Life Cycle of Strawberry Plants

life cycle of strawberry plantsStrawberry plants are a wonderful forb. Their life cycle is much more complicated than the simple appearance of the humble strawberry plant implies. The growth cycle of strawberry plants spans the entire year and repeats annually. The life cycle of strawberry plants begins either from seed or from runner plants, and continues until senescence. This post is an overview of the life of a strawberry plant from germination until withered, brown leaves signify the passage from life unto death.

The Growth Cycle of Strawberry Plants

As with any cyclical scenario, it is difficult to choose a starting point (which came first, the chicken or the egg?). For the purposes of describing the life cycle of strawberry plants, a dual starting point will be considered as a sprouted strawberry seedling and a new strawberry runner. While both of these starting points require the existence prior life, a discussion of the origins of life is outside the purview of this article.

Life Cycle of Strawberries: Beginnings

life cycle of strawberriesThe strawberry seed, as with all seeds, contains the genetic material necessary for the continuation of the plant species (see the Strawberry Seeds page for more details). Upon sprouting, the roots are sent downward into the soil, and the transformation of nutrients into plant matter proceeds as the life cycle of the plant is perpetuated by resources obtained from the plants surroundings. These seedlings are genetically varied from the parent plants. Alternatively, established strawberry plants multiply themselves by means of clone or daughter plants extended from themselves by means of stolons to root some distance away from the mother plant and be established as an independent, but genetically identical, strawberry plant (see this page for more details: Strawberry Runners). Strawberry seeds will usually sprout in the late winter or spring after a period of cold stratification during winter months (but this isn’t required for all strawberry varieties) while runner plants are generally established later in the spring through the fall during warmer temperatures.

Growth Cycle of Strawberry Plants: Maturation

Once root growth commences, plant growth begins in earnest for both seedlings and runner plants. This allows all parts of the strawberry plant to grow and mature. The runner plants have a distinct advantage over seedlings. They start out larger and have a more fully formed support system providing the energy needed for development. But, by the time late summer and early fall rolls around, both seedlings and runner plants are usually established. In the process of growing, the plants will have sent forth roots and produced a canopy of photosynthesizing tri-lobed leaflets sitting atop non-woody stems. Both roots and leaves extend from the hub of the strawberry plant, the crown.

Growth Cycle of Strawberries: Multiplication & Expansion

Once the plants have matured, they are ready to multiply and expand. The do this by means of the runner plants that have already been mentioned. The runners (stolons) are usually between 8 and 18 inches long, depending on the strawberry variety. These extensions serve to spread a strawberry plant’s range and find areas more favorable to growth, whether through higher soil quality or increased exposure to sunlight. Most strawberry varieties are adept at multiplication in this fashion, and they are even considered an invasive weed in some situations.

Life Cycle of Strawberry Plants: Seeds

While strawberry plants produce runners, they don’t put all their reproductive eggs in the same basket. Each strawberry plant devotes significant energy to genetic diversification through seed production. Strawberry seeds come from strawberry flowers which come from strawberry buds which are formed in the crowns of established strawberry plants. There are some variances of flower bud, flower, and strawberry production depending on which type of strawberry plant is considered (see the Strawberry Variety page for more details). The most common of these types is the June-bearing strawberry, and it will be considered here.

During the late summer and early fall, strawberry plants begin forming flower buds within their crowns. During this period, adequate water, light, and nutrients are critical. The flower buds form prior to winter and then move into dormancy (along with the rest of the plant) as the temperature drops. When temperatures again warm in late winter or early spring, the plants revive and immediately begin the transformation of the flower buds into flowers sitting atop stalks. These flowers, like most flowers, are then pollinated by insects and other pollinators. The result of pollination is a large mass of (usually red) accessory tissue studded with individual seed-containing fruits (there are also white strawberries, however). These achenes are attractive to birds and other creatures (including humans!) and are eaten. They are then digested. The remains, including many viable seeds, are then deposited in different locations to sprout and begin again the life cycle of strawberry plants.

Life Cycle of Strawberries: Life Span

The life arc of strawberries begins with the establishment of a new plant, peaks two to three years later, and then proceeds toward senescence and death two to three years following its peak. Under ideal conditions, a strawberry plant can live up to 5-6 years. After 3 productive years, however, they usually begin to loss of vigor, and the production of strawberries begins to decline rapidly. Eventually, as age progresses and the strawberry plant weakens, strawberries usually succumb to ubiquitous opportunistic fungi or other environmental pathogens. The death process usually commences with spots, defects, and browning of previously healthy plant tissues and ends with a brown, withered, decomposing mass.

