Monoecious vs Dioecious: Self-Pollinating vs Cross-Pollinating Plants

When starting a vegetable garden or even orchard, you may wonder if you need two or more plants of a certain variety to cross-pollinate each other or if you can get away with just one. This will depend on if you have a monoecious or dioecious plant. Monoecious plants are often known as “perfect” plants as they will have both female and male flowers on the same plant. This means that you only need one plant to obtain fruit. Within this category, there are two separate types of flowers you might find on a particular plant – complete and incomplete flowers. Complete flowers will actually have both male and female reproductive parts within a single flower, and can easily be pollinated with the wind and pollinators; tomatoes and peppers are good examples. For incomplete flowers, a single plant will sometimes have either individual male and female flowers or just one type (male or female) on the plant. Squash and corn are iconic examples for this category. Pollinators are absolutely necessary to obtain fruit from these plants, unless you want to hand-pollinate each female flower. (For more information on hand-pollinating squash and corn, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs398) Lastly, we have dioecious plants. You will need multiple plants of this category in order to obtain fruit. This variety of plants will have female and male flowers located on separate plants. Vegetables in this category include spinach and asparagus. For more information on attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden, visit http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/gardening-with-wildlife/bee-plants.html.

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