Why Are My Strawberries So Small? Common Causes and How to Plump Them Up

Written by Larissa Smith
Published: August 30, 2023
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Everybody loves juicy, red strawberries. But you don’t want to harvest tiny berries if you’re growing them. If you have a problem with the size of your strawberries, rest assured you are not alone.

There may be several reasons why your strawberry plants produce small fruit. So, whether you’re planning to grow strawberries in your yard, on a balcony, or indoors, the principles outlined here will serve as your roadmap to a giving harvest of sizable strawberries.

Get ready to unlock the secrets to growing strawberries that are not only bigger but also richer in taste and satisfaction.

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Why Are My Strawberries Not Getting Big? 

Several factors contribute to strawberries not reaching their full growth potential. Understanding their growth process is important if you strive to cultivate these berries. Various elements can impact the size of the fruit.

Let’s explore why your berries are so small.

1. Variety

Some strawberry varieties naturally produce smaller berries. You might not see big fruit even under the best conditions if you’ve chosen a variety known for smaller fruits.

Strawberries background. Strawberry. Food background.

There are more than 600 strawberry varieties to choose from.

©MarcoFood/Shutterstock.com

2. Nutrient Imbalance

Strawberries need a balance of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, to thrive. An imbalance in these nutrients can affect fruit size. Too much nitrogen, for example, can lead to the growth of too many leaves at the expense of fruit development.

Hands closeup picking foraging many red wild alpine strawberries berries in North Carolina blue ridge mountains growing as wild edible on ground

Use the right compost to feed your growing plants.

©Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

3. Soil Quality

Strawberries require well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. Poor soil quality can limit the plant’s access to essential nutrients, leading to smaller fruit. Do a soil test to determine if your soil needs changes.

Farmer holding soil in hands close-up. Farmers' experts check soil conditions before planting seeds or seedlings. Business idea or ecology environmental concept

Soil that drains well and is rich in nutrients will make your plants thrive.

©Sakorn Sukkasemsakorn/iStock via Getty Images

4. Fertilization

Improper fertilization can impact berry size. According to this schedule, a balanced fertilizer can help promote healthy fruit growth.

Compost soil, Organic plant fertilizer on hand for plantation

Combine a good potting mix with compost to grow plump fruit.

©Singkham/Shutterstock.com

5. Watering

Irregular watering can lead to smaller berries. Strawberries need consistent watering throughout their growing season, especially during flowering and fruiting.

Photo of a black soaker hose with two holes for watering lying on the ground under a strawberry plant. Drip irrigation system in a garden.

Overwatering can cause root rot.

©Nadeene/Shutterstock.com

6. Overcrowding

Planting strawberries too close together might cause them to compete for nutrients and sunlight, resulting in smaller berries. Enough spacing allows each plant to receive the resources it needs.

Ripe organic strawberry bush in the garden close up. Growing a crop of natural strawberries

When your strawberry plants become too overcrowded, trim old or dead leaves and remove small or old fruit to make room.

©V_Sot_Visual_Content/Shutterstock.com

7. Pests and Diseases

Pests such as aphids, mites, or diseases like fungal infections can stress the plants and cause small fruit to grow.

Yellow aphid Pulgón amarillo. Oleander aphid or milkweed aphid. Aphis nerii

Yellow aphids threaten the growth of plants.

©Macronatura.es/Shutterstock.com

8. Temperature Extremes

Strawberries prefer moderate temperatures. Extreme heat can stress the plants. On the other hand, cold temperatures during flowering can lead to poor pollination and smaller fruit.

Shelter roses for the winter. Frost protection for garden plants. Autumn garden work.

Cover your plants with frost cloth, sheets, or blankets during frosty nights.

©Tasha-photo/Shutterstock.com

9. Pruning Practices

Pruning, runner management, and other cultivation practices influence plant energy allocation. Incorrect pruning or neglecting runner removal can impact fruit size.

Freshly picked strawberries tumbling out of a wicker basket that's bee turned units side for esthetic purposes. against a green background

Prune strawberry plants to ensure healthy shoots grow.

©iStock.com/MariaUspenskaya

10. Lack of Sunlight

Strawberries require ample sunlight for photosynthesis and fruit development. Your berries may not reach their full potential if you grow them in a shaded area.

Strawberries that get enough sun will grow big and tasty!

©Tim UR/Shutterstock.com

What Should My Strawberries Look Like?

From their color, size, texture, and sheen, strawberries are a great treat for both the eyes and the palate. Let’s delve into the traits that define what your berries should look like.

