If you’re a strawberry enthusiast, then you know how delicious and refreshing these fruits can be. But do you know the stages of growth that a strawberry plant goes through to produce those juicy, red berries?
This article will guide you through the strawberry growing stages, from its earliest days as a tiny seed to a full-grown plant.
Strawberry Growing Stages
The life cycle of a strawberry plant is quite fascinating. It starts with the seed, which develops into a tiny plant that goes through different stages of growth before it finally produces fruit. But the life cycle of the strawberry plant does not end there. This perennial plant goes through 9 distinct growth stages:
Strawberry transplants take around 90 days (3 months) to produce fruits. However, growing strawberries from seeds could take much longer. This is because strawberry plants raised from seeds will unlikely produce fruit in their first summer. Plants use their first year to establish and grow, while in the second year, they will have an abundant amount of fruits.
Understanding each stage is crucial to ensure a bountiful harvest. So let’s dive in!
Stage 1: Seeds
The first stage in the life of a strawberry plant is the seed stage. Strawberry seeds are small and have a hard outer coat that protects the embryo inside.
Strawberry seeds can be sown anytime from January through to April. When sowing, overseed to increase the probability of germination.
Pro tip 1: Starting strawberries from runners is often much easier and more successful than starting them from seeds.
Pro tip 2: To increase the chances of successful germination, you can stratify the seeds by placing them in a moist paper towel in the refrigerator.
Stage 2: Germination
Once the seed has been sown, it’s time for germination. During this time, the seed absorbs water and swells, causing the outer coat to crack and allowing the embryo to emerge. This process usually takes around 2-3 weeks.
The tiny plant emerges from the seed and grows its first set of leaves (cotyledons). If overseeded, at this point, they can be thinned out to allow for proper growth and development.
Pro Tip: When thinning out seedlings, cut them at the soil level rather than pulling them out. Pulling out seedlings can disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings and potentially harm their growth. Using a small pair of scissors or snips, carefully cut the seedlings you want to remove, leaving the roots in the ground to decompose.
Stage 3: Vegetative Growth
After germination, the plant enters the vegetative growth stage. The plant focuses on growing leaves, roots, and stems during this phase.
The plant will produce more leaves and grow taller as it establishes a strong root system to support future growth and fruit production. The vegetative growth stage can last anywhere from 30 to 60 days.
If you are growing strawberries indoors, now is the time to transplant them. Choose a location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and has well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
Dig a hole for each plant that is large enough to accommodate the root system and set the plant in the hole so that the crown is level with the soil surface. Fill around the roots with soil and water well to settle the soil.
Mulching around the base of the plant can help retain moisture in the soil and suppress weed growth.
Pro Tip: Straw is a common mulch used for strawberry plants, as it also keeps fruits clean and off the ground.
Stage 4: Flowering
The next stage in the life cycle of a strawberry plant is the flowering stage. This is when the plant starts producing flowers that eventually turn into fruit.
The flowers of a strawberry plant are small and white with five petals, and they usually appear in the spring or early summer. These flowers grow in clusters on short stems that emerge from the plant’s crown.
Strawberry flowers attract pollinators, and that is where the next stage of the strawberry plant’s life cycle begins – the pollination stage.
Pro Tip: At this stage, aphids will be attracted to your strawberry. They will feed on the sap of the plant and can cause damage to the leaves and flowers. You can use organic products such as neem oil, garlic extract, or soap and water mixture to control them. Also, invite natural predators such as aphidius wasps, ladybugs, hoverflies, or lacewings to your garden.
Stage 5: Pollination
Once the flowers appear, the plant enters the pollination stage. This is when the plant’s flowers are fertilized, and the fruit begins to form.
During the pollination stage, pollen from the stamens (male part of the flower) is transferred to the pistil (female part of the flower). This can happen through self-pollination or cross-pollination.
Self-pollination occurs when pollen from the stamens of a flower is transferred to the pistil of the same flower or another flower on the same plant. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen from the stamens of a flower is transferred to the pistil of a flower on a different plant.
Honey bees and wild bees pollinate strawberry plants, but these flowers also attract other pollinators, such as butterflies, hoverflies, and many beetles. In addition, these flowers can also be pollinated by wind.
Incomplete pollination can affect the size and shape of the strawberry fruit. When a strawberry flower is pollinated, each pistil (female part of the flower) must individually receive pollen grains to attain complete pollination. If pollination is incomplete, it can result in smaller or misshapen berries and reduced yield. 
Once pollinated, the strawberry plant goes into the fruit formation stage.
Stage 6: Fruit Formation
After pollination, the fruit begins to form. During this stage, the fertilized flowers develop into a small, green bud. As it grows, it turns into the delicious red fruit we all love.
The fruit formation stage can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days. As the fruit grows, it swells and changes color from green to white and finally to red. The size of the fruit can vary depending on the variety of strawberry plants and growing conditions.
When the strawberry fruit is beginning to turn red, it’s important to protect these developing fruits from pests and birds. Insects such as snails, slugs, woodlice, ants, wasps, and many others will try to taste these juicy fruits. They will eat the red part of the strawberry even if the fruit is not fully mature.
Pro Tip: Netting will keep birds away, while organic and biological control will keep insects at bay. That actually rhymes!
Stage 7: Harvest
Once the strawberry fruit has fully turned red, it’s time to harvest. To harvest strawberries, gently twist the fruit off the stem or use scissors to cut the stem just above the fruit.
After harvesting, strawberries should be eaten or preserved as soon as possible because they are highly perishable. They can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for longer storage.
Pro Tip: Avoid washing strawberries until just before eating or using them. Washing strawberries removes their natural protective coating and can cause them to spoil faster.
Stage 8: Formation of Runners
After harvest, the plant enters the stage of forming runners. Runners are long, thin stems with a small strawberry plant attached to the end that grows from the mother plant’s base.
These runners produce small plants that can be used to propagate new strawberry plants. So, if you do not want to expand your strawberry garden or replace old strawberry plants, trim these runners. Removing runners will direct more energy into the growth of the main plant.
Pro Tip: Strawberry plants usually live for 5 to 6 years, with declining fruit yield after 2 or 3 years. When your old strawberry plants send out runners, you can propagate them to get new plants and continue their life cycle with a new generation. This is a great way to expand your strawberry garden or replace old plants.
Stage 9: Dormancy
After the formation of runners, the strawberry plant enters the dormancy stage. This is a period of rest for the plant when growth slows down or stops altogether. Dormancy is triggered by lower temperatures and a reduction in day length.
During dormancy, the plant conserves energy and prepares for the next growing season. The leaves may turn yellow or brown, and some of them will fall off. The plant may appear to be dead. However, this is a normal part of the plant’s life cycle.
Pro Tip: The strawberry plant is very hardy, so you don’t need to protect these plants during the winter months. However, in regions with very cold winters, mulch around the base of plants to ensure their survival.
What To Do Next?
Understanding the different stages of strawberry growth is crucial for ensuring a bountiful harvest. From seed to fruit and further, each stage plays a vital role in the development of the plant.
You can successfully grow strawberries and enjoy their delicious fruit with proper care and attention. Happy gardening!
Check out our How To Grow Strawberries – Easy Step By Step Guide to learn more.
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