Why Are My Strawberries So Small? Causes and Solutions for Your Strawberry Plants

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Why are my strawberries so small?

Are you frustrated with the small size of your strawberries? Why are my strawberries so small? Do you wonder why they never seem to grow as big as the ones in the grocery store?

When you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into nurturing your strawberry plant, nothing can feel more disheartening than NOT receiving the fruits of your labor…

If your strawberries aren’t turning out as large, plump, and juicy as you expected, you may wonder, what did I do wrong?

Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many home gardeners face the challenge of tiny strawberries, but the good news is that there are reasons for this and solutions to help you grow bigger and plumper berries in your strawberry bed.

Key Takeaways

  • The genetic expression of strawberry varieties plays a role in determining fruit size.
  • Heat, drought and cold stress can result in smaller strawberries.
  • Inadequate pollination can hinder strawberry growth.
  • Pest infestations can cause damage to strawberries and affect their size, often leading to smaller fruit.
  • A lack of pruning, excessive foliage, weeds and overcrowding can inhibit pollination and reduce strawberry size.
  • Too much nitrogen through excessive feeding can cause tiny strawberry buds.
  • Aging plants may produce smaller berries; transplanting younger plants can help maintain productivity.

Genetic Expression of Strawberry Varieties

The genetic expression of different strawberry varieties plays a significant role in determining the size of the fruits they produce. Various strawberry varieties are available, each with its unique characteristics.

June-bearing strawberries are the most common varieties in grocery stores and farmer’s markets. These strawberries are known for their large berries, making them visually appealing and perfect for various culinary uses.

However, other strawberries, such as heirloom strawberries or “true species” varieties, naturally produce small yet intensely flavorful strawberries through pollination. These include Alpine strawberries and Wild strawberries, which strawberry enthusiasts have enjoyed for generations.

Suppose you’ve noticed small strawberries in your garden that still have a remarkable aroma and flavor without any signs of pests or pathogens. In that case, you may have a healthy “true species” of Fragaria, such as Vesca or Virginiana.

Understanding the genetic expression of different strawberry varieties can help you appreciate the diverse range of fruits they can produce, from large and visually striking berries to small but incredibly delicious ones.

Delicious heirloom strawberries

Explore the world of strawberries and consider experimenting with different varieties to discover your favorites. Whether you prefer larger berries that make a statement or smaller strawberries bursting with intense flavor, a strawberry variety suits your preferences and gardening goals.

“Remember, the genetic expression of strawberry varieties is just one factor contributing to the size and flavor of the berries. Other factors, such as growing conditions, care, and environmental factors, also play important roles in the overall quality of your strawberries.” – Tracy Langell, horticulturist and sustainable gardening specialist.

Heat and Drought Stress

Heat and drought stress can significantly impact the size of strawberries. These herbaceous forbs require water for both their growth and maintaining their shape through turgor pressure. When strawberry plants become dehydrated, they wilt, resulting in smaller berries.

Strawberries are temperate plants that thrive in moderate temperatures, making them less tolerant of extreme heat. The stress caused by inadequate mulching and high temperatures can diminish strawberry size.

Inadequate water availability during heat or drought conditions can also contribute to producing small strawberries. Even if they are red, strawberries lacking proper water requirements may lack the flavor and sweetness of larger strawberries.

Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that strawberries receive adequate care and that strawberry plants receive sufficient water, especially during high temperatures and drought stress.

Effects of Heat and Drought Stress on Strawberry Size

Heat stress and drought stress impact strawberries in multiple ways. Firstly, inadequate water availability affects the plant’s ability to uptake nutrients and minerals from the soil.

This nutrient deficiency can hinder the growth and development of the berries, resulting in smaller sizes and suboptimal flavor.

Secondly, high temperatures can alter the physiological processes of strawberry plants, disrupting vital metabolic pathways that contribute to fruit development.

The increased stress brought about by elevated temperatures can also negatively affect the photosynthesis rate, ultimately impacting the size and quality of the strawberries.

To better understand the effects of heat stress, researchers at the University of California, Davis, conducted a study comparing the fruit quality of strawberry plants under different temperature regimes.

They found that strawberries grown at higher temperatures had decreased size, lower sugar content, and diminished flavor than those grown under moderate temperature conditions.

“The study highlights the importance of providing optimal growing conditions for strawberry plants to achieve desirable fruit size and flavor. Heat stress and drought stress can compromise the development and taste of strawberries, emphasizing the need to prioritize appropriate watering practices and temperature control to ensure larger, flavorful berries.”– Tracy Langell, horticulturist and sustainable gardening specialist.

