What Are Strawberry Runners? (Stolons)

Most of the commonly cultivated varieties of strawberry plants (Fragaria x ananassa) will produce “runners” as a means of propagating themselves. Anyone who grows strawberries is probably familiar with the term and, at some point, probably experienced at least a twinge of curiosity regarding them. You may have even asked yourself, “Exactly what are strawberry runners ?” Be curious no longer, for you are about to find out!
strawberry plant runners

Background Information about Strawberry Runners

Strawberry runners are properly called “stolons.” The word “stolon” comes from the Latin word “stolo” meaning a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root. Stolons are produced by virtually all June-bearing strawberry plants and most everbearing and day-neutral strawberry varieties. By definition, stolons are horizontal connections between organisms, and they can arise from the organism or its skeleton. Animal stolons are usually formed from exoskeletons, and are outside the scope of a post about strawberry plant runners.

Strawberry plants produce runners. These stolons are horizontal stems that run above the ground and produce new clone plants at nodes spaced at varying intervals. Since strawberry plants possess stolons, they are considered “stoloniferous.” The long, leafless stems between the mother plant, plant-growing nodes, and growing tip of the stolon are called “internodes.”

Adventitious Roots on a Strawberry Runner

Most plants have a root system that consists of a primary root or primary roots with root branches forming and growing from the primary root. Strawberry plants have this arrangement for the majority of their root system. However, they also have a special advantage: adventitious root formation at the nodes of their stolons.

Adventitious roots manifest away from the primary roots of a plant, originating instead from the stem, branches, leaves, or old and woody roots. As the name implies, this gives certain plants somewhat of an advantage over other plants. In the case of strawberry plants, they are able to propagate themselves laterally in different directions via runners to find more suitable growing locations for their clone offspring. This allows them to find better soil or areas of better sunlight.

As the strawberry plant runners are sent out, the nodes will develop the adventitious roots, sent them downward, and establish the new clone plant once contact with soil is made. Once established, the intermodal runners will dry, shrivel, turn brown, and eventually separate leaving two independent plants: the original and the clone. These special roots make it easy to start growing strawberry plants from a runner.

Benefits of Strawberry Runners

For the gardener or farmer, strawberry runners can offer significant benefits. For perennial strawberry beds, matted rows that will produce bumper crops of strawberries can be established (see the Growing Strawberries page for additional details) using only a few purchased or transplanted mother plants. This saves money as well as time (the farmer has to plant few plants!).

If planted in ideal conditions with regulated and appropriate amounts of water applied, most strawberry plants will produce abundant numbers of runner plants. Under ideal conditions it is not uncommon for a single plant to produce between 30 and 50 runners, depending on the vigor and qualities of the variety.

For nurseries or commercial operations, the constant production of new strawberry plants yields a return on the initial investment as the new clones are sold. A nursery or gardener can also make use of the adventitious roots. Since the strawberry plant runners are fairly flexible, the nodes can be positioned above pots, plug trays, or other growing medium. Once the root touches the soil, it will grow right where placed. Once established, the new clone plant can be separated from the mother plant and carried off in its new container, pot, or plug tray. This makes them easy to transport, sell, or re-plant elsewhere to establish a new strawberry patch.

Drawbacks of Strawberry Runners

All is not rosy in strawberry runner world, however. There are a few drawbacks to the production of strawberry plant stolons. The strawberry plants don’t understand the desires of a gardener. They only want to eat, grow, and reproduce. As such, they don’t stop sending out runners when you would like them to do so. Because of this, strawberry beds have to be thinned and renovated in order to maintain maximal production and vigor.

The prolific runner production of many of the different Strawberry Varieties also makes them somewhat invasive. Without having a dedicated area for growing strawberry plants, many cultivars will take over a garden and can choke out other plants. Runners facilitate this lateral, invasive spread.

Additionally, it takes productive energy for a strawberry plant to send out runners. The propagating energy used up in stolon production does not go into production of strawberries. Since most people grow strawberry plants for the strawberries and not the runners, it may be necessary to prune the runners so that more productive capacity is manifested in more and bigger fruits.

Strawberry Plant Runners: Conclusion

As with most things, there are positives and negatives when it comes to the runners on a strawberry plant. Should they stay and grow, or should you prune them? There is no answer that is correct for every situation. But, hopefully, you understand strawberry runners well enough now to make an informed decision that will be best for your specific cultivar and your garden!

(If all you are getting from your strawberry plants is runners and no strawberries, see this post to understand the top 10 reasons why that may be happening: Strawberry Plants Producing Runners but no Strawberries?)

Hooray for strawberry runners!

