If you’re new to growing your own strawberries, you may wonder what to expect from your plants. In this article, you’ll learn all of the strawberry plant stages, from seed, to flowering, to fruiting, and beyond.
- Stage 1: Seedling
- Stage 2: Vegetative growth
- Stage 3: Flowering
- Stage 4: Fruiting & runners
- Stage 5: Dormancy
While these are the main stages of strawberry plant growth, the timing for each stage can change based on climate and weather. As a result, the number of weeks noted for each stage may vary.
1. Seedling Stage (0-8 weeks)
Though it is less common among home gardeners, strawberries can be started from seed indoors. This requires very early planting (about 8-10 weeks before the last frost), as strawberry seeds can take 2 or more weeks just to germinate!
Once a strawberry seed sprouts, it grows very slowly, starting as a tiny seedling. These miniature plants can be difficult to maintain, as too much or too little water can easily spell disaster.
After 2-3 weeks of growth, a strawberry plant will begin forming its first set of true leaves. These tiny tulip-shaped leaves are a sign that the plant is healthy and on its way to the next stage of growth.
2. Vegetative Stage (8-12 weeks)
Once a strawberry plant has grown for 6-8 weeks, it begins the vegetative stage. During this time, the plant’s goal is to grow lots of healthy, green foliage. Think of this as the plant’s “bulking up” stage in preparation for setting fruits.
During the vegetative stage, it is important to provide strawberry plants with mulch to prevent any unwanted competition in the garden. Also, avoid over-fertilizing, as too much nitrogen in the soil may lead to lower overall yields.
If you’ve grown from seed, you will be transplanting your strawberries from indoors to outside. Be sure to harden off your plants properly to avoid sun scald and unnecessary stress on the young plants. It is normal to see some stunted growth during the first 1-2 weeks outside.
If you see any early runners, it is best to prune these off to encourage new plants to establish their own roots, first. Later in the season, you can allow a few runners per plant to set their roots and grow, filling in any open garden space.
3. Flowering Stage (12-14 weeks)
After your strawberry plants have established themselves with lots of foliage, they should begin to set flowers. Each flower has the potential to become a strawberry, so the more the merrier!
Tip: It is common practice to remove flowers in the first year of a strawberry plant’s life. This redirects energy to the roots and foliage so that the plants can become more established and hardy for the long term. The result is larger harvests in subsequent growing seasons.
If you do remove any strawberry flowers, they are edible! Throw them in salads or in some herbal tea to add subtle strawberry flavors. No need to let your strawberry flowers go to waste.
Depending on the variety of strawberry plant, flowers may come all at once, or regularly throughout the growing season. However, all strawberry plants will produce their first flowers in spring.
4. Fruiting Stage (14-16+ weeks)
After setting flowers, bees and other pollinators will come to help pollinate each flower. Every flower that is successfully fertilized will begin forming a fruit.
Most strawberries will begin as a small fruit with a pale-white color. The berry will then swell in size over the course of 1-2 weeks, and eventually turn red when fully ripe. The best time to pick a strawberry is when it is fully red (and sometimes 1-2 additional days for the most concentrated flavor).
June bearing vs day-neutral strawberries
There are 2 main categories of strawberry types that you can grow. They mainly differ in how often they set fruit, and at what time of the year you can expect harvests.
- June bearing. June bearing strawberries will set their fruit all at once, usually in the month of June (though this varies by climate). After this one, large harvest, the plant will not produce fruit again until the next year. June bearing strawberries are best if you plan to preserve large amounts of berries.
- Day-neutral (or everbearing). Day-neutral or everbearing strawberries will set fruits continuously from spring through until the beginning of winter. Fruits ripen at random, meaning that each harvest will be smaller, but there will be more of them. Day-neutral is my personal preference for our garden.
After harvesting, you are likely to see runners extending out from your main strawberry plants. These long shoots are essentially clones of the main plant.
This is the most common reproductive method for strawberries, as it helps the plants colonize a larger area. We recommend pruning some (but not all) of your strawberry runners to optimize the spacing of your strawberry patch.
5. Dormancy Stage
Since strawberries are perennial (meaning they grow back each year), they will go dormant for winter. This process starts around the first fall frost when all of the foliage will die back.
Energy is sent down into the plants roots where it is stored until the weather warms back up. Most strawberries require a certain number of chill hours (time spent in sub-45°F temperatures) each year for optimal productivity.
Note: It is best to allow your strawberries to die back naturally (avoid cutting any foliage manually). After it is fully dead, you can remove the dead leaves to tidy up the garden and prepare for spring.
I hope this article helped you learn about the main strawberry plant stages. It helps to see a full picture of any plant’s natural life cycle before growing it yourself. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below!