Managing heat and drought stress requires careful attention to watering practices, soil moisture monitoring, and providing shade or cooling methods during extreme heatwaves.

Ideally, you should water your strawberries when the top two inches of soil become dry or if there’s less than an inch of rainfall a week (to learn more about watering strawberries, read here).

Water your strawberries in the morning or early afternoon to allow them to dry before nightfall. Your soil should be consistently moist, but avoid making it boggy.

By understanding and mitigating the impact of heat and drought stress, strawberry growers can improve the size and flavor of their harvest.

Cold Stress

Heat isn’t the only problem. If your environment is too cold, your strawberry plant may start producing small berries. This is particularly true in late spring when frosts and cold snaps can deform the fruit’s shape and produce darker centers.

Strawberries in winter.

Insulate your strawberries to preserve them, but remember to uncover them during the day so they can be pollinated.

Inadequate Pollination

Strawberries are delightful fruits known for their juicy and sweet flavor. However, their size can vary depending on the pollination process.

Pollination plays a crucial role in determining strawberries’ maximum size. Inadequate pollination can lead to small strawberries that fail to reach their full potential.

Various factors, such as excessive rain, prolonged periods of high wind, and cold weather, can contribute to poor pollination.

These conditions can hinder the activity of insects and bees, essential strawberry pollinators. The pollination process is compromised without their assistance, resulting in small strawberries.

Creating a pollinator-friendly environment where your strawberry plants can access favorable weather conditions and pollinate is crucial.

Creating an environment that attracts bees and other beneficial insects can help promote proper pollination. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Plant flowers that attract pollinators, such as lavender, borage, and bee balm, near your strawberry patch.
  2. Provide a water source for bees to help keep them hydrated and encourage their presence.
  3. Avoid using pesticides that are harmful to bees and other pollinators.

Creating a pollinator-friendly environment can increase the chances of adequate pollination, resulting in larger and more luscious strawberries. Proper pollination is essential when you grow strawberries.

Preventing Poor Pollination Due to Rain, Wind, and Cold Weather

Excessive rain, high wind, and cold weather can significantly impact pollination. These factors can discourage insect and bee activity, leading to poor pollination and small strawberries. To mitigate these challenges, consider the following tips:

  • Provide shelter for your strawberry plants during heavy rain and wind. Row covers or makeshift structures can protect the plants without obstructing airflow.
  • Choose strawberry varieties that are more tolerant of cold weather, especially if you live in a region with chilly springs or early frosts.
  • Consider using techniques such as hand pollination or bumblebee hives to supplement natural pollination efforts during unfavorable weather conditions.

Implementing these strategies can minimize the negative impact of rain, wind, and cold weather on pollination, leading to better strawberry size and quality.

Tips for Promoting Proper Pollination and Increasing Strawberry Size

Small strawberries on a bush
TipsDescription
Plant pollinator-attracting flowersPlant flowers such as lavender, borage, and bee balm near your strawberry patch to attract bees and other pollinators.
Provide a water source.Set up a shallow water container near your strawberry patch to help keep pollinators hydrated and encourage their presence.
Avoid harmful pesticidesChoose organic or bee-friendly pest control in your new strawberry bed methods to protect pollinators while controlling pests.
Offer shelterUse row covers or makeshift structures to shelter your strawberry plants during heavy rain and wind without hindering pollination.
Select cold-tolerant varietiesChoose strawberry varieties that can withstand cold weather if you live in regions with chilly springs or early frosts.
Explore hand pollinationIn adverse weather conditions, manually transfer pollen from the male to female flowers using a small brush or cotton swab to ensure proper pollination and avoid smaller fruit.
Tips for proper pollination and increasing strawberry size

Following these guidelines and nurturing a pollinator-friendly environment can increase the chances of proper pollination and allow you to enjoy larger, bountiful strawberries. 

Don’t let inadequate pollination hinder your strawberry harvest – take action to promote healthy pollination and maximize the size of your strawberries.

Pest Infestations

Various pests can feed on strawberry plants and strawberries, causing damage and resulting in small or deformed fruits in your strawberry bed.

One common pest is the tarnished plant bug, also known as the lygus bug, which feeds on the pistils of strawberry flowers. Infestations of these bugs can lead to damaged strawberries, often with hardened tips and reduced size.

Implementing effective pest control measures can help prevent such infestations and promote the growth of larger strawberries.

What’s Eating My Strawberries?

When it comes to pests that affect strawberry plants, the tarnished plant bug (also known as the lygus bug) is a common culprit.

These bugs feed on the pistils of strawberry flowers, causing damage and impacting the development of the fruits. As a result, strawberries can become deformed, smaller, and have hardened tips.

