Fixing Strawberry Plants That Don’t Produce Fruit

More common than one might think is the problem of strawberry plants that are not producing or when a strawberry will not bloom. Instead, you may have lots of foliage and nothing else to show for all your hard efforts. So why is it that your strawberry plants are big but no strawberries, and how can you fix this common complaint?

Why are There No Strawberries?

There are several reasons for poor strawberry production, everything from poor growing conditions to improper watering. Here are some of the most common reasons for strawberries with no fruit:

Poor growing conditions – Although they’ll usually grow just about anywhere, strawberries prefer well-draining, organic soil and a combination of warm and cool growing conditions in order to produce adequate fruit. These plants grow best with warm days and cool nights. Plants that are grown when it’s too hot will likely not produce many berries, if any. Likewise, if a cold snap occurs, especially while the plants are in bloom, the open blossoms van be damaged, resulting in little to no fruit.

Watering issues – Either too little or too much water can also affect fruit production in strawberry plants, which have rather shallow root systems. These plants take in most of their water from the top few inches of the soil, which unfortunately tends to dry out the quickest. In addition, those grown in containers dry out faster too. In order to compensate for this, strawberry plants require plenty of water throughout the growing season in order to produce an abundance of fruit. However, too much water can be detrimental to the plants by rotting their crowns. If this happens, not only will plant growth and fruiting be limited, but the plants will likely die as well.

Pests or disease – There are many pests and disease that can affect strawberry plants. When strawberries become infested by insects, such as Lygus bugs, or infected with diseases like root rot, they won’t produce well, if at all. Therefore, you should keep a check on insect pests and try to keep plant foliage as dry as possible during watering to prevent future issues with fungal infections or other problems, treating as needed.

Poor or improper fertilizing – As with water, too little or too much fertilizer can become a problem when growing strawberries. Without the proper nutrients, strawberries will not grow well. As a result, fruit production may be low. Amending the soil with compost or other organic materials will go a long way in adding beneficial nutrients to the plants. However, too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, can also limit fruit production. In fact, too much nitrogen will cause excessive foliage growth with few to no strawberries. So if your strawberry plants are big but no strawberries, cut back on the nitrogen fertilizer. This is also why a strawberry will not bloom. It may help to add more phosphorus to the soil as well if this is the case.

Age of the plant – Finally, if your strawberry plants aren’t producing, they may simply be too young. Most varieties produce little to no fruit within the first year. Instead, the plants focus more energy on establishing strong roots. This is why it is often recommended to pinch out flower buds during the first year as well, which of course is where the fruit comes from. During the second year and later, the plant roots will have become established enough to handle flowering and fruiting.

How to Make a Strawberry Plant Produce More Berries

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When you pick a bright red, ripe homegrown strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) from a well-tended plant, it should be as flavorful as it is colorful. Strawberry plants grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 to 10. The little berries will burst with flavor if you provide the right soil, sun and water conditions.

You can grow strawberries in raised beds, outdoor gardens, or in planters on patios and porches. They are one of the easiest fruit-producing plants to grow in the garden. However, to ensure an abundant harvest, you’ll need to plant them correctly, feed them with the right type of fertilizer, and ensure they receive enough sunlight and moisture.

Perennial Planting

Naturally, strawberries are perennials that can be productive for four or five years. The plants reproduce through a combination of seeds and runners, theoretically allowing a strawberry bed to grow indefinitely, even after the mother plants die from old age. To produce satisfactorily, perennial strawberry beds must be thinned yearly, and gardeners need to implement aggressive weed control strategies because strawberries are shallowly rooted, says Michigan State University.

Strawberry plants: what to do after fruiting

The first job to do is to remove the straw mulch spread below strawberry plants to protect the fruit from soil splash. The old straw is the perfect hiding place for pests such as slugs, so is best removed and composted or disposed of.

Next work along the rows in your bed tidying up the strawberry plants by removing any dead or dying leaves. This frees room for new leaves to grow, creating a leafy, healthy plant for over-wintering. If any of the plants look like they’ve died completely, remove those too. Also shear off all the unwanted runners, which will have gone crazy at this time of year – although if you need to, save some for propagating (see below).

Remove runners and dead leaves to tidy plants. Photo: Shutterstock

Strawberry plants need lots of space around them to grow and fruit well, so make sure plants are well-spaced and keep air circulating by removing any netting or covering that was protecting the fruit from the birds. Also keep the spaces between the plants free of weeds.

How to produce new strawberry plants

You can propagate from especially good plants at this time of year too. Pin the first plantlet on a good, healthy runner into a pot of compost. Once it is rooted, detach the runner from the parent plant. Late summer and early autumn are the best time to plant these new strawberries into new beds. They’ll establish well at that time of year and produce a crop next summer.

Don’t forget that strawberry plants generally only crop well during their first three to four years, and subsequent harvests tail off. It’s best to propagate runners of your best plants every year so you’ve always got a supply of replacement plants coming along in the wings.

If you grow perpetual strawberries (also known as autumn-fruiting or ever-bearing, such as ‘Flamenco’), which crop later in the year, all you need do in summer is remove any dead leaves that appear.

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How to harvest your strawberries

There’s no need for any fancy equipment here, just simply use your finger and thumbnail to snip your strawberries from the stalk.

Keep things classic and eat them as they come, or why not get creative and make some lovely strawberry jam?

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