How Strawberry Plant Reproduce Themselves

Strawberry plants are perennials. They can reproduce by seed. Home gardeners find growing strawberry plants from seed notoriously difficult.

Strawberry plants also grow by runners. Runners are long stems with leaves that can develop their own root system where they touch moist soil.

A runner is the same plant as its parent until it is no longer connected to the crown, the central mass of roots of the strawberry plant. But even after the runner is cut off and transplanted somewhere else, it remains a clone of the mother plant. It is just a younger version of the strawberry plant you have been growing for one, two, three, or more years.

Strawberry plants grow runners late in the season.

Strawberry plants don’t put their energy into producing runners until after they have produced fruit. After the plant has produced strawberries with their tiny seeds and as summer days begin to wane, a strawberry plant senses it is time to put out runners.

There is a beginning and an end to “runner season” for strawberry plants. Summer-bearing strawberry plants put all of their energy into producing fruit as the days are getting longer. Strawberries are coated with tiny seeds that can reproduce the plant, and, in nature, red, sweet strawberries encourage animals to spread strawberry seeds far and wide.

After producing fruit, the plant devotes its energy into producing runners. Long days trigger the production of a hormone called gibberellin that causes stems to grow longer. (You can buy gibberellin to force strawberry plants to grow long stems, but you don’t need to, because the strawberry plants will do this on their own.) After producing fruit, the plant’s energy is focused on making runners.

Scientists have discovered that the strawberry plant has to finish producing its runners before temperatures average about 10 degrees Celsius (52 degrees Fahrenheit). Cool and cold weather cause the plant to go dormant. Dormant strawberry plants have to survive on stored energy through the winter until next spring.

Life Cycle of Strawberry Plants: Conclusion

Throughout their life, strawberry plants provide many times their own weight in harvested strawberries. They are one of the most productive plants when what is produced from the weight of the plant is considered. Strawberries begin to ripen four to five weeks after the first flowers open and continue to ripen for about three weeks. Have you considered growing strawberries yourself this year? If so, there are a host of suppliers from which you can find multiple strawberry varieties for sale. Simply see this directory: Strawberry Plants for Sale.

Understanding the growth cycle of strawberry plants can help you in your strawberry growing endeavors. Good luck!

82 thoughts on “Life Cycle of Strawberry Plants”

  1. Hi,

    Can you please help me with some questions? Last year I planted new strawberry roots and didn’t let them form flowers. So, this is their first fruiting year. I am in zone 7A.

    1. After pollination, when does the strawberry stop growing and start ripening? I am trying to figure out how to recognize when it is done getting bigger. I know it takes about a month to ripen, but how long after pollination does it stop growing and then put energy into ripening?

    2. I had to do a lot of hand pollinating this year due to lack of pollinators. When is there no longer any point in pollinating the flower? Is it when the petals fall off?

    3. I have great strawberry production and happy looking plants, but some of the strawberries are really small. The rest are medium size. We have had an entire month of rain and clouds with very little sun since 4/26/16. Could it be because of the lack of sun? If not, what could be the reason?

    4. Is it best to cut off the runners while the plants are putting energy into strawberry production and ripening?


    • Christine,
      1. Every strawberry is a little bit different. Some will ripen more quickly than others depending on the specific nutrients available to them through their root systems, the amount of sunlight each gets (some plants are taller than others and can partially shade neighbor plants) affects strawberry production, and strawberry pollination actually plays a role in strawberry size as well. The growing process has usually terminated and ripening commences (with no noticeable further enlargement) when the strawberries have transitioned from green to white. The red bioflavinoids that indicate ripeness will begin to be visible shortly thereafter.

      2. If the flowers have been pollinated by hand, taking as much pollen from different flowers as possible can make the strawberries bigger. After the petals fall off, no further pollination is needed as the flower has transitioned from pollination mode to growing mode (unless they get ripped off somehow prematurely). The more species of strawberries you can use to pollinate, the bigger and better the berries will usually be.

      3. Yes, strawberries love full sun and produce best in clear conditions. If it has been overcast as you mention, it will most certainly cause the size of the berries to be smaller than if they experienced full sun for the same time period. There are also other reasons for small strawberries.

