Manual Pollination: How to Pollinate Plants without Bees

Honey bees are acknowledged as the main pollinators for a diverse range of crops worldwide. Despite this, their habitats are not evenly distributed across all areas. In some regions, important insects, which are essential for pollinating our crops, are not commonly present. Under these conditions, it becomes necessary to carry out manual pollination.

Manual Pollination is a pollination technique done by home gardeners. They take the pollen from one flower to another instead of bees doing this typically using a paintbrush—transferring pollen from one flower to another aid in fruit fertilization and growth.

In this article, we will be talking in-depth about the process of Pollination, its types, and how to do it on your own to promote the growth of flowers and crops from plants.

What is Pollination?

Pollination is when pollen grains from the male flower or the anther are transferred to the stigma or the female flower. This process is more popularly associated with bees doing the pollination job, wherein the pollen grains get stuck to their body when they go to the flowers and cause the transfer as they flit amongst the flowers.

We are developing all sorts of technologies based on what we have learnt from birds, animals and soils. Pollination is worth £billions. But it also highlights how nature is so interconnected.

Tony Juniper

Of course, Pollination thru bees is not the only pollination process out there. It can also be done by wind, insect pollination, and other methods.

Types of Pollination

To understand the types of Pollination, you need to determine if your plant is self-pollinating or if it cross-pollinates. Even though all flowering plants depend on Pollination to reproduce, it is still best to read on and consider the different types and what you can do in your garden.


This is the primary type of Pollination because this depends on and involves only one flower. In addition, each flower contains both male and female parts; these are necessary to plant parts to make fruit.

Examples of famous self-pollinating plants are strawberry flowers and tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

This type of Pollination happens when the pollen grains from the anther fall directly on the stigma of the same flower, which is called self-pollinating.

Self-pollinated plants produce better crops if the wind gently shakes them. But, of course, you can aid too in this process by gently shaking the stem of the plants if need be.

But that does not mean that your plants don’t need insects, bees, and wind for self-pollinating.

They can help; an example would be bees buzzing over the flowers. The buzz shakes the flowers, which also helps to shake the pollen off into the stigma.

Aiding in self-pollination

You can also do the same by placing an electric toothbrush against the plant and turning it on. This much vibration is the same as the buzz of bee wings. You can try this with a tomato plant. 

Aside from the toothbrush method, one can also experiment with using the paintbrush to transfer the pollen quickly.  


This happens when one plant pollinates a plant of another variety. This process is sometimes intentionally used within the garden to create new plant varieties.

The two plants’ genetic material mix, and the resulting seeds from that Pollination will have characteristics of both varieties with a different new variety.

Manual Pollination

Sometimes our plants grow but seem to be unable to produce fruit. Manual Pollination would be something to look into to solve that. This helps your flowering plants set fruit, and the process is directly connected to the different sexes of flowers.

The human race and all of the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive without pollination practices since over 80% of the world’s flowering plants need a pollinator to reproduce.

In this article, you will learn how to manually pollinate your plants without bees. Be a bee to your flowers and help them set fruit. Increase your garden yields with manual Pollination. 

Why should you learn Manual Pollination?

Doing manual Pollination may seem scary, with us dabbling with plants’ creation and growth process. But though it may be a daunting task, this can also ensure that the plant and its seeds will grow well and boost their growth and yield.

You can use manual Pollination to help plants when they don’t set fruit

Sometimes we wait for plants to grow, and they do, but we end up not putting fruit.

This often happens to fruits like strawberries and tomatoes and plants like cucumbers, squash, and corn. They grow their branches and flowers but no rather unfortunate fruit. Instances happen, too, wherein the flowers bloom but die before maturing.

Using manual Pollination to create a new variety of plant

To cross-pollinate two species to create a new different type of plants. Typically this process occurs when there are specific genetic qualities and results that the gardener wants.

Hybridization is the process wherein two different varieties of plants are created from the same kind of fruit.

Sometimes, we want to grow or have a specific trait in a plant, whether a new colored flower or better resistance to diseases. Manual Pollination can help with this when there is an absence of pollinators.

When there is a lack of insects and bees in your area, utilize manual Pollination.

Suppose you don’t see bees or insects hovering around your flowering plants.

Manual Pollination is significantly beneficial when growing plants in greenhouses, indoors, or on a screened-in porch. Doing so is essential for the health and productivity of your plants.

Manual Pollination can increase the likelihood of a successful pollination

Most of the time, this is done without bees and other pollinators. For instance: pumpkins can produce good fruits after manual Pollination. Home gardeners typically use the manual pollination method to ensure that the corn grows well and has a full ear when it grows.

How to do Manual Pollination

As said in the cases above, there will be many times when manual Pollination is one of the best ways to grow your fruit or crops. This may be because of the insufficient male plants nearby, which is the only way to foster their growth.

This section will go into the step-by-step procedures on Pollination and how the process can differ for plants, trees, vegetables, and even self-pollinating plants.

Things You’ll Need for Manual Pollination

There are several things that you will need to pollinate plants without bees, as seen in the table below:

Plants in flowerPlastic bags
Cotton swabsTwist ties

Process of Manual Pollination

First of all, examine the plant you need to be fertilized. Male flowers appear on plants first and then more significantly than female flowers.

Male flowers contain a stamen with pollen and its counterpart, and the female flowers have a little knob at the bottom, showing a baby fruit type or vegetable.

There are many ways to pollinate manually, where one can remove a flower, pull back or strip off the petals, and then rub the inside of another flower. But the essence of it all is the pollen transfer.

