Pollinating your eggplant by hand is extremely simple, but people seem to complicate it.
If you scan through some online gardening forums, you’ll find all sorts of neat techniques to get your eggplant fertilized.
However, it doesn’t need to be so complicated.
It’s something that eggplant can handle on its own- most of the time.
So here we’ll cover a few of the simplest, but proven, ways to hand pollinate eggplant.
Ready? Let’s get your eggplant making some baby eggplants.
Why should you pollinate eggplant by hand?
You should pollinate by hand if your eggplant can’t pollinate itself. This particular fruit has both male and female parts equipped for each flower.
But even then, it can struggle with fertilization.
Some gardens are prone to conditions that make it difficult for the eggplant to pollinate itself:
- Gardens with high temperatures (heat makes pollen sterile)
- High humidity
- Strong winds
- Winds that blow in random directions, or always in the wrong directions
- Pests and wildlife
- Artificial objects, like sheds, outhouses, or garden decor that block pollen
- Weak or damaged eggplants
- The wrong type of pollinator species
- Blockage of pollen from other plants
If your eggplant doesn’t pollinate on its own, that’s where you come in to save the day.
Hand pollination works and produces eggplant just as well as natural pollination through beneficial insects, birds, and wind.
It’s a good substitute when you don’t feel like waiting around for the bees and birds to come to do their job. So no need to worry.
The eggplant is just as virulent as if it were pollinated naturally.
Sounds good? OK. Let’s get started.
Do you have to hand pollinate eggplant?
Eggplant is a tricky fruit to deal with by nature.
This fruit (yes, eggplant is not a vegetable) can be the most difficult or the most simple plant to fertilize by hand you’ve ever planted.
A lot of people dive into planting a few of them only to realize that they need a tad bit more TLC than they initially thought.
So they give up and then let their eggplant rot. Or they don’t pollinate it so it never yields.
Thankfully, that’s not you and that’s why you’re here.
Eggplant doesn’t NEED to be hand pollinated. It’s self-fertile. Each flower has both sets of “equipment” needed to pollinate itself. It has male and female parts in one package.
This is also known as a “complete” flower. And it’s not exclusive to eggplants. Other veggies like cucumber, zucchini, and even fruits like watermelon are complete flowers. Don’t forget legumes and beans.
This is the main difference between male and female eggplant flowers. They’re both equal and have specific tasks to carry out. That’s the nice part about eggplant, they have everything you need in one plant!
On one hand, it’s not hard. It just happens. Just like how babies are made in humans.
On the other hand, you can get into so much detail where it’s down to a science. It complicates it.
You can make it as simple as moving pollen from one flower to another. Or you can get into the nitty-gritty like timing, technique, and maybe even finesse?
Hand pollination is to help aid it and improve the success of pollination. For it to successfully fertilize itself, the male stamen contains the pollen. The female pistil contains the stigma.
The goal is to get the pollen from the male to the stigma in the female. This is accomplished in nature through beneficial pollinators, wind, etc.
Hand pollination helps do this artificially. It’s especially useful in areas where eggplant doesn’t grow naturally, has little to no wildlife, or where the wind doesn’t effectively pollinate it.
When is the right time to start hand pollinating?
Eggplant is ready to reproduce during the peak growing season. You can tell because it’ll start blooming. This is around the mid-summer time and usually around 2-3 months after it germinates.
Eggplant flower parts: The basics
The male and female flowers have notable differences between them. You can identity between the two by looking for these physical characteristics:
Male flowers have a stamen, which looks like a bunch of 20-something “hairs” stemming from the flower.
Each filament contains anthers.
The anther produces the pollen that bees, birds, and the wind helps carry to the female parts.
Female flowers have a pistil, which contains everything it needs to produce fruit.
The pistil contains the style, stigma, and ovary.
Each eggplant contains both male and female flowers, so it’s self-fertilizing. There are no “male” or “female” eggplants. An eggplant is both because they contain both sets of flowers.
When pollen from the anthers gets to the female pistil, pollination happens. This is usually the case with bees, as they vibrate their bodies when they feed on the delicious nectar in the flowers. They vibrate at high frequencies, which helps shake off the pollen from one flower to another.
Specifically, the pollen from the male anther gets to the female stigma, if you wanna be precise. But that’s not all.
