Strawberry Plant Growth Stages | Life Cycle

I’m a big believer in only growing fruit and vegetables that I genuinely love to eat. If there’s one plant that claims the top of that list, it’s the strawberry.

The great news is that strawberries are super easy to grow even with minimal experience. All you need is a protected bed or container that receives full sun. If you’re interested in growing your own strawberries this year, let me tell you about the strawberry plant growth stages and how to get the most from your harvest!

Conditions for Growing Strawberry Plants

Strawberries primarily grow in the spring and summer — i.e., each year’s growing season is essentially from the last to the first frost. The vast majority of strawberry plants are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. According to the University of Minnesota, however, several varieties can be overwintered in zones 3 and 4 with adequate insulation.

Sunlight can make or break a good strawberry harvest. Strawberries need between 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day — the exact amount varies between cultivars. Avoid planting strawberries near other crops that will grow taller throughout the season, such as tomatoes or pole beans.

Strawberries also require slightly acidic soil to thrive. According to Clemson University, you’ll see the best results growing strawberry plants in a well-draining, sandy loam with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Provide 1 inch of water per week via rain or irrigation.

If your garden has naturally alkaline or poor-draining soil, consider growing strawberries in raised beds instead. Strawberry plants have very shallow root systems, making them ideal for container gardens.

I’m not the only one who loves strawberries. Birds will also take full advantage of an unprotected harvest. Bird netting is an effective defense against most fruit scavengers. Just be sure to secure the netting in a way that prevents smaller birds from becoming ensnared.

Other pests include slugs and snails, which can devour ripe fragrant fruits leaving crops ruined. So, it’s a good idea to provide a companion plant such as an onion crop alongside your strawberries. Onions’ pungent smell deter slugs, snails, and other pests such as aphids, and Japanese beetles, protecting several crop types in the processes.

Strawberry Plant Growth Timeline – Timelapse Video

The strawberry plant in the timelapse video below was grown under artificial grow lights which reduced the overall growth timeline. During vegetation, the plant can be grown under a 24hrs light cycle which increases the growth rate, compared to a plant grown under natural light.

Frigo Strawberry Plant (Time-Lapse)

Growth Stages Of Strawberry Plants

You can grow strawberries from seed or nursery transplants. Seeds tend to be more affordable and may be the only way to get your hands on specialty cultivars. However, transplants offer a quick and easy way to start a small strawberry patch and may produce fruit in their first year.

There are three types of strawberries you can grow in your garden:

  • Everbearing strawberries produce a moderate harvest in the spring and fall, plus a sparser harvest throughout the entire summer.
  • June-bearing strawberries produce their fruit all at once in the springtime.
  • Day-neutral strawberries produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season until the year’s first frost.

Everbearing and June-bearing strawberry plant growth is dictated by day length. Day-neutral strawberries — as the name suggests — aren’t beholden to daylight hours and instead base their growth on daily temperatures.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends June-bearing strawberry cultivars for the average home garden. Personally, I like to grow day-neutral berries for the season-long harvest but these plants tend to produce a smaller harvest overall. If you’re new to growing strawberries, then I suggest picking up a classic June-bearing variety like ‘Allstar’ or ‘Jewel’ to get started.

1. Seed Germination 

Strawberry seeds must be started indoors in winter in order to produce fruit in time for harvesting. They also need to be stratified or will not germinate. You should plan to start cold stratification in January and sow your strawberry seeds by February.

Cold stratification mimics the natural conditions that would trigger a strawberry seed to germinate in the wild. In my experience, the easiest way to stratify strawberry seeds at home is by storing them in your fridge for a month. I recommend placing the seeds in a paper or plastic bag. 

Plant stratified seeds in a tray filled with an all-purpose seed-starting mix. Press each seed ½ inch into the soil but do not cover it. Strawberry seeds need exposure to light in order to germinate.

Keep the seed-starting mix moist throughout the germination process. Strawberry seeds can be slow to sprout — it may take several weeks to see the full results. Maintain a temperature of 65 to 75°F. Also, be sure to provide several hours of sunlight or place the tray under a grow lamp in the interim.