      4. It depends on your goals. If you strictly want the biggest berries, yes. If you want to develop a matted row or have daughter plants for transplanting, then you should allow some of the runners to root.

      Good luck!

    • Shannon K.,
      The berries will be soft and give very easily under gentle pressure. And, even though they are supposed to be white, the pineberries will have a slight pinkish or orange-y hue to them when they are ripe if they have been exposed to sunlight. Good luck!

  2. How do I tell the difference between a runner and a flowering stem (stolon and rhizome?)
    I have all of the runners that I need for next years crop rooted and growing now I want to remove runners early without mistakenly removing flowering stems.
    Also if you remove flowering stems accidentally, will the plant send out another to replace it?
    Thank you so much!

    • Stephen Pollington,
      The stolons will grow more rapidly and be tipped with a leaflet, usually. If you aren’t sure, just wait a day, and you should be able to discern the difference at that time. Good luck!

  3. Hello, I am trying to start strawberry plants from seeds. I Had bought so from a local farmers market and followed instructions for planting in small containers outside. My seeds started to sprout, but we were getting a lot of rain so i was worried about them becoming to wet/ rotting so I covered the top of the container with saran wrap. the Sprouts apparently got to warm and withered…will the other seeds germinate or do i need to start with new seeds? or i did read somewhere that the germinate in cooler weather…. will they possibly finish germinating this fall? 🙁 Thank you!

  4. We planted our strawberry plants that we ordered online and they grew nicely. They produced some strawberries at first. Now they are growing runners everywhere but no strawberries. Will the strawberries come back at some point? Thanks!

    • Cindy,
      The strawberries were likely of the June-bearing type. If that is so, they will produce few/no more strawberries until next spring. Good luck!

  5. hello thanks for your post, its 4 days since I planted my strawberry I have not seen any sign that I planted something. I don’t know, if the thing will grow at all, how long do it take to germinate?

  6. I planted my strawberries about 7 years ago. Last year and the year before was abundent, (especially year before). But this year the patch looks thinned out. Are they at end of life or can I revive them? From this article, sounds like end of life. There are pieces of dead roots in the mix. Wasn’t sure if because we had a lot of snow this year and thus far very little rain. I’m sad if they are dying off. 🙁

    • marcella,
      Seven years is right at the maximum expected life span for a strawberry plant, so my guess is that they’ve lived a happy life, produced lots of children, and are now dying of old age. It would probably be best to let them rest in peace instead of spending much effort on reviving them. You can, however, start with some young whippersnapper plants, and do it all over again! Good luck!

    • teresa ward,
      If they are alive and well, you should start seeing early growth within a week or two as long as you water and care for them appropriately. Good luck!

  7. hi…… i have a question for you about green strawberries, where the green strawberries come from? in indonesia i have found only red strawberries. can i plant green strawberries in indonesia?


    • dewinia,
      If you are referring to the bright, fluorescent-looking green strawberries, I am afraid those are photoshopped images hucksters put up on eBay and other less reputable sites trying to separate people from their money. There are yellow, white, purple, and red strawberries. Most strawberries go through a developmental phase where they are pale green or whitish until they mature into their final color (see the last sentence for possibilities). There are, to date, no legitimate sources of green mature strawberries. I’m sorry! Good luck!

    • Dennis Bond,
      Usually, there will be no distinguishable difference between the production of the two daughter plants from the same runner. Assuming they both have adequate access to soil and nutrients, they will both do equally well.

  8. I live in Kelowna B.C Canada. We have amazing vineyards, wine and copious amounts of orchards. Hot dry wonderful climate. It’s now November and my strawberry plants have huge green strawberries on them. Bigger than I’ve had all summer! As it’s getting cooler, I’m not thinking they will ripen. Do I leave them on my strawberry plants? Do I cover my plants? Thanks in advance. Terri

    • Terri,
      I’m not extensively familiar with the climate where you live. However, if you have fruit setting at present, I would let them stay on the plants to see if they will finish ripening prior to cold weather coming. Covering them will extend their production somewhat, so that is a good idea. Good luck!

  9. I found a strawberry in my patch today with little green leaves growing out of each of the seeds on the skin of the red berry. I’d never seen this before and wondered if there was some explanation. I’d be happy to send a picture 🙂



    • Liz,
      That phenomenon is called “vivipary.” Vivipary occurs in some plants; the viviparous plants produce seeds that germinate while still on the plant. So, the achenes (commonly called strawberry seeds) are actually sprouting/germinating right on the strawberry. Hope that helps!

