The white flowers that appear on strawberry plants (Fragaria × ananassa) are one of the first signs of spring in many gardens. Regardless of variety, all strawberry plants produce fruit in the same manner, with each flower ultimately turning into a plump juicy berry. The length of time it takes to go from flower to fully ripe fruit depends on plant variety, but is generally about four to five weeks from the appearance of the first petals.
Formation of the small white flowers that ultimately become strawberries begins at the end of each year's fruiting season. The strawberry flowers begin as buds that emanate from the crown of the plants. The buds and flowers are delicate and can be destroyed by frost. Protect them using a floating row cover during a spring cold snap. If installing new strawberry plants, put them in the ground as soon as possible in the spring. To ensure strong healthy plants that produce well in future years, pinch off any buds that appear during the first season.
While most varieties produce flowers with six petals, strawberry plants can have flowers with a minimum of five or up to eight petals. The flowers can also vary in color from bright white to cream to pink, and may appear at different positions on the plant's foliage. The flowers are usually above or level with the strawberry plant's leaves, but can sink toward the ground if stressed, wet or weighed down by fruit. In addition to the accessory fruit, the strawberry flowers produce seeds to propagate new plants.
As they mature, the small white flowers of strawberry plants morph first into hard green berries, then soft white berries and ultimately to ripe red fruits ready to eat. The different June bearing, everbearing and day neutral varieties of strawberry plants produce flowers at different times. The flowers of June-bearing plants become ripe, large strawberries during three to four weeks from late spring through early summer, while everbearing plants flower and bear fruit three times during the year and day neutral strawberries provide fruit throughout the growing season. Use care when picking ripe strawberries to avoid damaging remaining flowers and knocking off unripe fruit.
Strawberry plants require care even after harvest, as they begin the process of building the buds that will become next year's flowers. That process starts late in the summer, so continue watering plants to ensure production of a plethora of buds. Inadequate water supply while the plants are rebuilding and storing nutrients for bud formation will result in fewer flowers and less fruit the following year. Newly formed flower buds will go dormant for the winter and then open into strawberry flowers in the spring.
- Bonnie Plants: Vegetable & Herb Gardening: How to Grow: Growing Strawberries
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Cooperative Extension Service: College of Agriculture: Tips on Picking and Using Strawberries
- Illinois Natural History Survey: Prairie Research Institute: Fragaria x Ananassa
- New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference: The Strawberry Plant: What You Should Know
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