Reviving and Preventing Dying Strawberry Plants

Strawberry plants are a delightful addition to any garden, offering sweet and juicy fruits. However, it can be disheartening to see your beloved strawberry plants withering away. Understanding the reasons behind their decline is crucial in reviving them or preventing this from happening in the first place.

The Mystery of Dying Strawberry Plants

There are several factors that can contribute to the demise of strawberry plants. Nutrient deficiency, frost damage, crown rot, and drought stress are among the most common culprits. However, fear not, as we delve into the details of each issue and provide solutions to ensure your strawberry plants thrive.

Nutrient Deficiency: Unveiling the Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves and stunted growth are telltale signs of nutrient deficiency in strawberry plants. Sandy or stony soil, often devoid of nutrients, is a major contributor to this problem. To combat this issue, it is essential to amend the soil with organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure, or leaf mold. These materials provide the necessary nutrients and maintain optimal moisture levels for healthy strawberry growth.

For those struggling with yellowing plants, transferring them to pots or containers can be a viable solution. This allows for better control over the soil profile, ensuring the strawberries’ nutritional needs are met. Additionally, regular fertilization with a high-potash feed, such as a tomato feed, during the spring and summer months can help combat yellow leaves and stimulate robust fruit production.

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Frost Damage: The Cold Culprit

Frosts can wreak havoc on strawberry plants, causing leaves to curl up, turn brown, and even blacken. Late frosts in the spring pose the greatest threat, particularly if the plants have not acclimated to the outdoors after being grown in a greenhouse. While light frost damage can be mitigated by cutting back affected growth and implementing protective measures, prevention is key. Consider purchasing horticultural fleece to safeguard your plants when frost is forecasted. Alternatively, growing strawberries in a greenhouse or polytunnel provides a safe haven from frost damage.

Crown Rot: A Hidden Danger

Crown rot is another common cause of dying strawberry plants. This occurs when the crown, where the stems meet the base of the plant, is planted too deeply in the soil, allowing for constant contact with damp compost. While the roots require consistent moisture, the above-ground growth prefers a drier environment to avoid disease. Crown rot thrives in overly moist and humid conditions, often exacerbated by overhead watering. This disease slows plant growth, discolors the crown tissue, and can lead to brown or yellow leaves, depending on the stage of infection.

Once crown rot takes hold, it is essential to discard the affected plant and refrain from planting new ones in the same area. Fungicides can be used to prevent reinfection of other plants. To prevent crown rot, always water your strawberry plants at the base instead of overhead, as this avoids creating the ideal conditions for the disease. Planting strawberries at the right depth in well-draining soil significantly reduces the risk of crown rot. Aim to space plants 18 inches apart to promote good air circulation, preventing the formation of a humid microclimate that fosters crown rot.

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Drought Stress: A Thirsty Situation

Underwatering is a major culprit behind dying strawberry plants. Insufficient moisture in the soil can cause leaves to wilt, shrivel, and turn brown. Newly planted strawberries are particularly vulnerable during the establishment phase, making frequent watering crucial to their survival. To encourage strong root growth and increase drought resilience, water generously, ensuring the soil remains moist. On hot summer days, daily watering may be necessary to provide adequate moisture for the developing fruit, especially in full sun conditions.

Potted strawberry plants are especially susceptible to drought stress due to their limited soil capacity and heightened risk of drying out quickly. To prevent this, water potted plants more frequently and monitor soil moisture levels using your finger or a water meter. Additionally, planting strawberries in soil amended with compost, leaf mold, or well-rotted manure helps retain moisture, mitigating the risk of drought stress.

The Cycle of Life: Understanding Strawberry Plants’ Lifespan

It is important to note that strawberry plants have a relatively short lifespan of about six years. After the second year, they often experience a decline in productivity and can ultimately succumb to disease, such as the fungal infections gray mold and powdery mildew. When reaching the end of their lifespan, strawberry plants tend to die back, exhibiting brown leaves.


Understanding the reasons behind dying strawberry plants is crucial for their revival or prevention of decline. Whether it’s addressing nutrient deficiencies, protecting against frost damage, combatting crown rot, or preventing drought stress, there are solutions to help ensure your strawberry plants thrive. By implementing proper care and providing optimal growing conditions, you can enjoy the bountiful harvest of these delectable fruits for years to come.

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Remember, if you are in need of supplies or further information, visit Ames Farm Center for all your gardening needs.