Strawberry Plants Producing Runners but no Strawberries?

Strawberry Plants Producing Runners but no StrawberriesA common complaint of new strawberry growers is that their strawberry plants aren’t producing strawberries.  They have planted them, provided them tender loving care, and waited expectantly for them to return the “love” by setting a harvest of nice, plump, juicy strawberries.

And then no strawberries come.  You may have lots of leafy greens and too many strawberry runners shooting out to count, but the strawberries themselves are sadly absent.

Here are the top 10 reasons your strawberry plants aren’t producing strawberries.  It is likely that your situation will fall into one of these:

10 Reasons Strawberry Plants Don’t Produce Strawberries

1. Strawberry plants are too young

June-bearing strawberry plants will often produce few or no strawberries in the first year they are planted.  This is, in fact good for the long-term health of your plants and strawberry bed.  The energy that goes into a strawberry is not insignificant for a young strawberry plant.  Since strawberries are perennials that will produce a crop year after year, the best use of developmental energy is in establishing a strong, healthy root system and flower buds within the crown.  The better root system will exponentially increase the nutrient uptake for the second year.  And, those roots will be needed as the flower buds will turn into flowers that will turn into strawberries in year two.  This is why it is important to pinch off strawberry flowers in year one as described on the Growing Strawberries page.  Doing this in year one allows development of more buds and better roots.  This makes the plant healthy.  The healthy plant will then set a much larger harvest than it otherwise would without them.

2. Your strawberry plants have diseases or parasites or both

There are a host of strawberry pests and pathogens that literally suck the life out of strawberries.  In fact, you can view the most common ones on the Strawberry Plant page.  If your strawberries have an infection or infestation, they may simply be too sick to produce strawberries.

3. Your strawberries are thirsty (or drowning)

Strawberries can be finicky when it comes to their water requirements.  They have relatively shallow root systems.  This causes them to absorb the vast majority of their water from the top several inches of soil.  This is also the soil that dries out most quickly when the temperatures rise.  Since strawberry plants require a significant and steady amount of water (see the Growing Strawberries page, linked above) to produce best, constant drying out of the top layers of soil can cause the plants to go into “survival mode.”  They don’t produce many or good quality strawberries in dry dirt (if they survive).  Additionally, too much watering will halt plant growth and strawberry production.  In fact, the strawberry crowns will rot, and the plants will die if they remain in standing water for too long.  It is important to plant your strawberry plants in well-drained soil to prevent standing water from submerging any part of the strawberry plant.

4. Your strawberries aren’t getting pollinated

Most of the common varieties of strawberry plants have hermaphroditic flowers, meaning they have both “male” and “female” parts.  However, the flowers typically act as either male or female, not both.  This means that pollen from one flower has to make to to another flower in order for the strawberry to form.  So, if a strawberry plant is kept indoors in a window or outdoors on a screened in porch (or anywhere else where the pollinating insects won’t be successfully drawn to your plant, you likely won’t have any strawberries.

5. Your strawberry plants are starving

Strawberry plants are amazing.  They can manage to eke out their existence in some of the harshest places on earth.  In fact, one of my own crazy strawberry runners once rooted itself in the shelf of a cheap, pressboard bookshelf.  It had nothing to eat other than wood chips and whatever glue they use to stick those things together.  To my amazement, it survived and grew well.  It actually was only a inch or so smaller than the other runner plants put out from the same mother plant.  But, when the other plants fruited, this one did nothing.  In fact, it didn’t even produce a flower.  All that to say: your strawberry plants need the right nutrients.  Without the appropriate organic components, the plant may still grow, but it won’t provide you with any strawberries.

6. Your strawberry plants are high on NPK

Giving your strawberries too much food can also hurt strawberry production.  The Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium (NPK) fertilizers are generally formulated for specific growing purposes.  Using fertilizers that are of the wrong concentrations for strawberry plants, or even using way to much of an appropriate fertilizer can decrease strawberry production.  Often, the fertilizers cause excessive vegetative growth at the expense of strawberry production.  After all, why should the strawberry plant worry about propagating itself via strawberry seeds if it has so many nutrients tickling its roots that it can’t even think straight?