130 thoughts on “What Are Strawberry Runners? (Stolons)”

  1. I am growing Jewel variety strawberries in raised beds. Last year I neglected to thin the plants out. I live in WV and we have had a very wet spring. The combination of overcrowded plants and too much moisture has lead to leaf spots / blight in my plants. I am wondering if this disease will transfer to the new runners? I want to clean the beds out and need to know if I need to order new plants or if the runners will be ok to save and replant then destroy the existing plants? Thanks for your help!

    • Karen,
      If you keep soil from splashing onto the leaves during rain with a thick mulch, it will minimize the spread. You may want to remove any diseased vegetation and see how the bed responds prior to starting over from scratch. Good luck!

  2. How would you suggest getting rid of the runners. We planted a acre of berries, trying to figure out how to get rid of runners so they don’t take away from mother/ main plant.

  3. My plant is on the verge of dying that one leaf is left but there is a stolon that is currently growing, would it still die or would it growback?
    Thank you in advance! 😀

    • Jayve,
      If your plant dies before the runner plant is rooted, it will die also. If you want to try to save the runner plant, get some clean soil and affix the runner so that its root tip stays in contact with the soil. it will root there, and when it has rooted, it can be separated from the mother plant and moved anywhere you’d like to move it. Good luck!

  4. I have a 4 tiered bed, each tier is about 1′ by 6′. In the bottom 3 tiers i planted 3 everberring plants, about 18″ apart, this spring (May). Since then we’ve got two good crops of berries, but due to all the runners, have close to 25 plants now. In fact, as we speak, we have about 50+ berries in the flowering to fruit stage. Essentially, all 3 tiers are full of plants and the runners are now flowing over the side of the bed. Next year, since the bed is maxed out, should i just cut back every runner i see? Will this drastically increase the fruit output?

    • Andrew,
      You do need to make sure your beds don’t get too crowded. Otherwise, your harvest will shrink, as will the berry size. You may want to review this information also to keep your bed going strong. Good luck!

  5. Hi,
    I just start growing a few strawberry plants recently. They’re growing okay. I’d like to ask you some questions for advice. How many weeks or when appropriately should I snip the runners from their mother plants? And there is a mother plant having a runner growing, I already attach the runner with soil and it’s growing roots as well, but that runner is having another runner. Should I snip that 2nd runner out or jet let it grow? Hope you reply me soon, and thanks in advance. It’s my first time growing strawberry, so I’m indeed naive about it 🙂

    • Vann,
      You should wait to snip the runners until the roots of the daughter plants are well established and supporting itself. When the runner between plants starts to dry out, they are ready to live on their own. With the second runner being put forth from the first, you can root it as you would any other. Or, if you do not want it, go ahead and snip it off. Good luck!

  6. I have 2 different size runners from the same plant, very thin under 1 mm diameter and others 3 mm. Never seen them that thin before, both have rooted but which will produce the best strawberry?

    • TrevBrown,
      There are multiple different factors that will influence final strawberry size. However, all things being equal, the larger plants will often produce larger strawberries. Good luck!

  7. Thanks for the info but today my parrot ended up eat half of a strawberry plant. She ate some flowers and runners. I was wondering if i could use some of my 0-52-0 fertilizer on it to compensate for the loss. Also i have been growing it in pro soil mix if that says something.

    • 420BlazeIt,
      If your parrot didn’t do damage sufficient to kill the plant, I would just let it recover on its own. I wouldn’t use the 0-52-0 fertilizer. Too much phosphorus! Good luck!

  8. I bought 2 strawberry plants about 3 weeks ago the were in small pots so they weren’t big but i transplanted them and now they seem to be growing big. 1 even has a flower now. But this season i am looking to get more strawberry plants instead of fruit. So i want to know if the plant produces runners year round or just during strawberry season and how to produce the most amount of runners possible. By the way it live in the Caribbean so its hot and sunny year round

    • 420BlazeIt,
      Most strawberry varieties will produce runners after they set a harvest of strawberries. So, once your plants flower and you harvest the berries, runners should begin forming soon thereafter. Good luck!

  9. I have two very young plants growing. How long do they take to produce runners?. If they do produce runners and after leaves are formed, and if I don’t snip them off, will they continue to extend further (daughter to granddaughter to great granddaughter and so on, LOL).

    My main point is I wish to have as many runner as I can get since growing from seed is difficult. These seedlings are grown from seeds. I live in a tropical country.

    Thanks

    • Morgan,
      If you are growing from seed, the seedlings may take a year before they start producing runners. When they do, the runners will often have several nodes along the same runner which are each able to root a new plant. Each new plant will then produce runners again the next year. Good luck!