Even though the pollen technically made it to the flower, it’s not completely fertilized. The timing has to be right, the pollen needs to be virulent, and the female needs to have successful fertilization to produce fruit.
Just covering it with pollen doesn’t guarantee fertilization. This is why when you hand pollinate, you shouldn’t expect it to just work. And this is why it may take you multiple attempts to fertilize a single eggplant.
For eggplant to be pollinated, it needs the right pollinator, the right season, the right amount of sun, wind, water, etc.
Sometimes the wind can blow in the wrong direction. Or the humidity may be too high, which causes the pollen to clump together and drop to the soil rather than carrying it to another flower.
Or you could’ve just wasted your eggplant and the pollen is wet. This all contributes to a failed fertilization. While it’s easy to pollinate by hand, it’s also very precise.
But if you check all your checkboxes and it right, it should be easy.
- Getting your eggplant to fertilize can be difficult. Check out these general guidelines to help maximize your chances of success.
- The best time to fertilize is in the morning hours. This is because the blooms are fully open and they’re receptive to pollen. Flowers will shut at night so they’re not as efficient and the chances are reduced.
- The best time to fertilize by hand is in the morning. This is because the petals are wide open during this time and favorable to fertilization.
- Check your eggplants every single day to see the subtle changes. This will tell you if it needs another round or if it’s been successfully pollinated.
- Try not to pollinate it during windy days where the wind may carry your pollen in the wrong direction.
- Don’t attempt this after you water your plants when it’s wet.
- If it’s raining, wet, or humid, try another time when it’s calmer.
How to hand pollinate eggplant
This part of the guide covers the actual process of pollinating eggplant by hand. If this is your first time, you’ll want to read through it carefully to maximize your chance of success.
It’s kind of an art in itself. It’s easy enough for birds, bees, and even small vibrations from bugs to accomplish. A caterpillar or beetle can carry pollen on its body from the male to the female parts!
But at the same time, it’s difficult if you don’t know the flower parts or overdo it. Try to pretend like you’re a small bug carrying pollen from one part of your eggplant flower to the other.
Be the bug.
The following are a few popular ways to hand pollinate at home. You don’t need to get fancy with instruments and plant tools.
You can use the basic things you have in your house to do this. Pick one method and try it out. Check back in a few days to see if it successfully worked. If not, try a different one or try again.
If you have a lot of different blossoms ready for pollination, do it to them all to maximize your chances. It’s much quicker than just waiting on one.
Note that you don’t have to have 2 flowers for this to work.
You can pollinate a single flower because remember that each flower has a complete set of parts that allow for reproduction. There are no male or female flowers. Each flower has everything it needs.
However, if you have multiple flowers, you can move the pollen between them. Or even between different eggplants if you want.
Hybridizing them may not produce identical fruit, so if you want consistency in your produce, avoid cross-pollination.
Swabbing the flowers can help get the pollen between each flower because of the sticky surface of the swab.
Pretend you’re a bee and use the swab on the pollen from one eggplant. Give it a light swab. Pollen is microscopic, so you won’t see it on the swab.
The right place to swab is on the inside of the petals. Try to get some of that yellow powder onto it, which is the pollen.
Once you get a light yellow tint, that’s all you need!
Next, take the saw and find another flower on a different eggplant. If you only have one plant, then find a different flower on it.
Swab it lightly until the stigma of the new flower is coated with a light tint.
That’s it. You can repeat it for different blossoms. Dispose of the swab after you’re done. Easy, right?
You don’t have to use a swab. You can use anything from a paintbrush to a makeup brush. Anything gentle, soft, and can pick up pollen will work.
Just pick up pollen from the inside of the flower and then move it around to pollinate it.
I like this technique because there are so many different ways to do it. You can get creative with the different things in your house you can use to do it.
Plus, it rhymes.
Technically, it’s called “buzz” pollination in the community because it simulates what a bee does to pollinate your eggplant flowers.
The bee lands on the flower, eats the nectar, and then pollinates the flowers because the pollen sticks onto them.
The bee’s vibrations (buzz) then shake the flower’s pollen and it disperses into the proximal environment.
The point is to create these vibrations to help loosen the pollen and disperse it to nearby receiving flowers.
You can accomplish this using many different objects:
- Massage guns
- Electric toothbrushes
- Portable battery-powered fans
- Or even the vibration of your phone!
