Controlling Cross Pollination – How To Stop Cross Pollination

By: Heather Rhoades

Cross pollination can cause problems for gardeners who wish to save the seeds of their vegetables or flowers from year to year. Unintentional cross pollination can “muddy” the traits you want to keep in the vegetable or flower you are growing.

Can You Control Cross Pollination?

Yes, cross pollination can be controlled. You need to take some extra steps though to ensure that cross pollination does not occur.

Prevent Cross Pollination by Growing One Species of Plant

One method is to only grow one variety of a species in your garden. Cross pollination is unlikely to happen if there is only one variety of a species of plant in your garden, but there is a very slight chance that a stray pollinating insect could carry pollen to your plants.

If you would like to grow more than one variety, you need to determine if the plant you are growing is self or wind and insect pollinated. Most flowers are wind or insect pollinated, but some vegetables are not.

Stopping Cross Pollination in Self-Pollinating Plants

Self-pollinated vegetables include:

  • beans
  • peas
  • lettuce
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant

Self-pollinated plants mean that the flowers on the plants are designed to pollinate themselves. Accidental cross pollination is more difficult in these plants, but still very possible. You can eliminate a significant chance of cross pollination in these plants by planting different varieties of the same species 10 feet (3 m.) apart or more.

Preventing Cross Pollination in Wind Or Insect Pollinated Plants

Almost all decorative flowers are wind or insect pollinated. Wind or insect pollinated vegetables include:

  • onions
  • cucumbers
  • corn
  • pumpkins
  • squash
  • broccoli
  • beets
  • carrots
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • melons
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • turnips

With wind or insect pollinated plants, the plants need pollination from flowers on other plants (either the same or different varieties) to produce healthy seeds. To prevent cross pollination, you would need to plant different varieties 100 yards (91 m.) or more apart. This is normally not possible in the home garden.

Instead, you can select a bloom that you will later collect seeds from the fruit or seedpod. Take a small paintbrush and swirl it inside the flower of a plant of the same variety and species, then swirl the paintbrush inside the flower you have selected.

If the flower is large, you can tie the flower shut with some string or a twist tie. If the flower is smaller, cover it with a paper bag and secure the bag in place with string or a twist tie. Do not use a plastic bag as this can trap heat around the seedpod and kill the seeds inside.

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Cross Pollination Between Orange & Lemon Trees

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Although they can pollinate each other, orange (Citrus sinensis) and lemon (Citrus limon) trees actually don’t require cross-pollination because most citrus trees are self-fertile. From potted small citrus trees to glossy-leaved evergreens that reach heights up to 30 feet, lemons, oranges and other citrus prefer U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 to 11 according to Missouri Botanical Garden. Many citrus trees are parthenocarpic, meaning they can produce fruit without any pollination at all, though the fruit would contain few if any seeds as explained by University of California.

Citrus plants easily cross-pollinate, but most do not require cross-pollination to produce fruit. Seeds resulting from cross-pollinating between lemon and orange trees, however, may produce a plant that bears fruit that cross between lemon and orange.

How To Avoid Corn Cross Pollination

I often get questions about planting corn and corn cross pollination. I’d always been taught that you had to be careful with corn, but for years I didn’t really know the “why”.

First let’s talk about what corn cross pollination is and why it is such a worry. Cross pollination is the natural process where pollen from one variety of a plant pollinates the flower of another.

Cross pollination usually only effects plants within the same family (to learn more about plant families read this post). So for example a zucchini can cross pollinate with a pumpkin, but the results of the cross pollination will not show up until the next generation. So it will be the off spring of the cross pollination that will be a new plant. You will NOT get a pumkinzini this year.

Anyone that says their (x) crossed with (X) and I got this weird funky fruit is mistaken. In those cases what really happened is they started out with bad seed or there was some environmental factor that made this years fruit “funky”. Strange fruit in this year, is not the result of cross pollination this year. I repeat, cross pollination affects the next generations fruit, not this years fruit in almost all families of veggies that can cross pollinate.

BUT, corn cross pollination in an exception to that rule. The corn that you get this year, can and will be affected by cross pollination. So you have to be careful what types of corn you plant in your garden.

It all has to do with Dominant Genes.

Field corn and Popcorn are always dominate to sweet corn.

Also regular old sweet corn (or even heirloom sweet corn) may be dominate to many of the “super sweet” varieties of corn out there on the market.

So what does this mean to the home gardener?

Corn is wind pollinated, which means the pollen is spread almost exclusively by the wind (No Insects Involved).