7. Your climate is wrong for strawberries

Most strawberries grown at the equator are grown at high elevations where it is cooler.  I don’t think it is possible for them to grow on Antarctica without serious human interventions.  While a few populated places on earth are completely unsuitable for any type of strawberry growth, strawberries will grow just about everywhere else.  If, however, the preferred combination of warmth and coolness is not attained, many varieties will not produce strawberries.  Most strawberry cultivars do best when the days are warm to hot (but not scorching) and the nights are cool to slightly warm.  This combination of warm days and cool nights will almost always result in the maximal strawberry production for almost any strawberry variety.  If you live somewhere where it is too hot, the plants may still grow, but the strawberries may be sparse or absent.

8. Your strawberry plant variety is wrong for your climate

Strawberry breeding programs around the world are constantly trying to increase local yields by developing more suitable strawberry plants for specific regions.  This goal is often attained.  However, in creating specialized strawberry cultivars, some of the overall adaptability of these plants is bred out or lost.  When that happens, the new cultivars are sometimes successful only in specific climactic regions.  Buying a strawberry developed for Michigan strawberry growers, for example, may not grow well in southern Florida.  When the plants don’t thrive, they often don’t fruit.

9. Your strawberry plants don’t like their home

Strawberry plants will grow well in containers.  If they are properly cared for, that is.  Container strawberries often do not have sufficient soil.  Their soil will dry out much more quickly than in-ground strawberry plants.  Their roots can get too hot.  If planted in nutrient deficient or poor strawberry-quality soil, the plants won’t be happy.  Regardless of whether a strawberry plant is planted in an inhospitable pot or inhospitable plot, the lack of a suitable home that results in any of the conditions above will diminish or eliminate berry production.  Unhappy plants don’t readily produce strawberries.

10. You’ve been duped, lied to, or are misinformed

Occasionally, nurseries that sell strawberry plants get their facts mixed up.  If they sell a June-bearing strawberry variety to a customer wanting an everbearing variety so that they can have a decent crop toward the end of the season, the buyer will be frustrated when no strawberries come forth.  Be sure to check the characteristics of the cultivar you want to plant to make sure it is what you think it is and that it will perform well in your climate.  A great place to start is the Strawberry Varieties page.

So, if there are no strawberries on strawberry plants you have planted.  Evaluate each of the 10 reasons above and see if they apply to your situation.  If they do, remedying the problem will likely result in reaping a harvest!

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56 comments to Strawberry Plants Producing Runners but no Strawberries?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Jim,
    I’d recommend going through each category on the Growing Strawberries reference page. If everything is and has been followed there, your issues will likely clear up. Good luck!

  • Jim

    We built a raised bed specifically for a strawberry bed. We planted this spring. Everything appeared to be going very well until now. Plants appear healthy with vigorous growth lots greenery . Lots of runners. We had plenty of flowers and fruit started growing but all fruit falls off plant before colouring or in most cases big enough for eating. Plants still flowering and growing fruit? I have been removing runners. I have checked plants for any signs of pests but cannot find any. Any ideas or suggestions please

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Milton,
    To prevent excessive runner formation, most commercial farmers plant strawberry plugs in the fall, then till under the plants after the harvest in the spring.

  • Milton

    Mr. Strawberry, we are in 2500 Mts elevation,

    ARE THE STRAWBERRY PLANTS THROW NUMEROUS RUNNERS(STOLEN) DURING STRAWBERRY PRODUCTION? THIS IS PROBLEM WITH VARIETY OR FERTIGATION OR CLIMATIC FACTOR?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Cindy W.,
    The runners that hand down the sides can sometimes produce a few strawberries, but they are drawing all of their nutrients through the mother plant when they do that. That puts a strain on the mother plant. For best results, root the runners. Once they are rooted, they can be severed from the mother plant and planted anywhere. Good luck!