  10. I have poor fruit set on my strawberries, I live in cairns, the soil is a heavy greyish -brown clay, do you think the primary root has something to do with the poor fruit or what could be the cause?

    • Nicole maxwell,
      It sounds as if the soil is likely the problem. Strawberry plants prefer a sandy loam and can struggle in heavy soils. For more, I would recommend you review this page. Good luck!

  11. Dear Mr. Strawberry

    After 2 years I always renew my strawberry plants and I use strawberry runners. My question is, how about the quality of the strawberry runners? Does it have the same quality as the mother? Do I need to use the new plants from nursery to get good quality strawberries?

    Thanks.

    • Made Uli Bali,
      The runner plants are genetically identical to the mother plants. So, yes, they will have the same quality as the mother plants, all things being equal. Good luck!

  12. My sister just gave me an ever bearing strawberry plant in a hanging basket, so should I have lots of hanging parts? I’m thinking maybe these are the runners, that I might not want? They are sort of like a vine with a joint that seems to have seeds on it and leaves growing from it, and then another vine growing. Some of them have an additional seed/leaf bunch at the end. Should I cut these off? We really want to grow as many strawberries as possible. And don’t have much space for additional plants. I do not have a green thumb, but am really trying to make this work so my 2 and 4 year old boys can grow their own fruit! Thank you so much for your help!

    • Suzanne,
      All of those hanging vines with the nodes spaced periodically are runners. Given appropriate care, each one of those leafy nodes will produce a completely new strawberry plant. Usually, a single plant will reproduce itself via runner many times over, so your kids can have their own plants, if space allows. View the video on the propagation page for an easy way to get the new plants growing on their own. With the hanging basket, you will have to figure some way of suspending the new growing pot for the new runners, however, or lower the hanging basket to the ground until the runner plants have rooted. Good luck!

    • Ruby,
      It is called vivipary. The phenomenon occurs when the seeds germinate immediately while still on the plant. It happens occasionally with strawberries, but some some other species of plants propagate in that way.

  13. Hello!

    I have one strawberry plant and one runner and it just now took root on it’s own. is it entirely necessary to cut it off from the original plant? what will happen if i don’t? Thanks!

    • Kylie Sizemore,
      You do not need to snip the runner. Once the daughter plant is fully established, it will whither and break on its own. Good luck!

    • Shannon,
      It depends on what your goals are. If you want to transplant the strawberries, it is a good idea to let them root in containers, then move them to wherever you want to plant them. If your older parent plants are reaching the end of their productive lives, it is a good idea to let the young, vibrant daughter plants fill the production void. If they are too packed together, it is better to cut them off. Typically, though, using a transplanting system will give you the best results. Good luck!

  14. Mr.Strawbery
    My plants produce lot of bloom and strawberrie,but they are small and close to the soil, not very tasty. Am i letting too many runners and flowers grow? Thanks

  15. Apologies in advance for what I’m sure is a silly question…..if I remove the runners each year, does the original plant itself continue to get bigger and produce more and more each year?

    • Rachel,
      Strawberry plants are forbs and do not grow bigger from year to year like trees do. They also begin to decline in vitality after 3-4 years. Sometimes, they will grow larger crowns or multiple crowns, so they could be considered larger in that sense.

  16. i have my strawbarries in pots, there is no room for them To spread, i just want to prune them but i am not sure when i can, because i am not letting them take root.

    • rachygirl,
      You can cut the runners once the daughter plant has established its own roots and is no longer drawing its sustenance from the mother plant that produced it. You can snip the runners anywhere along their length. Good luck!

  17. I just cut my first runner (s) this weekend. I was kind of frightened that I would kill the whole plant because I snipped the runners too soon. But just follow the instructions from Mr. Strawberry and all will be fine. By the way, this is my first time as well but this website makes it easier to navigate through the strawberry season.

    • Lisa,
      You can snip the runners once the roots of the daughter plant have firmly established the new plant into the soil. Once the new plant is drawing nutrients from the earth in sufficient quantities to sustain itself, it can be severed from the mother plant. Just think of the runner as an umbilical cord! Good luck!

  18. Thank you very much. Would the local Home Depot or Lowe’s have this DE I am needing? Does soapy water water on the bugs as well? I am not sure if they are slugs or just the ones that can roll into a ball if touched. I am grateful for any help rendered.

    • justcallmemister,
      You’re welcome! It is unlikely that Lowe’s or Home Depot carry it (the ones where I live do not). If you have a Farmer’s Co-op around where you live, they might carry it. I doubt soapy water will work long-term, but it can’t hurt to try it! Good luck!

Leave a Comment