Take it and turn it on. Place it gently against the flowers of your eggplant. The vibrations will loosen the pollen and it’ll disperse to nearby flowers.
You won’t see it, but it’s working if the pollen is there. You only need to touch it for a few seconds on each flower. No need to hold it there for minutes.
Be careful not to damage the flower. Bees hardly move the flowers at all, so you should try to do the same with whatever object you’re using.
Once you do set up a fan, beneficial pollinators won’t come. No bees want to fight wind currents just to taste that sweet nectar.
Use a fan
Don’t have wind? Use a fan.
A small outdoor fan can help create currents that can help disperse pollen between flowers. It’s like a wind simulator.
This works especially well in greenhouses or areas with little to no wind movement. All you need is a small fan that can be used outdoors.
Keep it running for a few minutes each day until you see it’s been pollinated.
The last thing is the most natural way possible. Use nature!
As you know by now, beneficial insects and pollinators roam the yard. This means bees and birds.
If you don’t have much in your garden, but you know they’re native to your area, make your yard more favorable to them.
This way, you attract them to your yard and they can do all the work for you.
Here are some quick and dirty tips to attract bees:
- Plant flowering plants that have white, yellow, blue, or purple petals
- Plant nectar-producing plants
- Use native plants that naturally attract them in your yards, such as sunflower, cosmos, salvia, poppy, coneflower, marigold, or nasturtium
- Plant herbs like borage, thyme, sage, bee balm, rosemary, or flowering ones
- Plant shrubs like, butterfly bushes, willows, holy, hazelnut, blueberry, honeysuckle, or privet
And for birds, you can:
- Set up birdbaths
- Set up bird feeders (with the right seed to bring in the right bird)
- Put birdhouses around the garden
- Plant bird attracting plants
Other common questions
Here are some other commonly asked questions about eggplant pollination that you may find helpful to get your plant fertilized.
How do I know if my eggplant is pollinated?
The easiest way to tell if your eggplant blossom has been successfully hand-pollinated is to check it often.
Go out and look at it daily to note the subtle changes. You should see that the flower has a small bump on it. The flower will start to produce a new baby eggplant. It should be slightly larger than other flowers that are unpollinated.
You can check back every few days to see. If you don’t see any changes, repeat the pollination process by hand.
Then check again after a few days. Do NOT try to pollinate it every day until you see fruit. This is destructive because it can remove previous pollen.
Upon successful fertilization, the blossom will wilt and then fall off. It may scare you at first because you’re wondering what happened to your flower. But this is a good thing!
When should I pollinate?
You should pollinate whenever you have at least two new blossoms. This happens during the summertime when eggplant is ready to propagate.
It’s important to not overdo it, because you may end up removing pollen that was naturally there already. You should also mark blossoms that have been pollinated by hand because you don’t want to pollinate a flower that’s already pollinated.
You can mark it with a market or use a tag of some sort. Twist ties, sticky notes, journaling, taking a picture, or whatever works for you.
How do I get more fruit from my eggplant?
You can get more fruit from your eggplant by providing it with the right conditions.
This means the right soil conditions, temperature (it prefers cooler ones), keeping humidity in check, watering at the right time, and supplementing with a fertilizer for fruits.
You can go down a rabbit hole looking for info to get the perfect eggplant setup, so I’ll let you do so. There’s a ton of info online and depending on where you live, it varies as well.
Here are some references you may get some use out of:
- Do you hand pollinate a indoor eggplant? – Houzz
- Where is my eggplant flowers’ pollen? : gardening – Reddit
Go forth and fertilize your eggplant!
You now have all the knowledge you need to pollinate your eggplant flowers by hand. It’s easy, so keep it easy. Remember the acronym KISS. Don’t complicate it.
It’s as simple as getting pollen from one flower to another! That’s all you need to aim for.
Everything else will take care of itself, provided that adequate sunlight, temp, and water are provided.
If you have any questions, post them in the comments and ask away. If you have any tips to give to other readers, feel free to share your words of wisdom!
I’ve always been interested in gardening, but I never took it seriously until I was forcefully gifted an orchid. This was what got me into the hobby and I’ve never looked back. I enjoy writing about it, but not nearly as much as getting into the dirt and sculpting the perfect decorative ornamental to enjoy for the times.