It can be frustrating to see your strawberry plants flowering, but not producing any fruit. It is even more frustrating when you don’t know why it is happening, so let’s shed some light on this problem.
So, why does a strawberry plant flower, but not produce fruit? Lack of pollination prevents strawberry plants with flowers from producing fruit. Also, a first-year strawberry plant may flower but not produce fruit. A late spring frost can damage strawberry flowers and prevent fruiting. Improper soil pH or nutrients will prevent strawberry plants from fruiting.
Remember that flowers appear in late spring on summer-bearing strawberry plants, and fruit appears about a month later, in early summer. Everbearing strawberry plants can produce flowers and fruit much later in the season, in the fall.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons that strawberry plants flower but produce no fruit. We’ll also give you some ideas to help solve the problem so that you can get the strawberry harvest you dream of.
Let’s get started.
Why Do Strawberry Plants Flower But Not Produce Fruit?
There are several possible reasons that your strawberry plant will produce flowers, but no fruit. Some of the causes are:
- Lack of pollination (not enough bees)
- Age of plant (too young or too old to produce fruit)
- Late spring frost (causes flower damage)
- Improper Soil pH (too high or too low)
- Excessive nitrogen (too much green growth can prevent flowers or fruit)
Let’s take these one at a time, starting with lack of pollination.
Lack Of Pollination
The flowers on strawberry plants are self-pollinating, which means that each flower contains both a male part and a female part. You do not need two strawberry plants to get fruit; one plant (or a single flower on a plant) can pollinate itself.
However, self-pollination does not mean guaranteed pollination. It is true that strawberry flowers contain both a male and a female part, but they still need help to produce fruit.
Usually, wind and insects provide this help to strawberry flowers. According to the West Virginia University Extension, better pollination will lead to larger strawberries and more fruit.
When bees visit flowers in search of nectar, they hover near the flower. The vibration of the bee’s wings causes the flower to vibrate.
The same vibration can occur in the flower due to the wind blowing. This vibration, in turn, causes the male part of the flower to release pollen onto the female part of the flower.
If conditions are right, the female part of the flower will be properly pollinated. The flower will then form fruit, which should develop into a healthy strawberry if there is enough water, nutrients, and sunlight.
However, this process does not always work perfectly. Let’s look at some of the factors that can prevent pollination of the flowers on strawberry plants.
Lack Of Pollination Due To Low Bee Populations
A lack of pollinators will prevent the flowers on a strawberry plant from producing fruit. According to the North Carolina State University Extension, self-pollination and wind will only cause 60% to 70% of maximum pollination.
That means you will need pollinators for best results! Bees are a common pollinator, but in many places, their population has been devastated in recent years.
Often, pesticides are to blame for this decrease in the bee population. If you are using them in your garden, try to cut back.
You might also ask your neighbors to do the same. This will create a larger “safe haven” for bees to live in.
You might see other plants in your yard producing fruit, while the strawberries do not. In that case, one solution is to plant attractive flowers near your strawberries.
That way, the bees have more reasons to stop by. Hopefully, they will pollinate the strawberries while they are in the area.
Another solution is to use an electric toothbrush on each of the flowers on your strawberry plant. This vibration simulates a bee’s vibrating wings, and it will cause the male part of the flower to release pollen onto the female part.
Although not as efficient as having a strong bee population, it is best to repeat this process every day or two for the best possible strawberry yield.
Lack Of Pollination Due To Weather
Weather can also affect pollination of strawberry plants. Rainy days can stop bees from doing their work, resulting in lower pollination rates and less fruit.
Temperature also plays a role in pollination. Bees are not very active if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
If temperatures are too cold, bees won’t come out to work. If you combine cold with an extended period of rainy weather, you will see a delay in fruiting of your strawberry plants.
Lack Of Pollination Due To Lack Of Wind
If your yard lacks bees and there is not much wind, you might have a problem with pollination. A lack of wind is more likely indoors or in a greenhouse without ventilation.