  • Cindy W.

    I have a new raised garden box that was just planted about 6-7 weeks ago. It is a 2 level box and I have strawberries planted in both of the lower end boxes. There are 3 plants in each box. They are growing very well, sending off a lot of runners, getting buds and even getting some fruit. My question is can the runners hang down the side of the planter and still produce? I don’t want them to grow upwards and into the garden section of the box.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Madison,
    You might have an infection. This might help. Good luck!

  • Madison

    Hi I have strawberry plants but they are doing everything normal but a couple of days before they are ripe they go brown. They are not toughing anything and I put down slug pellets. They don’t touch off them so it can’t be that . Please help

    Madison

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Hope Strawberry,
    Unfortunately, probably not. Most strawberry plants are June-bearers (the ones that produce the biggest strawberries). They only set blooms and fruit once per year for a couple of weeks, approximately. You will likely need to wait until next year. Sorry!

  • Hope Strawberry

    A storm came through and blew over my green house even though it was well anchored. My strawberries were thrown everywhere. I replanted all the ones that were salvageable and they are now growing quite well. Unfortunately, I’m not getting blossoms any more. Is there anything I can do to get my blossoms to come back?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Arianne,
    You might have a pest infestation. See these links for more information on pests and deformed strawberries. Good luck!

  • Arianne

    Hi,
    We have just put in new plants in this year, and the plants appear to be quite healthy, and are producing a few fruits. We have one long row, and at one end, the fruit is as would be expected, but at the other, it is quite small and sort of hard on the ends (not green – more of a yellow colour), although ripening up elsewhere well. They taste good, but are hard on the ends. Any ideas? I can’t seem to find descriptions of this nature of problem under any of your help topics.
    Thanks!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Louise,
    If the plants or stems holding the strawberries are damaged, the fruit will often fall. You might want to investigate potential pest infestations. If the fruit becomes over-ripe, it will also occasionally fall. Good luck!

  • Louise

    Hi we have a plot of strawberries i “inherited” when i took over a garden, so i have no idea what type they are.
    The started well and formed good looking fruit. We kept birds off them with netting. But the 50% of the fruit fell off the plant “voluntarily” some even before ripening. Any idea what could have caused this? It’s a big mushy strawberry-y mess up there!
    thanks

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Zoe,
    It sounds like you might benefit from the information on the Deformed Strawberries page. Hopefully that will get you pointed in the right direction. Good luck!

  • Zoe

    Hiya! I have 9 day neutral strawberry plants growing in my back garden. They have been producing lovely big flowers and nice big strawberries the past few weeks and I’ve been picking off the ripe ones daily. I still have lots of big green strawberries growing. But, around the crown are more strawberries flowers coming up but the buds are rotting/dying before they become a strawberry? why is this? all my strawberries are growing below leaf level aswell which doesn’t look right to me.. A few have been mutant looking too. Please help!!! also, what’s the best way to water them with a hose? thank you!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Samantha,
    It very well could be that the plant is one of the many Alpine varieties. They produce naturally small fruit. Plants that are 3 years of age also tend to start declining in the size of fruit they produce. It could be nothing more than that. Without knowing more about the variety you have, it is hard to give accurate advice! I’m sorry, and good luck!

  • Samantha

    We have an issue and I’m not sure what to do. We have a strawberry plant that is 3 years old. it lives in a big Rubbermaid container that has a crack on the bottom. This allows for drainage which is why I picked it. It gets morning to mid afternoon sun, but not much evening sun. It gets watered twice a day on extremely hot and dry days and once in the evening on not so hot days. We always feel the soil before deciding how much water it needs and I always allow the water to soak into the soil before adding more so we don’t flood it.