“Infestations of tarnished plant bugs can result in strawberries with hardened tips and reduced size. Implementing effective pest control measures can help prevent infestations and promote the growth of larger strawberries.”– Tracy Langell, horticulturist and sustainable gardening specialist.

Implementing effective pest control measures is essential to prevent pest infestations and ensure the growth of healthy, larger strawberries.

Please regularly check your plants for signs of pest activity, such as feeding damage or the presence of bugs in your strawberry bed.

There are several pest control methods you can employ:

  1. Remove weeds and debris around your strawberry plants, as they can provide shelter for pests.
  2. Encourage natural predators, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and spiders, to control pest populations.
  3. Use organic pest control methods, like neem oil or insecticidal soaps, to target specific pests without harming beneficial insects.
  4. Consider using physical barriers, such as netting or row covers, to protect your strawberry plants from insects.

Excessive Foliage, Weeds and Overcrowding

Excessive foliage on strawberry plants can significantly impact strawberry size and quality. When the foliage becomes excessive, it can create a dense canopy that inhibits pollination.

Insects, such as bees, may have difficulty locating the flowers, thus reducing the chances of successful pollination. This ultimately leads to smaller strawberries.

Overcrowding of strawberry plants can also contribute to smaller berry size. When there are too many plants in a confined space, they compete for resources like sunlight and nutrients, limiting their growth potential.

Overcrowding can result in poor air circulation, which creates a moist environment that encourages disease development.

Proper weed control and runner management are essential to combat excessive foliage and overcrowding. Weeds can quickly take over and crowd out the strawberry plants, so regular weeding is crucial to minimize competition for resources. 

Strawberries with proper weed, foliage and overcrowding control

Additionally, managing runners by removing or redirecting them can help maintain an appropriate plant density, allowing each plant to thrive and produce larger strawberries.

Effect of Nitrogen on Foliage Growth

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development. It plays a vital role in promoting lush foliage growth in strawberry plants.

While foliage is necessary for photosynthesis and overall plant health, excessive nitrogen can lead to an overabundance of foliage and negatively impact fruiting, resulting in smaller fruit.

“Excessive foliage growth, caused by high amounts of nitrogen, can hinder pollination. It becomes more challenging for insects to navigate through the dense foliage and locate the flowers for pollination, resulting in smaller strawberries.” – Tracy Langell, horticulturist and sustainable gardening specialist.

Therefore, it’s crucial to manage nitrogen levels appropriately by using a balanced fertilizer and following recommended application rates.

This helps ensure the optimal balance between foliage growth and fruit development, ultimately leading to larger and more flavorful strawberries.

Runner Management for Preventing Overcrowding

Runners are horizontal stems produced by strawberry plants that enable them to reproduce asexually. While runners are essential for strawberry plant reproduction, they can worsen overcrowding if not managed effectively.

Proper runner management involves periodically monitoring and redirecting runners to maintain an appropriate plant density. Excess runners are removed to prevent overcrowding and promote optimal strawberry growth conditions.

You can prevent excessive foliage and overcrowding by maintaining a healthy balance between foliage growth, weed control, and runner management.

Ensuring proper pollination and resource availability will enable your strawberry plants to produce larger and more abundant strawberries for you to enjoy.

Aging Plants

As strawberry plants age, their vigor declines, resulting in smaller and fewer berries. Understanding strawberry plant lifespans is crucial for maintaining a continuous supply of healthy and productive plants.

Typically, strawberry plants have a lifespan of 3-4 years, with the highest productivity occurring during the second and third years.

During this time, the plants produce the largest and most abundant berries. However, their overall vigor decreases as the plants age, leading to diminished berry size and yield.

Combatting the effects of poor pollination and avoiding small fruit transplants to younger plants can be an effective solution.

Replacing older plants with younger ones ensures a continuous cycle of robust and vigorous strawberry plants, resulting in larger and more plentiful berries.

Transplanting strawberries should be done following proper planting techniques, providing ample sunlight, well-drained soil, and regular watering. These care practices contribute to the longevity and productivity of the plants.

Proper strawberry plant care is essential in prolonging the productive lifespan of the plants. Regular pruning and removal of older, non-productive plants can help maintain a healthy population of young plants.

Adequate nutrition, including appropriate fertilization like Big A Berries fertilizer and pest control, is also crucial for the plant’s growth and development.

By addressing the challenges posed by aging plants with proper care and transplanting younger plants, you can ensure a continuous supply of vibrant and productive strawberry plants, resulting in larger and more delectable berries.

Small ripe strawberries

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Why Strawberries Can Be So Small?