In a greenhouse, open the window vents or leave the door slightly ajar to encourage a breeze inside (and to allow pollinators access as well). If growing strawberries indoors, try using a fan to encourage pollination, or open a window for part of the day.
Remember that you won’t get optimal results without pollinators. Of course, you can always try the electric toothbrush trick for indoor or greenhouse strawberry plants.
Age Of Plant
A strawberry plant that is too young will not produce much fruit, if it produces fruit at all. A new plant just does not have the energy to support lots of fruit production.
The Iowa State University Extension suggests removing flowers from strawberry plants in the first year. This preserves energy for plant growth and runner production (so you can get more plants and berries in later years).
The exception is everbearing and day neutral strawberry plants. If you wish, you can stop removing flowers in July to get a second berry crop from them in the fall.
On the other hand, a strawberry plant that is too old will not be as vigorous as it once was. As a result, it may not produce much fruit (if it produces any at all).
According to the West Virginia University Extension, you may need to replace old strawberry plants with new ones every few years. After a few years, berry size and fruit yield will decline.
Late Spring Frost
Extreme cold at the wrong time can also prevent fruit on your strawberry plants. It is true that strawberry plants can survive over winter to produce flowers and fruit the next year.
However, if flowers form too early, a spring frost can hurt the flowers and prevent them from fruiting that year. This is common, because strawberry plants often flower before the last frost date.
- Flowers with black centers (more likely if flowers have already opened).
- Deformed and undersized berries (if fruit does appear on some plants).
If frost damage to flowers is preventing fruit on your strawberry plants, don’t worry. There are some ways to protect strawberry plants from cold.
One way is to mulch around your strawberries to keep them warm. You can use lots of things to mulch around strawberries, but one obvious material is – you guessed it, straw!
Another way to keep strawberry plants warm is to use row covers. A row cover is a sheet of lightweight, flexible fabric that you put over plants to protect them from cold, wind, and pests.
If you combine straw mulch and row covers, your strawberry flowers will be able to survive at much lower temperatures than they could without protection.
Improper Soil pH
Strawberry plants prefer soil that is a little more acidic (lower pH) than most other plants. As a result, you may need to grow strawberry plants in their own separate area.
According to the University of New Hampshire Extension, a soil pH of 5.8 to 6.2 (somewhat acidic) is ideal for strawberry plants. Most plants grow best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral), so you may need to make some changes if your pH is off.
A soil test will tell you the pH in your garden. One option is to buy a soil test kit online or at a garden center.
Another option is to send a soil sample to your local agricultural extension office. If you tell them that you are trying to grow strawberries, they can give you more specific recommendations.
One advantage of sending a sample for testing is the detailed information you will receive from the lab. You will get a report on your soil pH and nutrient levels, along with recommendations for how to improve your soil.
To learn more, check out my article on soil testing.
If your soil pH is too high (not acidic enough), you can add some elemental sulfur to the soil to lower the pH. There are other ways to lower your soil pH – to learn more, check out my article on how to make your soil more acidic (lower soil pH).
If your soil pH is too low (too acidic), you can add some lime to raise the pH. There are other ways to raise your soil pH – to learn more, check out my article on how to make your soil more alkaline (raise soil pH).
Nutrient imbalances will also prevent a strawberry plant from producing fruit. Nitrogen is one important nutrient that plants use for green growth, including leaves and shoots.
However, too much nitrogen causes a plant to produce green growth at the expense of flowers and fruit. If you think this may be a potential problem for your strawberry plants, check out my article on low-nitrogen fertilizers.
A soil test will tell you if your soil has too much or too little of any given nutrient. Compost is a good way to replace both organic material and nutrients in your soil in a balanced way.
For more information, check out my article on how to make your own compost.
You can also use a balanced fertilizer (for example, 10-10-10) to restore the nutrients that your plants use. Remember to do a soil test before adding any supplements to your garden soil.
Now you know why your strawberry plant is flowering but not producing fruit. You also have some ideas for how to treat the problem and save your harvest – if not this year, then in the future.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.