How to Pollinate Tomatoes: Hand Pollination of Tomato Flowers

Detailed instructions for tomato hand pollination is given and the details of tomato flower anatomy and pollination problems are discussed.
Many times it happens that the tomato vine is loaded with flowers, but the plant do not produce tomatoes. There may be several reasons. There may be poor pollination due to lack of the bee activity, which is helpful for pollination to occur and fruits to set.

Tomato Male and Female Flowers Parts that take part in pollination
Male and female tomato flower Parts that take part in pollination

Growing Tomatoes | Tomato blossom drop, blooms but no fruits | Nutrition facts of Tomato

Tomato Flower Pollination By Hand

Many people are curious to know if tomato plants really need to be pollinated. There are no separate male and female tomato flowers.

To understand the process of tomato pollination, first take a close look of the tomato male and female flower's anatomy shown in the picture of tomato flower below.

The tomato flowers are the “perfect” flowers because these flowers contain both an ovary and ovules, and a stamen, so they are considered both male and female. They make both seeds and pollen. The perfect flowers may be self-fertile as pollen from a flower’s anthers can fertilize the same flower’s ovules or cross-pollination can take place.

The stamen is the male part of the flower which comprises anther and filament. The pollen are in the anther which is surrounding the pistil.

The female part of the flower consists of stigma, style, ovary and ovules.

The pistil is in the center which is made up of style and stigma. The style is the long stalk extending from ovary to the stigma; the stigma go beyond the surrounding stamens (male part).

Because the blossoms normally hanging downward, the pollen dropping down through the stamen tube can fall on the bumpy and sticky stigma, causing pollination. The pollen grows down the style causing the fertilization of the ovule to form a seed.

As mentioned above, the blossoms are said to be self fertile. However, there is no fruit formation if the pollen does not move from anther to stigma.

This cannot be achieved by honey bees because they cannot reach to the pollen. Also the tomato flowers do not produce nectar so they may not visit to the flowers. Some bees, who know how to reach to the tomato pollen, may pollinate the flowers.

The vibration of the wings of the bees cause the whole flower to vibrate, releasing a cloud of pollen onto the stigma and also on the bee's body.

A bee that has just visited another flower has some pollen stuck to it, can brush against the stigma of another flower, thereby pollinating it.

In the absence of bees, the tomato flowers are typically wind pollinated or fail to pollinate if conditions of temperature and humidity are not favorable and drop off.

The problem with tomato flowers is that the flower is not very attractive to the bees.
  1. Pollination by hand is easy and effective. If the humidity is high, then do not try hand pollination. Sunny days with low humidity are ideal conditions for hand pollination.
  2. Simply shake the plant gently to distribute the pollen. Better results are achieved if you slightly vibrate the tomato vine to release the pollen. You can use an electric battery-operated brush to vibrate. You can purchase a commercial tomato pollination vibrator to hand pollinate tomatoes. Shaking should not be violent.
  3. Place the vibrating toothbrush just behind the flowers and gently shake the plant to distribute the pollen. You could collect the pollen in a small dish and use a cotton swab to carefully rub the pollen directly onto the end of the flower stigma.
  4. Repeat hand pollination every 2-3 days to ensure pollination.
  5. Using an artist brush or q tip for pollination with tomatoes is very inefficient because the pollen is not on the surface.
  6. Pollination Sprays: Some pollination sprays are available to pollinate flowers that are not pollinated by wind such as tomatoes growing in greenhouse. use a pollination spray, which is a synthetic hormone when the tomato flowers are beginning to open.

Watch Video

Tomato hand pollination of tomato