A Lesson in Growing Courgettes

Male courgette flower

I’m simply sharing my recent findings for anyone, who like me, thought that wilting courgette flowers dropping off the plants was a problem. You see, it’s not. They are meant to do that. The first few weeks of flowers are the males, they open, look pretty, wilt and then drop off. No need to panic like I did.

The male flowers are found on the longer thinner stems, the females (that produce the courgette) are on the shorter and fatter stems lower down the plant. You may even notice a very small courgette begin to form behind an unopened female flower. If a female flower isn’t pollinated the baby courgette may grow slightly but then rot off. Male flowers do not produce, they are there purely for pollination purposes.

There are self fertile varieties to grow too!

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35 comments

  1. Oh – I was worried too! Thought my courgette plants were looking a bit sorry for themselves and, after the disaster with the broad beans, I feared the worst! Glad that’s not the case! I was wondering about hand pollinating too – but the closest I’ve got is telling any bumble bee I come across to go check out my courgettes…. :)

  2. That’s interesting. I had noticed one flower fall off with no sign of a courgette, but it was early days and the weather had been on the cool side. Now if the next flower falls off I shan’t be too worried. Hubby grew a lovely one last year, bought as a seedling, unlike mine which I have raised from a seed. His supplied more than enough courgettes for us, so I’m hoping mine will do the same this year. It was well watered by all that rain we had, mind.

    My bigger worry, so far anyway, is the cucumber I’m trying to grow, which doesn’t look so happy.

  3. Good luck with your courgettes Rebecca & Karin, lets hope we all end up with some for the table…mmmm.
    Oh, hope your cucumber improves Karin, I decided not to attempt these just yet!!

  4. I had a look at the veg this morning – it’s at the top of the garden so I don’t always check when I’m working – and their is a female and at least one male flower on the courgette. The cucumber is improving and has grown recently. That is in a kind of cloche, so I can shut it up when it gets cool as it doesn’t seem so hardy as the courgette.

  5. You should save the male flowers,stuff with ricotta and herbs coat in a fine batter and deep fry…….waste not want not and all that.

  6. I noticed the same prob with my courgette flowers falling off. I’m a first-time planter and thought something terrible had happened to my plant. One question though, how do I know which is a male and which is a female flower?

  7. Hi Flizah

    The female flowers tend to be larger than the males and quite often have a small courgette already forming behind it. The centre of the male flower looks like the tip of a cotton bud!

  8. Glad I found this site, I have the very same problem and I too wondered what I had done wrong, but now I have no need to worry, will fertilise my self if necessary.
    Thanks

  9. Really useful site! I’d only read how easy courgettes are and heard no potential problems! All my courgettes (only one plant, but lots of flowers), have rotted away when they’re two inches long, but now I understand they may not have pollinated….will do it myself from now on!
    Thanks

  10. Having found out about pollinating them myself I have had one courgette, this we have eaten, It was very nice!! I thought then as the males and females were flowering at the same time it would be ok, they would be pollinated by insects, but no, all the new courgettes dropped off like you said, so I’m going to pollinate the others as they flower myself from now on.
    Thanks for the help

  11. So glad this blog post helped, its lovely to know that my experiences are actually helping others :) I stopped hand pollinating after a while, purely because I could not harvest them all quick enough and ended up with marrows! The chickens love them which is handy.

  12. i’ve had male flowers, i’ve had female flowers, but never at the same time. so no courgettes!
    is there anything i can do to help those male flowers develop???

  13. Really interested in the growing courgettes blog. (My favourire vegetable). Today in a garden centre I have seen them growing in hanging baskets. Looked really great.

    Mary Bailey
    Wickford, Essex, U.K.
    English Garden

  14. so glad you posted this, I was really worried about my courgette flowers falling off, I’ve lost 4 so far, but now I see they are the male flowers on long stems. I can see lots of buds growing close to the main stems too so hopefully these will be females and there’ll be a mle or twoaround when these open! Fingers crossed

  15. Just started growing courgettes this year and was wondering why the flowers were falling off and no fruit forming. Very helpful blog. Thanks alot.

  16. That’s so helpful – thanks Karen. I’d realised I might need to do the pollinating myself but I don’t have any female flowers to pollinate. I’m having the same trouble this year with my chillies – lots of flowers but no fruit forming. I’ve never had that problem before. Any ideas – is it lack of insects?

  17. Hi Mike, I’m having the very same problem with my chillies, again, never had a problem before. Mind you, I’ve noticed a few odd things with vegetable & fruit growing this season. I blame the dry hot spring!

  18. would anyone know what could be eating my young plants that i’ve just planted in the garden? they’ve eaten 3 of my courgettes and my rhubarb!

  19. So glad this blog exists! Great job! I seem to only have female flowers on my plant! And only 4 of them? One of the flowers has fallen off and there is a cigar sized courgette behind it. I was wondering whether you can still eat these small courgettes whether they have been pollinated or not? I do have another plant but am not sure whether that has male plants on it? And can you only eat the male flowers?

  20. Depending where you are, the weather will play a great part in the ‘performance’ of your courgette plants. I haven’t planted any out yet due to wet and cold weather. Yes, you can eat the smaller courgettes, leaving the flower attached if you wish but it might be worth leaving them a little longer, covering with cloches if the weather is cold. You can eat male or female flowers, best picked on the day they bloom.

  21. thank you, I have just found your page ,brill ,I have loads of flowers ,mostly male , after reading here I now know the difference. I have my courgettes in grow bags under a cover which I open daily , weather permitting, Ive had tomatoes ,I also have parsnips in tubs, still to thin them out, too late ? Ihave not long retired 2yrs just started, learning , I will be back , best info site yet,

  22. One more thing ,the leaves on my courgettes have a lot of rusty marks on them , could that be the condensation inside the cover i keep them in, or am I over feeding them

  23. Hi Benny,

    It’s not too late to thin your parsnips out. Rust usually affects the allium family, ie onion, garlic and leek, being more problematic in damp weather. Try giving the courgettes more ventilation to see if it helps the problem. My courgettes usually start looking a bit worse for wear during hot weather but they keep cropping regardless, I find they do better in semi shade and they do love lots of water!

  24. Hi Lynn,

    Usually the bees take over this job once the plants get going. It wouldn’t hurt to hand pollinate, seeing as the weather is still being temperamental and making things difficult for bees and other natural pollinators. Good luck!

  25. Well thats put my mind at rest………sort of……………… having never grown caugettes before, I wondered why the flowerheads were all dropping off! Now I know, thanks. But…….the fruit/courgettes that do form are tiny, finger sized. I leave them to grow and they just rot on the plant. This is doubly galling, as I gave three plants to my neighbour and his are magnificent – he’s done nothing differently to me. I think I should claim them back!

    Thanks for the info – better luck next year I guess.

  26. My courgettes are in my conservatory. They are very big with lots of flowers. However, the flowers wilt and wither. I see no sign of any courgettes. Is this because they are inside – and how do you self- pollinate? This is the first time I have attempted to grow anything. They are in a grow-bag.

  27. Hi Marianne, everything is at least a month behind this year, due to the slow-start spring. They should catch up with the warmth you’re providing them in your conservatory. If you wish to self-pollinate, just pick off a male flower and touch centre with a female (you should be able to see a tiny courgette forming behind a female flower). Good luck!

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