    Problem is we’re getting teeny tiny fruit, it flowers fine and bees visit the plant. However my daughter (7yo) who has be lovingly taking care of this plant is frustrated because she wants bigger strawberries to eat. Unfortunately I don’t know what variety it is. It has white flowers, darker green leaves and produces a bright red fruit.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Cathy,
    If the plants haven’t been thinning in 3 years, that would be a great place to start. Strawberry plants also start to lose their vigor and vitality after about three years. So, if the planting is an old one, try starting a new one with healthy runner plants in a new location. That might be the root cause of the lack of production: old plants. The crowns on the older plants will be bigger, usually. Good luck!

  • Cathy

    hi – hope I am posting this in the right spot – so many posts and threads I am not sure… here are my
    questions though -

    I have a client ( I am a pro gardener)
    with a strawberry planting that issue 3 years old. she is no longer getting fruit.

    The problem with fixing this is she doesn’t know what variety she has. Does that make it pointless to try the things you suggest for improving harvest? (composting, mulching, fertilizing, thinning) I would like to at least try thinning. It’s a small dense patch in a raised bed – no rows. How many runners/baby plants do I remove…and how do I tell the MOTHER plant from the others??

    thanks for any input you can offer
    Cathy

  • Straw Berry

    mai,
    Arizona isn’t the best location for strawberries, but it can be done. I’d recommend reviewing the information in the main guide for growing strawberries. Good luck!

  • mai

    I need help I’m a first time gardener and I wanted to get some strawberries growing and yeah that seem to start growing but the.strawberry seem to die.off so I moved them to a bigger pot hoping maybe that are not happy in the other pot…could that be the prob. By the way I live in phx AZ don’t know if that matters…

  • Straw Berry

    kaka,
    Unfortunately, strawberries are temperate by nature. They simply don’t do very well in tropical environments. That may be the source of your problem. Good luck!

  • kaka

    Any one help me please :(
    my strawberry plants grow very well, have a lot of leaves and new leaves and product the fruits very well but they not product any runner i grow it in a pot and the weather in my country is in tropic

  • Straw Berry

    Jayne Wilkins,
    Congratulations on your plants! If they can’t root, you should snip the runners. They will just drain productive energy away from the productive mother plant otherwise. As for help growing and overwintering them, see the Growing Strawberries reference page. Be sure to scan the linked articles at the bottom, especially for the details about overwintering. Good luck!

  • Jayne Wilkins

    I am living in mount. of Lesotho Southern Africa, about 7000ft. elevation. It freezes in winter with some snow but cool rainy summers. I don’t know what variety I bought in South Africa. I planted in very large container with lots of compost, mulch, mix of sand and soil. My plants have been growing for 4 months and look great with lots of runners. Many of runners fall over the side of container. Should I cut those off since they can’t root? I got very few strawb. this year but this is the first year. How should I care for them during winter?
    Thanks for your help.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Katherine Dunlap,
    More than likely, either one or more of the reasons listed above have contributed to your lack of strawberries. However, the list isn’t exhaustive. You might want to contact an extension agent in your area to come evaluate your strawberry bed first-hand. Good luck!

  • Katherine Dunlap

    I have a raised bed of strawberries (in Montana). This was their 3rd season. 1st season, I pinched off all the flowers to let the roots get strong – didn’t bear that year. 2nd year the bore beautifully! 3rd year (this year) not ONE bloom! Plants look great – no diseases I can see. What happened????

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Charles Kinch,
    If you haven’t added additional fertilizer, the soil composition is probably good. You might want to just give the new beds some time. Sometimes it takes longer than usual for the new transplants to establish themselves. Next year you could have a bumper crop! Good luck!

  • Charles Kinch

    The additional thought I had is that in establishing new beds, I significantly augmented the soil with up to 30% organics of compost, peat moss and well rotted horse manure, along with sand and mulch for aiding drainage. I have not been using any additional fertilizer, but have I made the soil just too rich, as in your point 6 above, too high NPK? Would I be better moving to new beds that are not so rich? The base soil here is very poor with lots of stones, clay, shale, etc., so I do need some augmentation.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Charles Kinch,
    If you are transplanting new runners into new beds, they should be as vigorous as any you’d get of the same variety from a nursery. You may have an infestation or infection of some sort that is causing decreased production, or, as you mentioned, it could be a climate problem of some sort. If you figure it out, be sure to let me know! Good luck!

