A friend has just ask me to ask this question, she can only produce male flowers. Is she lacking in something?. said also her melons are the same as the cucumbers no female flowers. My answer was perhaps have planted them in the same place as last year , maybe also haven’t feed them enough. Just would like to hear the views of others who just might know the answer.

  24. […] The ‘outdoor cucumber’ usually produces both male and female flowers and has a rougher skin with ridges. You normally keep both male and female flowers on for outdoor type cucumbers, but just to make sure it is always best to read the instructions on the back of the seed packet. Marketmore Cucumbers, is a recognised outdoor type cucumber where you should not remove the male flowers Which is a female and which is a male flower? The female flower has a miniature cucumber behind it whereas the male flower doesn’t have this. The male flower also grows closer to the stem of the cucumber plant. Cucumber flowers […]

  25. Sue.G says:

    Thank you so much for the pictures and clear labelling! As a first time grower I feel a little more confident now to pinch the male flower of and hopefully get nice juicy cucumbers. Thanks so much just the info I needed.

  26. […] am patiently waiting for female flowers to develop up on my lemon cucumbers. There is no shortage of male flowers, but they aren’t […]

  27. […] Du finner flere bilder av hann- og hunnblomster her. […]

  28. Very clear and informative article. Looks like I am going to get a cucumber but it might taste bitter – all part of the learning curve!

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