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How To Tell If Tomato Flower Is Pollinated: Tips & Solutions

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With their pretty yellow blossoms, red, rich fruits, and lush green leaves, tomato plants make a functional and beautiful addition to any patio, deck, or garden. As such, it makes total sense to be majorly disappointed when something goes wrong, and your tomato fruits fail to set.

The fact you’ve found yourself trying to learn how to tell if tomato flower is pollinated isn’t a great sign. Lucky for you, though, this guide will detail everything you need to know, from how to tell if tomato flower is pollinated to tricks you can employ if you realize your tomato plants haven’t been sufficiently pollinated.

How To Tell If Tomato Flower Is Pollinated 1
Can someone tell me if these flowers have been pollinated or not? – via Reddit

How To Tell If Tomato Flower is Pollinated

There are several ways you can tell if your tomato flower has been pollinated. The first is observing the number of pollinators, such as hummingbirds or butterflies, visiting your tomato flowers. If you notice that many of these pollinators are available in your tomato garden, then chances are the plant’s flowers have been sufficiently pollinated.

After you count at least eight bee visits to each flower, the chances of the flowers being pollinated rise even higher.

If that’s not sufficient, you can also observe the tomato flowers and see if they start to wilt. Usually, wilting occurs a day after the flowers have been sufficiently pollinated. In the female tomato flowers, you’ll also notice the ovules starting to bulge as they begin producing the fruit.

Also worth noting, you can observe your tomato plants’ yellow flowers after they have opened to ascertain whether or not they’ve been pollinated. If you notice that the stem right behind the tomato flower has begun to enlarge and is still green, then pollination has occurred, and a juicy tomato may be on the way.

If the stem starts turning yellow and doesn’t enlarge in any sense of the word, chances are pollination wasn’t successful. At that point, the plant will stop supporting the blooms, which implies they’ll simply dry up and start falling off.

If you notice your tomato flowers aren’t getting pollinated, do not Panic! There’s still hope for your plants.

How To Hand Pollinate Tomatoes

Luckily, tomato plants boast one of the perfect flowers that make it easy to hand pollinate.

First, each tomato flower has been equipped with both a female and male reproductive part, which implies that with just several minutes’ worth of effort each week when all other conditions are ideal, you can rest assured of an abundant harvest at the end of the season.

But first, you’ll need to understand the basics of tomato flowers.

Typically pollination and eventually fertilization in tomato flowers are achieved through either wind or buzz pollination. Multiple studies have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that buzz pollination remains the most efficient form of fertilization as it maximizes yield quantities, seed counts, and even the fruit’s sizes.

If you do not know what buzz pollination is or how it takes place, it occurs when insects with specific qualities vibrate their bodies on a tomato flower and shake the pollen from the anthers and all other parts of the stamen holding the pollen.

These suitable insects include carpenter bees and bumblebees. Honeybees, conversely, aren’t able to achieve this.

Wind pollination, on the other hand, takes place after a breeze vigorously shakes the flowers to release and transfer pollen. The reason wind pollination isn’t considered adequate has to do with the fact that tomato flowers’ pollen is usually heavy and sticky, implying that the flower will need a strong breeze for the pollen to detach from the anthers.

What’s more? Low humidity and warm weather produce the perfect conditions for pollination to occur on tomato flowers, and mid-day is the ideal time for pollen transfer or release. That said, if you opt to do it by hand, you won’t be bound to these “perfect conditions.” You’ll still be able to carry out pollen transfer in even the least ideal weather.

How To Tell If Tomato Flower Is Pollinated 2
Manual pollination with a electric toothbrush – via Reddit

4 Ways To Pollinate Tomato Flowers By Hand

These four methods will help you mimic the natural conditions of either buzzing insects or the wind.

1.      Battery Operated Toothbrushes

A battery-operated toothbrush is the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to hand pollinate tomato flowers. The vibrating head of these toothbrushes mimics bumblebees that aid with buzz pollination, causing the pollen to detach itself from the anthers and fall on the stigma.

To use an electric toothbrush to hand-pollinate tomato flowers, place the toothbrush head on the flower’s stem or base and buzz it for three to five seconds before moving to the next flower.

2.      Cotton Swabs

The thing that makes cotton swabs extremely effective tools is that their surfaces of finely spun cotton are ideal for distributing and collecting the pollen. Simply scrub the tomato flower on the inside using the cotton swab several times and ensure you pass over the stigma.

You can also collect the tomato flower’s pollen in small containers and use your cotton swab to apply the pollen to every flower’s stigma gently.

3.      Art Brush

Small art brushes are another sure-fire way to gather and distribute pollen the same way nectar-gathering insects do. That said, ensure the art brush you go for has natural bristles since tomato flower pollen clings better to these than plastic ones.

With that in mind, use your art brush to pollinate your tomato flowers the same way you would use a cotton swab.

Also, to avoid any chances of cross-pollination, make sure that you use different brushes on different tomato plant varieties. If you have a single brush, then wash it in isopropyl alcohol whenever you move from one variety to the next.

4.      Shake Them Up

Simply tapping or shaking a tomato plant flower is usually sufficient to imitate a breeze and promote a pollen shed. To do this, gently but rapidly tap a tomato flower’s top. You can also flick the flower in short, staccato bursts.  

Final Thoughts

Your tomato flowers need sufficient pollination for you to enjoy an abundant harvest of ripe, delicious, and red goodness. With that in mind, if you notice your tomato flowers aren’t getting pollinated, do not take any chances and instead take matters into your own hands (literally.)