Why is My Squash Performing Poorly?

Male flowers have no little fruit at the base (top flowers) and female flowers do (bottom flower).

“Though I water and fertilize my squash plants well, a lot of the fruit seem to just shrivel up!  What can I do?” Question from Kyra of White Salmon, Washington

Answer: Sorry to hear your squash crop isn’t cooperating! I would love to hear what squash you are growing and determine at what stage they are shriveling up. Are your squash little or well developed when they start to shrivel? Either way, there are two key reasons why squash fruits may not develop properly.

1. Lack of pollinators

Squash have two flower types, male and female, and these are strictly bee-pollinated. The male flowers are produced first, followed by the female blooms. If you see female blooms on your plants, and no bees, this could be the problem.

Without pollination, the developing fruits just shrivel. You can try a hand-pollinating method, if you think this is the problem. Simply use a small brush to move pollen from a newly opened male flower to a newly opened female flower. It’s fast, easy, and will yield squash!

2. Disease

Some fungal diseases and disorders will cause fruit to shrivel up at various stages of development. A picture may help me identify the cause, if you don’t think pollinators are your problem.

Happy Gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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