Corn plants are pollinate when they “tassel”. Tasseling is when you see the tall feather like shoots at the top of your corn plant and the tassels contains the pollen (this is the male part of the plant). Lower on the plant is the female flower which we call silt’s.

These are the bunches of fine silk like material that eventually will be at the top of your corn cobs. The pollen from the tassels is blown by the wind to the silts, where the seeds are then pollinated and eventually become each of the individual pieces of corn on the cob.

This is why it is so necessary for you to plant corn close together in blocks or multiple rows. So the pollen from one corn plant can spread to another.

This also explains why it is so easy for different varieties of corn to cross pollinate.

So let’s use sweet corn and popcorn as an example. If you plant sweet corn and popcorn together, popcorn is the dominate gene. So if (and when) pollen from your popcorn is gets on the silt’s of your sweet corn, cross pollination will occur and the dominate gene’s in the popcorn will ruin your sweet corn, giving your “funky” stranger tasting corn.

So how do you prevent this corn cross pollination?

1. Only plant one variety of corn per year.

If you want sweet corn, then choose one variety of sweet corn that year so there is no risk of corn cross pollination. And make sure if your neighbors garden (anyone within 100 feet of your garden) that they also plant the same or a similar variety of sweet corn. Yes fences or large buildings between your garden and your neighbors will help, but they are no guarantee.

2. Distance

Distance between varieties can prevent corn cross pollination. 100 feet is usually considered enough distance to prevent any significant cross pollination. A house between (or some other large structure) may also help. But if you want 100% pure seed (for example if you are planning on saving an heirloom seed for next year). Then really 1000 feet is the max safety zone!

3. Time

The other method for preventing corn cross pollination is timing. The way this works is you separate the time different varieties are pollinating by planting those varieties at very different times. Say at least 3 or 4 weeks apart. This means that one variety is done pollinating before the other starts setting tassels.

Separation by time can also be accomplished by planting varieties with vastly different tasseling times. Try planting an early maturing sweet corn with a late maturing popcorn. This one requires you don’t some homework and may also mean a little trial and error for a few years.

I understand this corn cross pollination is a bit complicated, and it can also be a bit of a pain in the neck. Do your research before you plant different varieties of sweet corn together to be sure they wont cross. And remember that you can never plant popcorn or field corn (Including those fancy colored decorative corns) together with sweet corn.

Questions. Ask away in the comment section!

About Rick

Hi I'm Rick. And I am a gardening fanatic! I love growing organic fruits and vegetables in my backyard garden. And I love teaching others how to grow their own organic food!

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Comments (10)


Since pepper flowers are capable of pollinating themselves, chaances are they they get pollinated soon after they open, before a different cultivar can cross with them. It is already fairly rare.

To guarantee that crosses do not occur, you can bag the blossom with any number of materials. I have heard of people making little bags out of toole (a type of fine netlike fabric). You could probably also use some sort of women's nylons. Don't use a plastic bag though, as it may overheat and it traps moisture.

As soon as the flower shows signs of a pepper, you can remove the bag, just mark the pepper to ensure you remember which one it is.

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Peppers are self pollinators.Each bud has everything it needs to pollinate itself.
Put something similar to a paint strainer bag for a 1-5 gal, bucket over a small plant or a branch and give it a shake every so often and let nature take it's coarse.
tie some string loosely around the pod stems that were self pollinated if you take the netting off the plant once you see a few pods are growing that were pollinated in the bag for pure seeds.
All you need is a few pure pods for seed so you don't need to keep the bag on all the time.Just make syre you mark the pure pods.
I found that pods seem to take longer to ripen if I leave the bag on.Probably because the bag blocks out the sunlight.


You only need to to leave the "bag" on till you see a little green growth inside the blossom


The seeds you saved may not be crossed and are certainly not useless. Another method is to cover the unopened bud with white glue ( Elmers) which the growing pepper will push off.


Ok so I have a question.. I have seen postings that you can hand pollinate with a paint brush, however the above indicates they can pollinate on their own no problem, or am I mis-reading and Smokemaster means they have what it takes, they just need a little help.

So the pepper pushes off the glue and the glue prevents cross-pollination?

I've been curious about cross pollination and went on the FAQ however that chart was seriously greek to me.

Ok, then John, if precautions aren't taken with bags and glue and such.. it's not like everything you're growing will cross. Correct? In theory Mile High could use her seeds and be ok next year?

I know these may sound like rookie questions but I know someone out there is thinking, yeah that chart in the FAQ was greek thank goodness someone is falling on the rookie sword!