  • They should be large, round, and full, indicating they are well-developed and delicious.
  • Healthy fruits often have a natural glow or gloss on their surface, indicating freshness.
  • The color of ripe strawberries depends on the variety, but they should generally have a vibrant, deep red color. The color should be consistent throughout the fruit, without any pale or white areas.
  • While natural variations occur, it should generally have a symmetrical and consistent shape.
  • Gently pressing the berries should reveal a slight firmness. They should not feel mushy or overly soft.
  • Ripe strawberries produce a sweet and fruity aroma. If they lack any noticeable fragrance, they might be underripe.
  • Look for berries free of bruising, mold, or dark spots.
  • The green cap and stem should be fresh, green, and attached to the berry. This means that the fruit was harvested at the right time.
strawberries

Strawberries are ready for harvest when plump, bright red with green foliage and a sweet smell.

©Erika Anes/Shutterstock.com

How Do I Get My Strawberries to Grow Bigger? 

Are you looking to improve your harvest? Discover valuable tips and techniques for achieving plumper and juicier fruits.

Here is a list of essential insights on proper planting, care routines, soil enrichment, and more to help your strawberries thrive and grow to their full potential.

1. Select the Right Variety

Choose a variety known for producing large fruits. Some popular types with large fruits include “Seascape,” “Ozark Beauty,” “Chandler,” and “Allstar.”

2. Prepare the Soil

Plant your strawberries in well-draining, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Add compost or manure to the ground to provide essential nutrients before planting.

3. Provide Adequate Sunlight

Ensure your strawberry plants receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily. More sunlight generally leads to better growth and larger fruits.

4. Proper Spacing

Plant your strawberry plants with adequate space between them. This practice prevents overcrowding and allows each plant to access nutrients, water, and sunlight without competition.

5. Fertilize Appropriately

Apply a balanced fertilizer with a higher potassium content (third number in the N-P-K ratio) to promote fruit development. Avoid over-fertilizing, as excessive nitrogen can lead to lush foliage but smaller fruits.

Blooming Remontant Strawberries In Hanging Basket With Red And Green Berries In The Greenhouse At Springtime

Strawberries are high in folate, vitamin C, and manganese.

©AVN Photo Lab/Shutterstock.com

6. Mulch

Mulch around your plants with straw or mulching fabric. It helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and prevents direct contact between the fruit and the soil, reducing the risk of rot.

7. Water Consistently

Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid waterlogging. Water deeply and infrequently rather than shallow, frequent watering. Drip irrigation is ideal to keep the foliage and fruit dry.

8. Prune Properly

Regularly remove any dead leaves and older leaves blocking sunlight from reaching the center of the plant. By doing this, you encourage better airflow and light penetration.

9. Monitor Pests and Diseases

Inspect your plants regularly for signs of pests or diseases and take action right away should you identify what’s affecting fruit growth.

10. Pollination

While strawberries can self-pollinate, encouraging pollinators like bees can still improve fruit development. Plant pollinator-friendly flowers nearby to attract bees.

11. Temperature Control

Protect your plants from extreme temperatures. Consider using row covers during cold snaps and providing shade during excessively hot periods.

12. Support the Fruit

As the strawberries grow, consider using straw or other materials to support the fruit and prevent direct contact with the soil. In this way, you reduce the risk of rot and damage.

13. Thin Out Clusters

If multiple strawberries develop close together, consider thinning out the clusters to provide more space for individual fruits to grow. 

macro closeup of red strawberry with yellowish/gold fruits.

The tiny seeds on strawberries are called achenes.

©iStock.com/Oleg Prolat

What’s the Best Way to Grow Strawberries? 

Success in cultivating healthy and delicious strawberries can vary based on your location, climate, and growing variety. Regular care and adjustments are key to successful strawberry gardening.

In addition to the above guidelines on how to grow bigger strawberries, we can add a few other tips to ensure a constant healthy harvest.

1. Choose a Suitable Location

Select a site that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight, as it is crucial for healthy plant growth and fruit development.

2. Choose the Right Variety

Select a variety based on your climate, space, and taste. Consider whether you want June-bearing, everbearing, or day-neutral types.

3. Protecting from Birds

Birds are often attracted to ripe strawberries. Use bird netting or other measures.

4. Crop Rotation

If possible, avoid planting your berries in the same spot (crop rotation) year after year to reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases.

5. Winter Care

In colder climates, provide winter protection by mulching the plants with straw or leaves after the first hard frost. Doing this can protect plants from extreme cold.

6. Harvesting

Harvest strawberries when they are fully ripe. They should be uniform in color and easy to detach from the stem. Gently lift the berries, as pulling can damage the plant.

Strawberry

Strawberries are ready for harvest when plump, bright red with green foliage and a sweet smell.

©nadia_if/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Agenturfotografin/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

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