2. Seedlings

On average, strawberry seedlings take anywhere from 7 to 42 days to emerge. If you create the right environment for germination, you should see good results within a few weeks. 

The first two leaves that emerge from a strawberry seed are called cotyledons. These leaves are very round and smooth and don’t resemble the lobed leaves we expect from a mature strawberry plant. Don’t worry, though, because adult foliage will be close behind!

Allow your strawberry seedlings to grow in the seed-starting tray for 6 weeks before transplanting the plants to individual containers. If necessary, thin out extra seedlings by pinching the weakest sprouts. Continue providing ample sunlight and water as needed. 

Keep individually potted strawberry plants indoors until all risk of frost has passed and the outdoor soil is workable. Harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors for short periods of time before transplanting them to your garden or raised bed.

3. Vegetative Growth

When planting strawberries in the garden, be sure to dig holes large enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending or twisting. Double-check that the crown (central growth point) of each strawberry plant is on the soil’s surface — buried crowns are prone to rot.

Strawberries grow very low to the ground. With time and proper care, most strawberry plants will spread and create new plants via above-ground stems called stolons. 

These stolons are commonly called runners and are a great way to multiply your strawberry patch. Strawberry runners will send out roots and turn into clones of the original plant, which can be left in place or relocated to another part of the garden. Keep in mind that clones will need about a year to produce a harvest of their own.

Conditions for Growing Strawberry Plants
Strawberries primarily grow in the spring and summer — i.e., each year’s growing season is essentially from the last to the first frost. The vast majority of strawberry plants are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. According to the University of Minnesota, however, several varieties can be overwintered in zones 3 and 4 with adequate insulation.
Sunlight can make or break a good strawberry harvest. Strawberries need between 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day — the exact amount varies between cultivars. Avoid planting strawberries near other crops that will grow taller throughout the season, such as tomatoes or pole beans.
Strawberries also require slightly acidic soil to thrive. According to Clemson University, you’ll see the best results growing strawberry plants in a well-draining, sandy loam with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Provide 1 inch of water per week via rain or irrigation.
If your garden has naturally alkaline or poor-draining soil, consider growing strawberries in raised beds instead. Strawberry plants have very shallow root systems, making them ideal for container gardens.
I’m not the only one who loves strawberries. Birds will also take full advantage of an unprotected harvest. Bird netting is an effective defense against most fruit scavengers. Just be sure to secure the netting in a way that prevents smaller birds from becoming ensnared.
Growth Stages Of Strawberry Plants
You can grow strawberries from seed or nursery transplants. Seeds tend to be more affordable and may be the only way to get your hands on specialty cultivars. However, transplants offer a quick and easy way to start a small strawberry patch and may produce fruit in their first year.
There are three types of strawberries you can grow in your garden:
Everbearing strawberries produce a moderate harvest in the spring and fall, plus a sparser harvest throughout the entire summer.
June-bearing strawberries produce their fruit all at once in the springtime.
Day-neutral strawberries produce fruit continuously throughout the growing season until the year’s first frost.
Everbearing and June-bearing strawberry plant growth is dictated by day length. Day-neutral strawberries — as the name suggests — aren’t beholden to daylight hours and instead base their growth on daily temperatures.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends June-bearing strawberry cultivars for the average home garden. Personally, I like to grow day-neutral berries for the season-long harvest but these plants tend to produce a smaller harvest overall. If you’re new to growing strawberries, then I suggest picking up a classic June-bearing variety like ‘Allstar’ or ‘Jewel’ to get started.
1. Seed Germination 
Strawberry seeds must be started indoors in winter in order to produce fruit in time for harvesting. They also need to be stratified or will not germinate. You should plan to start cold stratification in January and sow your strawberry seeds by February.
Cold stratification mimics the natural conditions that would trigger a strawberry seed to germinate in the wild. In my experience, the easiest way to stratify strawberry seeds at home is by storing them in your fridge for a month. I recommend placing the seeds in a paper or plastic bag. 
Plant stratified seeds in a tray filled with an all-purpose seed-starting mix. Press each seed ½ inch into the soil but do not cover it. Strawberry seeds need exposure to light in order to germinate.
Keep the seed-starting mix moist throughout the germination process. Strawberry seeds can be slow to sprout — it may take several weeks to see the full results. Maintain a temperature of 65 to 75°F. Also, be sure to provide several hours of sunlight or place the tray under a grow lamp in the interim.
2. Seedlings
On average, strawberry seedlings take anywhere from 7 to 42 days to emerge. If you create the right environment for germination, you should see good results within a few weeks. 
The first two leaves that emerge from a strawberry seed are called cotyledons. These leaves are very round and smooth and don’t resemble the lobed leaves we expect from a mature strawberry plant. Don’t worry, though, because adult foliage will be close behind!
Allow your strawberry seedlings to grow in the seed-starting tray for 6 weeks before transplanting the plants to individual containers. If necessary, thin out extra seedlings by pinching the weakest sprouts. Continue providing ample sunlight and water as needed. 
Keep individually potted strawberry plants indoors until all risk of frost has passed and the outdoor soil is workable. Harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors for short periods of time before transplanting to your garden or raised bed.
3. Vegetative Growth
When planting strawberries in the garden, be sure to dig holes large enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending or twisting. Double-check that the crown (central growth point) of each strawberry plant is on the soil’s surface — buried crowns are prone to rot.
Strawberries grow very low to the ground. With time and proper care, most strawberry plants will spread and create new plants via above-ground stems called stolons. 
These stolons are commonly called runners and are a great way to multiply your strawberry patch. Strawberry runners will send out roots and turn into clones of the original plant, which can be left in place or relocated to another part of the garden. Keep in mind that clones will need about a year to produce a harvest of their own.
Strawberry runners grow vigorously and take root fast