Peppers efficiently self-pollinate. If you really want to make sure you get more than "efficient" production you can go through the trouble of hand-pollinating, but it's generally just not worth it because of how naturally efficient the plants are by themselves. For the most part, people hand-pollinate in order to cross (forced pollination between plants) peppers for hybrids.

Even if you don't bag your seed fruits to ensure no cross pollination you still have a pretty good chance your seed is self-pollinated (that's how good they are at self-pollinating). The thing is, though. especially if you're growing a small garden or for-profit garden. sometimes "pretty good chance" isn't worth taking a chance on.

How Cross-Pollination Occurs

Cross-pollination of self-fertile plants occurs when they are planted in close proximity, where bees and other insects can easily travel from plant to another, carrying pollen. Insects that act as pollinators collect pollen on their bodies and legs while gathering nectar. Pollen from the flower's anther, or male organ, sticks to an insect's hairy body. The insect then inadvertently transfers the pollen to the female organ or stigma. Bees and other insects visit many flowers in one area, so they can easily transfer pollen from one plant of the same family to another. Only plants of the same family can cross-pollinate.


Former Coca-Cola international marketer Philippa Classey is also joining Surterra as its first managing director for Europe.

ATLANTA, Sept. 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- PRESS RELEASE -- Surterra Wellness, one of the fastest growing wellness companies in the United States, has announced that Lee Applbaum has joined the company as its new chief marketing officer (CMO) and Philippa Classey has joined the company as its first managing director, Europe.

Applbaum and Classey are the latest talent the company has attracted to join its leadership team in building global iconic cannabis brands to improve the well-being of consumers.

With his expertise in the premier spirits and consumer goods businesses, Applbaum will lead Surterra's global marketing teams and direct product innovation, integrated brand marketing, retail brand and sales management initiatives reporting directly to Surterra Chief Executive Officer William "Beau" Wrigley Jr.

"Lee is one of the most extraordinary brand builders in the business and having him join our executive leadership team is a big win for Surterra. As an accomplished senior marketing expert, Lee is exceptional at branding products in ways consumers connect with authentically, engaging with consumers at the right moments, and making the complex simple – all critically important in the cannabis business," said Wrigley. "Lee also shares our consumer-first mind-set, our values, and our aim to be the gold-standard in the business."

Applbaum comes to Surterra from Bacardi Global Brands Limited where he served as the global CMO for Patrón Tequila and Grey Goose Vodka, the world's number one ultra-premium tequila and vodka brands. At Bacardi, he led two global integrated marketing organizations across more than 165 countries reporting to the global CEO. Applbaum also was CMO for Target Australia, and held leadership marketing roles at recognized retail and consumer goods companies, including RadioShack Corporation, Federated Department Stores and Schlotsky's. Applbaum began his career at the Coca-Cola Company. In 2015, Applbaum received an Adweek Brand Genius award for groundbreaking digital and social media efforts, and in 2018 he was awarded the Business Insider "Most Innovative CMO" award. Applbaum received a BBA from The University of Texas Austin and his MBA from The University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

"Surterra is creating the blueprint for leadership in the cannabis space based on a strong ethos, which I immediately identified with having come from brands with a heritage of ethos. I'm excited to make the leap from luxury spirits to the dynamic cannabis industry because of Beau Wrigley's vision for Surterra and the industry. I'm honored to join a team of the most experienced and game-changing leaders of global iconic companies and brands to create innovative cannabis products and authentic brands that will make a big impact on the well-being of consumers," said Applbaum.

Classey, who will be based in London and report to Wrigley, joins Surterra as its first international executive leadership team member, signaling the company's readiness to expand into Europe and other international markets. Prior to joining Surterra, she was the CMO of Harmless Harvest where she reported to the CEO and oversaw the growth expansion plans of regulated coconut water. She also led the commercial launch of SmartWater and Vitamin Water in Europe for the Coca-Cola Company, having worked at the company in its water and juice divisions for two decades. Classey has a BA from Brunel University in London.

"Philippa will be our first executive leader based outside the U.S. and will spearhead our efforts to expand into international markets and to complement our South American footprint in Colombia, beginning with the EU marketplace. As an entrepreneurial leader who has led successful launches of consumer and regulated products across Europe, Philippa is a strategic addition to our leadership team," said Wrigley.

"I couldn't be more excited to lead the expansion of Surterra into Europe and to build our international cannabis business across the rapidly growing EU cannabis market," said Classey. "Surterra offers the big thinking and leadership of an established global player with the entrepreneurial opportunity to write the playbook for how to be an global leader in this space."

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