  • Charles Kinch

    I started seriously growing strawberries about 10 years ago with a dozen everbearing plants on an island on the west coast of Canada. With excellent production and seeing lots of self propagation via runners, I expanded the beds, also moving and starting new beds every 3-4 years, using both dividing clusters of crowns and rooting runners. I continued to see good production for several years, but it has dropped off significantly in the last couple. Only a few pints out of over 400 plants in June, but now in late July tons of healthy green leaves, lots of runners, zero flowers and fruits. I attributed it to poor weather (long cool wet springs, hot dry summers), and birds getting a lot of early fruit before I could get netting in place. None of your 10 reasons above seem to apply. Notes in other comment replies and elsewhere (Renovating beds) indicate that the plants are likely simply too old. Are they now a waste of space, water and weeding effort, needing to be plowed under and restarted from scratch? The unanswered question to me is if new plants from a nursery are generally propagated runners from existing multi-year plants, why are they productive and the ones I propagate from runners on my plants aren’t?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Walter Jones,
    I’d start by following the guidelines on the Growing Strawberries reference page. Following each step should allow you to reap a bountiful harvest! Good luck!

  • Walter Jones

    Plants are growing with 6 to 8 inch upward vine with 6 to 8 flowers but nerries are of poor quality ???????

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Pamela Gagliano,
    You’ve likely got a pest problem, disease, or nutrient deficiency. Check the Strawberry Library for assistance, especially entry 0004 and 0008. Good luck!

  • Pamela Gagliano

    OK so this is the 2nd year I’ve had my strawberry garden. They get beautiful green leaves, lots of flowers that turn to strawberries but the strawberries turn brown and die before they get big enough. It’s mid June so I’m patiently waiting. New Jersey has been getting quite a bit of rain so maybe the berries are drowning? BTW they are in a large patch fenced in. And yes I do have a lot of runners? Should I trim them down? Please help! I could have enough strawberries to freeze through the winter if they all grew! Thank you in advance :)

  • Mr. Strawberry

    julie,
    Strawberry plants will lose their productivity as they age. They usually trend down in vitality and production after their 3rd year. So, if you have plants that are 6 years old, it is likely that they are the non-productive ones. Or, if you haven’t been thinning the plants occasionally, they may not be getting enough nutrients to produce well after competing for resources with the younger, more vigorous plants. Good luck!

  • julie

    I have a straw patch about 10′ long and 4′ wide….half of the straw plants are flowering, with berries. But, the other half is only leaves, getting bigger and bigger and runners running like crazy…… I don’t understand THAT at all??? I originally had 3 plants, 6 years ago,

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Chuck Mcallinter,
    It sounds like they are wilting. This might be of help to you: Wilting Strawberries. Good luck!

  • Chuck Mcallinter

    I just planted about 30 everbearing plants that were in their second year. I had them in peat pots and all were very healthy. Once I planted them in my prepared bed I noticed almost a third of them are looking weak i.e. Their leaves began to lay down as opposed to standing up strong. About three have actually died. The soil is real good for drainage and is certainly well amended. I put a few grains of time release fertilizer under each plant and water with water from the lake. Any ideas?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Chandraboth,
    The warmth of your climate can make it difficult to produce much fruit. The plants might do ok, but with very warm weather, they may produce a lot of vegetative plant mass without many (if any) strawberries. Either way, it sounds like you have your plants growing well. Good luck!

  • Chandraboth

    I am from cambodia, a tropical country, I grow my strawberry in the Aquaponic method and some of the strawberry plant are grown using the hydroponic method which its root are always in contact with a running water all the time. They look quite ok as I can tell from the freshness of the leave. However, I’m still wondering will I get a strawberry fruit or not.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Mandy B,
    It is best that the new plants do not produce flowers/strawberries immediately after they root. Very likely, if you give them time, the other 70% will begin to bloom and fruit also. However, unless they are day-neutral or everbearing varieties, it is best to snip the blooms until spring of the following year. Good luck!

