Wednesday 3 August 2016

Sexing cucumbers

I am aware that many of my readers will know this already, but a cucumber plant normally produces flowers of both male and female sexes. Some varieties have been "engineered" to produce only female flowers ---- allegedly. One such variety is "Diva". A major seed merchant here in the UK specifically says of it "Cucumber 'Diva' is all female flowering,..." but I beg to differ. Here is my evidence.

This is a female flower, because you can see the little fruit behind the flower:

So is this:

So far, so good, but these flowers are also on the same "Diva" plant, and they look like males to me.

There is definitely no embryonic fruit behind these ones.

Looking closely at the plant in question, I see that males and females are in roughly equal proportions, which seems OK in general, but how does it square with the "All female" claim? And if a plant produces all female flowers, how does it bear fruit anyway? I'm going to have to look this one up....!

I wrote yesterday about Runner Beans setting poorly. Well, much the same is happening with my cucumbers. So far this year I have only picked two cucumber fruits, though normally I would have expected perhaps a dozen. None of the Cucamelons have set yet either, though I haven't given up hope of those because the plants look pretty vigorous.


  1. The cucamelon go mad with the foliage then all the female flowers drop off! I attempted hand pollination this year so we'll see

  2. I've had similar findings on my indoor cucumber Bella F1, supposedly an all female.

    My courgettes are sending up scores of male flowers and scant females as are my pattypan squash. I've no idea why.

  3. I'm growing Diva this year as well, although it is way behind my other cucumbers as I had to resow it. I did know it was a parthenocarpic variety, but didn't realize that it was also "supposed" to be all-female. Around here, we refer to parthenocarpic cucumbers as "greenhouse" cucumbers as they apparently will bear fruit without the need for pollinators. Perhaps the seed house is getting confused between not needing male flowers to pollinate the blooms and actually not having any male flowers?

    One of the reasons I've always been hesitant to grow this type of cucumber is because I heard that the cucumber quality is actually lower if the flowers DO get pollinated which, since I'm not growing them in an enclosed environment, will most likely happen. But many bloggers do grow this variety out in the open with success, so I figured I would give it a go - now if it would only catch up to the others in the row and start producing.

  4. OK, now I have to go out and sex my parthenocarpic cucumbers....

  5. I think to remember that I once read somewhere that all female cucumbers can still produce odd male flowers. But it would only happen if plants are stressed.

  6. I think the all female type cucumbers are all the greenhouse kind. They are too difficult and expensive to grow for me but I do grow the outdoor cucumbers which do pollinate.
    It looks if Diva produced some male flowers but were they fertile? If you did not get bitter cucumbers with large seed you have no need to object!
    All female varieties are F1 hybrids and the cross has to be remade each year from fertile parents

  7. I then Anonymous is right, and the same is true of mu courgettes. They were being prolific then we had some really hot days followed by cooler days. The male flowers will probably turn the cucumbers a little bitter if they pollinate them, and produce seeds within the fruit, but it is so common I certainly wouldn't worry about it

  8. Oh and the answer you are looking up is that cucumbers are parthenocarpic and do not need to be pollinated. In fact you do not want them to be pollinated!
    Your Diva are probably a duff batch of seed!

  9. As I always do when something doesn't turn out as expected, refer the problem to the seed supplier.
    We have planted what were supposed to be Gardeners Delight tomatoes and they are all appearing to be producing plum shaped fruit.


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