If you planted your strawberry bed yourself, you probably know if the plants are June-bearing or everbearing varieties…unless, of course, like many of us, your mind is playing you tricks and you don’t recall (or you made the cardinal sin of not labeling or writing down your variety—hey, it happens!).
This is a common problem for people who buy or maintain a property where there is already an established strawberry patch. We don’t always have the luxury of getting a garden tour or a complete journal along with our lovely new berry beds.
The point is, sometimes you might have a strawberry patch but not know what kind of plants you have. And while we can’t tell you how to figure out what specific variety your strawberry plants are, we can at least help you figure out what type of plants you have.
- The Two Main Types of Strawberry Plants
- Why Does it Matter If Your Plants are June Bearing or Everbearing?
- Ways to Tell June-bearing from Everbearing Strawberries
- Harvest time
- Plant size
- Growing habit
- Plant spacing and arrangement
- Blossom formation
- Berry size
- Variety name
- Summary: June Bearing Strawberry Characteristics
- Summary: Everbearing Strawberry Characteristics
The Two Main Types of Strawberry Plants
For practical purposes, strawberry plants can be divided into two types: everbearing strawberries and June-bearing strawberries. There is technically a third type, which are day-neutral strawberries, but these are essentially everbearing and are included in the everbearing category most of the time.
The main difference, and the reason people choose one over another, is that June-bearing strawberries produce their entire crop in one big flush that lasts for around three weeks (a little shorter or longer, depending on your variety).
Everbearing strawberry plants produce a large flush in June. It’s not quite as large as June-bearing, but they then continue to produce smaller amounts of berries throughout the summer and into fall. They often have a second larger flush in the fall, too.
Why Does it Matter If Your Plants are June Bearing or Everbearing?
It helps to know if you have June-bearing or everbearing strawberries so that you can plan for harvests, use, and preserving. It also helps to know so you can learn how best to manage your strawberry bed. Planting and management, including fertilization, are a little different for June-bearing plants than they are for everbearing plants.
One of the biggest differences in managing beds is that June-bearing strawberry beds should be planted and spaced in a way that allows them to spread and grow into a matted row. They also require annual renovation of the bed.
Everbearing, on the other hand, will be kept as single plants in rows. They should not be renovated like June-bearing plants should.
Once you know which type of strawberries you have, you’ll know better what to expect and how to manage them.
Ways to Tell June-bearing from Everbearing Strawberries
There are a few key things that will tell you if your strawberry plants are June- or ever-bearing.
Harvest time is the first and most reliable indicator. If your plants produce large harvests over a period of about two to three weeks and then stop for the rest of the growing year, you have June-bearing strawberries. Do note that even though they are called “June” bearing, in warmer climates or areas where the days are longer earlier in the year, the season may be earlier (in May, for example). In colder zones, the harvest can be later and go into July. Even still, if you only get one harvest per year for a month or less, you have June-bearing strawberry plants.
Everbearing strawberries will produce a large harvest in June, continue for the summer months, and will produce into the fall. Many varieties will produce a second large flush in September (timing somewhat variable depending on location). The two large flushes will be sizable but are not likely to be as large as what June-bearing plants will yield for that single harvest.
Note that everbearing plants may take a break after the first large June flushes and then come back to a slower production in a couple of weeks. For this reason, for the first year, until you are sure of which type of strawberries you have, you should not start renovating your patch. Give the patch enough of a chance to start yielding again before you decide to treat it like a June-bearing patch; that is, unless some of the other indicators on this list make you sure that your patch is a patch of June-bearing plants.
Everbearing plants may be a bit larger and rounder, more mounded in appearance. Everbearing plants tend to grow as one tall, rounded plant that is about one foot tall and 12 to 18 inches in diameter. This is because they produce on one main plant instead of spreading the harvest over many daughter plants.
June-bearing plants may be similarly sized but likely to be less bushy, smaller in diameter (10 to 12 inches or less), and sort of “flatter” in appearance. On its own, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two based solely on size, but when viewed in combination with factors like growth habits, spreading, and bed and row arrangement, you will start to see the difference.
Do your plants grow as a mostly single, rounded plant, mounded the way many perennial plants are, or do they spread and sprawl across the ground, always seeming to try to outrun themselves and their bed?
Does it look like the plants kept space between them, or did they spread, grow, and fill in the blank spaces in between, like a typical ground cover plant would? Assume the original plants were spaced 12 to 18 inches apart when they were planted. Can you still discern the space between the plants?
Everbearing plants will stay mostly as single, mounding plants. June bearing will grow like any typical ground cover, crawling and sprawling over the ground. If there is discernable space between the plants—as in, if it is easy to tell one plant from the other, seeing where one starts and stops—you probably have everbearing strawberries.