4. Flowering

A healthy strawberry plant will begin flowering about 2 to 3 weeks after transplanting or, in the case of overwintering, exiting dormancy.

Generally speaking, strawberry plants produce fruit from buds that developed the previous year. So most varieties take at least a year to produce a high-quality harvest. Also, stress, disease, and poor weather one year can negatively impact the following year’s crop.

5. Pollination

Strawberry flowers are self-fertile, so you technically only need one plant to produce fruit. With that said, according to North Carolina State University, the best harvests typically arise from a combination of self- and cross-pollination.

Many wild insects effectively pollinate strawberry plants. Bees are avid pollinators but are nowhere near the only species responsible for passing pollen from one flower to the other. Manual pollination may be necessary when growing strawberries in a greenhouse or other heavily sheltered area.

6. Fruit Development and Ripening

Most strawberries bear fruit 60 to 90 days after transplanting (or, on average, 175 days after germinating).

Did you know that a strawberry fruit is not a single berry? In fact, the entire strawberry is known as a ‘false fruit’ made up of a fleshy receptacle and dozens of individual fruits.

A strawberry’s receptacle is the red, sweet organ that makes up the majority of what we eat. Botanically speaking, receptacles are swollen, modified stem tissue rather than true fruit. The actual fruit is the hard ‘seeds’ scattered along the outside of the receptacle.

I think the anatomy of a strawberry is pretty interesting! But it doesn’t really impact how we grow and eat this delicious fruit.

When To Harvest Strawberries

Ripe fruit will be ready for harvest 28 to 42 days after flowers emerge. Be sure to only harvest strawberries that are fully developed and bright red. (Note that some cultivars produce white fruit and are an exception to this rule.)

white strawberry
This white strawberry variety is deceptively ripe

It’s best to harvest strawberries by cutting the stem close to the fruit versus pulling. Since strawberry plants have shallow roots, tugging at the fruit can be damaging.

Return to harvest newly ripened strawberries every 3 days or so. If birds or insects are a problem, you may want to check your strawberry patch daily during the fruiting season to prevent pest damage.

FAQ Strawberry Plant Growth Stages

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.