  10. Dear strawberry lovers,

    I am trying out the strawberry plant and it is doing well! I am most happy about when I read ” it repeats every year automatically!” I can’t wait until the strawberries grow!


  11. Hi! Just a helpful hint (I hope), I know you mentioned on the “growing strawberries” page that strawberries thrive in 5.8-6.2 pH. SOOOO true! So if anyone needs help adjusting the pH in their garden, I used pH Down from kelp 4 less, and it was awesome. Here is the link if anyone needs it:

    I hope that’s not obnoxious, I was just really impressed with it, and it’s really cheap (I only paid like $13 for 4 ounces). 🙂

  12. I bought bareroot strawberries with good moist medium. Planted them on 3/2/13 (3 weeks ago) in Zone 8-9 with good soil, fertilizer and water source. They look the same; like brown sticks, and no green leafing at all. Start over?

    • Sal,
      Unfortunately, they are probably dead. If you followed all the instructions that came with them from the nursery as written, you can probably get a refund or replacement plants. You probably should start over. Good luck!

  13. Hi I was wondering I baught a strawberry plant last August when it produced little green strawberries that wernt ready to be ate so I left them for a while then soon enough they died , and now I’m not sure weather to through the plant out or if it can still grow in the summer coming ?

    • Jessica Clarke,
      As long as the strawberry plants didn’t dry completely out and die, the chances are good that they just went dormant with the end of the warmth. Everbearing strawberries will produce berries through the Fall, if the weather is warm enough. So, I’d recommend caring for the plant through the Winter months (see the Growing Strawberries page for more). It will probably do just fine when the weather warms up. Good luck!

  14. I Live in Southern Florida, Have a hydroponic garden in a green house to keep pests out gets pretty hot in summer. Will strawberry plants survive the heat?

    • Dave Price,
      Yes, strawberry plants can survive inside a greenhouse, but you will need to have cooling systems installed. Otherwise, the temperature will likely rise to mortal levels for the temperate strawberry plants. Good luck!

  15. I love your site! Good simple stuff for me to understand and learn. I love stawberries and have been growing them on my balcone for 4 years. I have way to many runners lol!

    Thanks DeWayne

  16. Hi,

    This is Mahendra from India (Maharashtra). I have planted yearly around 50k to 60k strawberry plant. I would like to know that which fertilizers are useful to sw for growing.

  17. I have planted seedlings cut off from runners of a 6 years old plants. In the second year there were many flowers, but none of them resulted in fruit. Can this have anything to do with the fact that the runners “belonged” to a 6 years old “mother”? In other words, are runners “aware” of the original plant’s age and is their productivity on the decline much as the original plant’s productivity is?
    I am very intrigued by this possibility, particularly since some folks propagate this theory as a fact. Having failed to find answers in the internet, I will be much obliged to those who will care to share their opinions.
    My email address Dyzio at

  18. ive been having very poor germination rate in asia, i have now 1 plant indoors.

    Shes looking healthy and i’d like to put her in the garden, however temperature can be as high as 35C/95F is there any way she could possibly survive this?



    • b,
      Strawberry plants can be surprisingly resilient. I’ve seen them growing in conditions that are far less than optimal. However, many strawberry seeds need cold stratification to achieve their maximal germination rates. In your climate, it may be both difficult to obtain good germination rates and keep them alive. I wish you the best, and good luck!

  19. I have a few Chandler strawberry plants. The lowest temperature I have seen here was 17 deg F. Do I need to protect my plants from freezing?

    • Alden,
      At those temperatures, there is a likelihood that your plants, at least some of them, will suffer cold injury. Some of the truly cold-hardy varieties that have been cultivated for growing in northern climates can survive those moderately freezing temperatures. But, for more information, see these pages on chandler strawberries and growing strawberries.

  20. Can you plant strawberries under/between fruit trees. I have 2 of each, apple, pear, and cherry. I would like to use the space under/between these trees – where currently there is a lawn. Any ideas?


    • Edie,

      You can plant them under your fruit trees. However, strawberries do best with full sun. You will likely get a harvest, but it won’t be nearly as big as if you planted them in an open area that got lots of sun.


Leave a Comment