This feature can be quite telling.
Everbearing strawberry plants may (or may not) grow runners, but if they do, there will only be a few from each plant. They will be limited and easy to spot, and easy to spot which parent plant they are coming from.
June bearing types send out loads of runners and daughter plants. They will cross and tangle, and it will become almost impossible to trace the runner back to the parents from whence they came, especially if the patch is well-established.
Plant spacing and arrangement
How the plants were spaced and arranged, and what that arrangement looks like now as an older, more established patch, can be a clue as to which type of plants the original grower planted.
If your plants are planted in a single or double row, and you can still see that row as a straight and planned-out row (similar to what a row of lettuce would look like), you are almost sure to have everbearing strawberries.
If your plants are growing in one, long, wide row (or several rows, depending on how large your planting is), and the row looks wide, flat, and completely filled in, you almost certainly have June-bearing strawberries. June-bearing strawberries are usually grown as two-foot matted rows with aisles that are about 18 inches wide in between the mats.
If the patch follows a standard arrangement, they would have started as a double row of plants spaced 12 to 18 inches apart, but then the runners would have been sent out, and the daughter plants would have rooted, and on and on until the whole two-foot wide area was filled in (in fact, if they weren’t stopped by grower maintenance, they would have continued overgrowing into the aisles and beyond).
The blossoms of everbearing and June-bearing plants don’t look different, per se, but when they are set is different.
June-bearing strawberries set their blossoms in response to shortening day length and cooler temperatures in the fall. The buds are small and tight and form close to the bottom of the plant. They can be hard to see unless you look closely—the buds won’t jump right out at you—but if your plants are June-bearing, the buds should be there, waiting. June-bearing strawberry buds lie dormant through the winter and then come to life in the spring when the days warm and lengthen.
If you inspect your plants in the fall or very early spring and you find tight, dormant buds, you have June-bearing strawberries. An autumn inspection late in the fall might be more reliable because it’s possible that a spring inspection is revealing spring-formed buds on everbearing plants. But if you find buds on dormant plants before the plants have started noteworthy spring growth, you’re likely seeing fall-set, June-bearing strawberry buds.
Everbearing strawberries are usually smaller than June-bearing strawberries. They typically grow berries in the medium range, while June-bearing tends to be in the large range. Both have sizable berries, much larger than wild strawberries. Do note that, with June bearing types especially, berry size will diminish as the patch nears the end of its harvest season.
The flavor is not a truly definitive clue as to whether your plants are ever- or June-bearing. The reason for this is that there is a wide variety of flavor and sweetness profiles among all strawberry varieties. And while June-bearing strawberries are generally accepted as being sweeter and of a higher dessert quality, everbearing strawberries are very good and can be quite sweet and flavorful, too, especially some of the newer cultivars that have been developed to enhance the flavor quality of everbearing strawberries.
Identifying the type of strawberries you have based on variety names is often unreliable. Why? Because if you weren’t told what type of strawberry plants you have, you probably weren’t told what variety they were, either.
However, if you do happen to be lucky enough to have been told the named variety, all you have to do is do a simple search to find out what type of strawberry plant you have. You should be able to find reliable information online to tell you if a specific strawberry variety is a June-bearing or an everbearing variety.
Summary: June Bearing Strawberry Characteristics
- Have one harvest season each year, lasting for a few weeks
- Flatter, smaller plants, can be hard to distinguish from the next
- Spread and sprawl
- Grow as ground-covering plants, filling in the space between individual plants
- Send out many runners and daughter plants
- Planted to form matted rows, usually two-feet wide
- Blossoms set in the fall when days shorten and get cooler, then lie dormant over winter
- Larger berries
- Sweeter berries with higher dessert quality
There are many good features of June-bearing strawberries, but whether they are right for you depends on how you like to harvest and use your berries. Learn more about the pros and cons of June-bearing strawberries here.
Summary: Everbearing Strawberry Characteristics
- Yield a large flush of berries in early summer and fall, with berries continuing in between
- Larger, more rounded single plant size
- Grow as single plants and are more individually distinguishable from one another
- Grow a few runners and daughter plants
- Usually planted in rows, which may be doubled or tripled in the same bed with aisles in between
- Blossoms set in the spring when the plants break dormancy and continue to blossom through summer into fall
- Smaller berry size, averaging in the medium range
- Not as flavorful or as sweet as June-bearing, though still quite good
As with June-bearing, there are good reasons to keep everbearing strawberries, and the right berry for you depends on many things. Learn about the pros and cons of everbearing strawberries here.