Collect as much pollen (which may look like a powdery substance) as possible from the male flowers and place them into the female flower petals. It is best to get the pollen on the very first day when the flowers bloom, and also consider using either a paintbrush or cotton swab for the best results.

A process of Manual Manipulation of fruit and crop-bearing plants and trees

In some countries or areas, pollinators such as honeybees, bumblebees, and mason bees are insufficient; instead, you can treat and fertilize some food-bearing tree/plant blossoms yourself.

Some unfruitful types, such as apples, pears, and cherries, need to be fertilized with another cultivar (the plant produced through cultivation and selective breeding) of the same fruit. Again, we recommend you do this process early in the morning.

The previous steps apply, but they may be more detailed for food-bearing plants and trees, so consider looking into them.

Plant or tree typeProcess of Manual Pollination
Dwarf treesCollect pollen from the anthers of self-fruitful tree blossoms. You can collect the pollen with the help of a brush or a cotton swab and apply it to their stigmas. Use a paintbrush that is made of camel hair. You can also look into using Q-tips or feathers—the swabs of your brush need to be clean and dry.
Taller treesCollect pollen from the anthers of self-fruitful tree blossoms. You can collect the pollen with the help of a brush or a cotton swab and apply it to their stigmas. Use a paintbrush that is made of camel hair. You can also look into using Q-tips or feathers—the swabs of your brush need to be clean and dry.
Self-fruitful tree blossomsYou can gather pollen from more giant trees by brushing the duster on a pole from the main centers of flowers on the first or pollinating tree. Now carry the pole to the second tree and drag and drop the pollen-filled duster into the centers of the blooms on that tree. Keep fertilizing your trees for the next few days as more blossoms will open.
Dwarf self-unfruitful treesCollect pollen from the anthers of self-fruitful tree blossoms. You can collect the pollen with the help of a brush or a cotton swab and apply it to their stigmas. Use a paintbrush that is made of camel hair. You can also look into using Q-tips or feathers—the swabs of your brush need to be clean and dry.

For vegetable crops, some plants are male and female, so it would be helpful to do previous research if the vegetable you are growing also has these characteristics. For instance, in squash-family plants, like zucchini, the female flowers can differ from the male ones by swelling (the immature fruit) behind the flower.

Manual pollination process for Self-Fertile Plants

Self-fertile, which are also known as “self-pollinating” / “self-fruitful” plants, include:


These plants and their flowers have all the essential characteristics to produce fruit. If you are growing your plants outdoors, there is no need for manual Pollination. A slight gust of wind can sometimes fertilize the plants.

However, there are typically two ways in which you can fertilize self-fertile plant:

  • Gently shake the plant or gently blow on the top of the flowers to stimulate pollen release.
  • You can also swab the inside of each flower with a little paintbrush or cotton swab. This can help transfer pollen into the middle part of the flower.

How to Boost Pollination as a Whole

Without some pollination, your plants might feel healthy, but they will not produce fruit. As a result, yields of fruiting vegetables and some other crops like sweet corn would tumble.

Insect pollination is one famous way of making plants flower and growing into crops, especially honey bees being the forefront insect. Studies have also been looking into the possibility of using wild pollinators (using the natural ecosystem and insects) or commercial services (using domesticated bees, for example) and a combination of both.

However, there are barely any existing studies on which process yields better and more crops, especially for large-scale farming (source).

There are three simple techniques that you can do to make the pollination process easy and boost the pollination process. First, attracting pollinators, harnessing wind, and if it fails, you can go for manual Pollination, which we explained in detail above.

Pollination through wind

Sweet corn is an example of a plant that relies on Pollination through the wind. They shed pollen from their tassels to land on the female parts, known as silks. When Pollination does not happen for sweet corn, the ears of corn will fail to develop any kernels.

Due to this, it is best practice to plant corn in blocks rather than rows to increase the chances of wind-blown pollen grains landing on the silks of an adjacent plant.

Attracting bees and pollinators

If you plan to get a wide variety of flowers with different types of flowers, you need to attract bees and other pollinators.

Grow flowers frequently in your garden to attract bees and pollinators.

Your garden will attract bees if you have enough flowers, but it also depends on the climate and region you reside in. Bees will be attracted to your garden by flowers, and they will pollinate your crops simultaneously.

Avoid double-flowered cultivars as they can be difficult for insects to access, containing some or no pollen.

Plants that attract pollinators and bees

You can take different approaches to attract pollinators, and they can be done by planting perennial flowerbeds or shrubberies near your vegetable plot or fruit garden.

Types of plantsA specific plant that can attract pollinators
Flowers and shrubsBuddleia, witch hazel, dandelions, spiraea, honeysuckle, and mahonia,
HerbsChives, thyme, lavender and oregano
Herbaceous perennialsPulmonaria, yarrow, hardy geranium (also known as cranesbill), echinacea, sea holly, and foxgloves
BulbsSnowdrops, crocus, squill, and other bulbs
Annual plantsPoached egg plants and marigolds

Plant those that proliferate with the plants you need to pollinate. It is also important to note that the annual plants listed above grow well with other vegetables, so consider growing them.

Conclusion on Manual Pollination

Depending on your climate, the variety of plants you have, and the scale of your garden, Manual Pollination is something to consider significantly rather than waiting for pollinators to come and risk your plants not growing fruits and crops during the waiting process.

While our buzzy friends can significantly help Pollination, you can be a bee to your plants! So take the chance by using this article and the tips to do manual Pollination for greater yield and possible growing of different varieties of plants.

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