  • Mandy B

    Hi, I have 15 runners from the same plant which I grew last summer. 4-5 of the runners started producing fruits right after developing their own roots while they were still so tiny. But the rest of them don’t seem to bloom at all. I don’t think that my problem falls in any of the fact you mentioned above as about 30% of my runners are producing fruit. What is the reason that the remaining 70% are not? They are all under the very same conditions.Thanks.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    REBA RAINES,
    It sounds like you have some sort of pest that is damaging your plants. If the runners and berries are falling off, almost certainly something is nibbling them off. You may want to do some up-close investigating, and then check here for pest management. Good luck!

  • REBA RAINES

    I HAVE PLENTY OF RUNNERS AND LOTS OF LITTLE GREEN STRAWBERRIES, BUT THEY FALL OFF BEFORE GETTING RIPE. WHY?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Brino hosey,
    Unfortunately, strawberries are temperate and won’t do well near the equator unless grown at high altitude. Sorry!

  • Brino hosey

    Hi. I am brino in uganda africa(very close to the equator) with plenty of rain and sunshine as well. I am planning of growing strawberries but not yet sure if i will get any results since i havent seen any other planter around here. I am therefore asking for any guidance before i go out on this task. Thnx

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Lynn Marsh,
    No, the bird netting shouldn’t affect pollination unless it is so tight and resting so heavily on the plants as to compress and damage them. Otherwise, the netting should not affect the strawberry plants. Good luck!

  • Lynn Marsh

    Thanks. That is so helpful. Last year was a coolish and wettish summer and I go so many strawberries I decided to plant lots of runners and have a really big area in them- on the grounds that you can never have too many strawberries whereas courgettes and beans…We are having a really hot summer and I have watered pretty regularly but not daily, Very few berries. Does the bird netting being too tight have any effect on pollination?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Bernadette,
    It may be as simple as which varieties you planted. If you planted June-bearers, they may be going straight to runners. Also, if your nutrient balance is out of whack, some varieties will produce excessive vegetation without flowers. If your plants are first-year plants, it is best to remove the flowers anyway. See the information on the Strawberry Flowers page and the Growing Strawberries reference page for more information. Good luck!

  • Berandette Manuel

    I’ve been planting strawberry in hydroponics system using NFT system. I want to ask why other plants already have runners but they don’t have flowers? And some have flowers but didn’t produce runners? Thanks Badette

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Michael,
    The climate may very well pose a problem for successful commercial cultivation there in Grenada. Strawberry plants prefer more temperate weather, particularly cool nights. To get a decent crop, you will probably do best growing the strawberries in climate controlled greenhouses. I would try a test run with some of the Zone 9 strawberry varieties to see how they perform prior to investing heavily in a strawberry operation there. Good luck, and let me know how things go!

  • Michael

    We are thinking of encouraging and supporting a local grower to try to commercially raise strawberries here in Grenada, West Indies. The soil is as rick and full of humus as we have seen. First, do you think that the climate is suitable? Second, what variety might you recommend? And lastly, since the climate here is about 80 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit year round are there any special steps that need to be taken to help insure a decent crop? Thank you in advance for any help you might offer. Michael

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Jorge,
    It could be that the environmental conditions after the initial berry production became difficult for the strawberry plants to tolerate. If conditions become severe, the plants become stressed. When plants are stressed, they will often cease or dramatically slow their productive efforts (whether towards fruit production or runner production). Another possibility, though less likely, is that you purchased a variety that doesn’t produce any runners. A few of those are out there, but most commercially purchased strawberry plants should produce runners if conditions are at lease moderately favorable.

  • Jorge Aranda

    What about the opposite problem — I got a few strawberries in my new plant (planted this Spring), but so far apparently no runners?

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