1. Why are my strawberries so small?

Several factors can contribute to small strawberry sizes, including genetic expression, heat, cold and drought stress, inadequate pollination, pest infestations, excessive foliage, overcrowding, and aging plants.

2. How does genetic expression impact strawberry growth size?

Different strawberry varieties have different genetic expressions, with some naturally producing large strawberries while others produce small but intensely flavorful strawberries.

3. Does heat and drought stress affect strawberry size?

Yes, heat and drought stress can cause strawberries to become dehydrated, resulting in smaller berries. Strawberries also prefer moderate temperatures and high temperatures can stress the plants and lead to diminished strawberry size.

4. Can inadequate pollination affect strawberry size?

Yes, poor pollination due to factors like excessive rain, high wind, or cold weather can result in smaller strawberries. Thorough pollination is necessary for strawberries to reach their maximum size.

5. How do pests impact strawberry size?

Pests like the tarnished plant bug can feed on strawberry plants and cause damage, resulting in small or deformed fruits.

6. Does excessive foliage and overcrowding affect strawberry size?

Yes, excessive foliage can inhibit pollination and lead to smaller strawberries. Overcrowding, whether due to weeds or excessive runners, can also result in competition for resources and smaller berry size.

7. What role do aging plants play in small strawberry size?

As strawberry plants age, their vigor decreases, resulting in smaller and fewer berries. Transplanting younger plants and providing proper care can help mitigate this issue.

8. How can I grow strawberries bigger?

To grow bigger strawberries, select appropriate varieties, provide optimal growing conditions, ensure proper pollination, manage animals and pests, control foliage growth, prevent overcrowding, and replace aging plants.

9. What can I do to troubleshoot small strawberries?

By identifying the specific cause of small strawberries and addressing the contributing factors, such as genetic expression, stress, pollination, pests, foliage, overcrowding, and aging plants, you can troubleshoot the issue and grow larger, more flavorful berries.

How To Grow Larger Strawberries 

Final Thoughts On Why Are My Strawberries So Small?

Various factors, such as genetic expression, heat and drought stress, inadequate pollination, pest infestations, excessive foliage, overcrowding, and aging plants, can cause small strawberries.

Addressing these issues and implementing effective fixes is essential to growing larger strawberries.

Firstly, selecting appropriate strawberry varieties can significantly affect strawberry size. Consider opting for June-bearing strawberries known for their larger berries or true species like Alpine or Wild strawberries.

Providing optimal growing conditions is crucial. Managing heat and drought stress by ensuring adequate watering and shade during hot weather helps promote better strawberry growth.

Maintaining proper pollination through favorable weather conditions and pollinator attraction is necessary for larger berries.

Effective pest control measures can prevent pest infestations, protect strawberries from damage, and promote more extensive fruit development.

Managing excessive foliage and overcrowding by controlling weeds and runners allows better access for pollinators and prevents competition for resources.

Lastly, replacing aging strawberry plants after their productive lifespan of 3-4 years ensures continued vigor and more significant berry production.

Following these fixes and troubleshooting the various issues in your strawberry bed can stop the causes of small strawberries so you can enjoy growing bigger strawberries in your garden and relish the satisfaction of harvesting plump and flavorful berries for years to come.

Happy Gardening.

Further Recommendations:

Video: Unlimited Strawberries!

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6 responses to “Why Are My Strawberries So Small? Causes and Solutions for Your Strawberry Plants”

  1. Steve12 Avatar
    Steve12

    this is so cool, never knew how much work goes into growing strawberries. can’t wait to try some of these tips out. who else is pumped for strawberry season??

  2. Pollination_pro Avatar
    Pollination_pro

    Loved the part about pollination problems. It’s all about the bees, people! We gotta protect our pollinators if we want more strawberries.

  3. Kimmy95 Avatar
    Kimmy95

    love the idea of growing my own strawberries, like back in the 90s when my grandma had her garden. this article gives me hope i can do it too, thanks!

  4. CarolWithaK Avatar
    CarolWithaK

    Interesting about the pruning. I always thought strawberries were low maintenance. Seems I gotta put in more work if I want those juicy berries. Gotta start trimming, thanks for the tip John Christianson!

  5. Tommy86 Avatar
    Tommy86

    hey guys, so i read about how too much nitrogen can make strawberries small but how do u know if ur plants got too much? just a newbie here tryna grow some big berries, lol. any tips appreciated!

    1. Margo_S Avatar
      Margo_S

      Hey Tommy86! You might notice dark green leaves, lots of leaves but fewer fruits, and small fruits if there’s too much nitrogen. Try balancing with a more phosphorus-heavy fertilizer. Happy gardening!

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