Understanding the reproductive systems of plants is a key to successful long-term gardening and seed saving techniques. Many fruit bearing plants need a pollinator, such as an insect or the wind to transmit pollen to turn their blossoms into fruits. Self-pollinating plants however grow their own “perfect” flowers that can transmit their own pollen without external help. Learn more about how to work with this type of plant in our short guide on self-pollinating vegetables!
Types of Self-Pollinating Plants
Some of the most common self-pollinating vegetable plants include lettuces, legumes such as green beans, lima beans and snap peas and member of the Nightshade family such as peppers, tomatoes and eggplants. There are certainly some varieties that aren’t self-pollinating, but most of these plant do not open their blossoms before the pollen has been released. This release pollinates the blossom while it is still closed, and allows the fruit to set as the blossom matures.
Sometimes the same vegetables of different varieties (e.g. two different types of peppers) can cross pollinate with the help of insects and create a seed that won’t produce a pepper anything like the one the seed grew in. There’s no need to worry about cross pollination between different types of vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and eggplants) but try to plant different varieties of self-pollinating vegetables at least 10-20 feet apart from each other. This is especially important if you have an outdoor garden, as insects do gather pollen from self-pollinating plants as well as ones that don’t self-pollinate.
Saving seed that is true to its parent plant is most efficiently done with heirloom varieties that are self-pollinating. The success rate for growing exact copies of the parent plant is highest with these types of vegetable plants (especially tomatoes and beans), reaching about 95 percent statistically. This is why growing heirloom tomatoes are such a satisfying and popular practice among gardeners.
Self-pollinating vegetable plants can suffer from inadequate light or watering. The fruit set can also suffer if early summer temperatures climb above 90 degrees, as this causes the pollen inside the blossom to become inadequate.
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