How to prune strawberry plants | Winter pruning guide

Strawberry plants should be pruned at the end of the growing season towards the end of summer to remove old leaves, stems and flowers. The plant will go dormant over winter and grow new stems and leaves in spring. Pruning them at the end of summer will reduce the chance of pests and diseases attacking the old leaves and allow the plant the space to replace them with new ones.

There are three main times when the strawberry plant will need pruning and that is when they have old dying leaves, usually at the end of winter, when they are growing lots of runners or when the flowers have failed to set fruit.

This article will explore how to prune strawberry plants for more fruit over spring and summer to keep your plant producing fruit year to year.

How to prune strawberry plants in winter

The best way to prune strawberry plants in winter is to use sharp secateurs to remove any old leaves or stems. The plant will move into a dormant phase over winter and slow its growth.

The leaves that had been sustaining the plant over the summer will usually finish growing, turn brown and dry. Because they are touching the ground they can cause the plant to suffer from disease more easily as it can be transferred from the soil to the plant.

Remove strawberry leaves as soon as they turn brown. The plant will have reabsorbed any nutrients it needed from the leaves. You can then trim the old leaves back to the base of the plant and clean it up.

The central crown of the strawberry plant will hold lots of nutrients ready to send out new leaves and stems in spring. There will not be any damage caused to the plant when removing old leaves.

Prune off any old strawberries or flowers

It is important to remove any old strawberries that have been attacked by bugs, or flower stems that have not grown strawberries. These can be left at the end of summer when the plant has finished fruiting or during the season when pollination has not been successful.

It is best to remove the whole flower stem back to the base of the plant as the stem will generally die off anyway and not produce fruit.

Pruning strawberry plant leaves

I like to selectively remove leaves rather than harshly pruning strawberries from the top. Removing individual leaves that are damaged, brown and at the same time remove old flower stems. This can be done throughout the season to keep the plant healthy.

How to prune strawberry runners

Strawberry plants will send out runners in spring and fall. Strawberry runners look like long stems from the center of the plant. At the end will be a small plant ready to find soil and send down roots.

You can leave these runners on to grow into new plants but you can also prune them off to allow the plant to establish and grow more fruit.

To remove these runners, trim them back close to the base of the plant. This will encourage the plant to focus on growing flowers and strawberries and also growing a deeper root system supporting the plant for the next 3 years.

Pruning established strawberry runners

Once strawberry runners have sent out a new plant and have established roots they can be trimmed off and transplanted. When you notice that the connecting stem has turned brown and the plant has formed roots you can prune it off from the main plant.

Simply cut the stem that connects the two plants back close to the mother plant. You can then trim the stem back off the new plant and it will grow independently.

Here are 3 new plants that grew from runners from the mother strawberry plant.

Removing old strawberry plants (after 4 years)

Strawberry plants will be most productive in their first 3 years, after this their fruit production can drop to almost zero so they will need to be replaced. The best way to do this is to allow them to send out babies in their 3rd or 4th year. New runners will be sent out by the plant in fall and spring.

What you can do is allow the runner to sit on the surface of the soil in your garden bed and it will send out roots within 2 weeks. A small piece of wire or a small rock can be placed on the stem to hold it onto the soil.

With regular water to the main plant and the surrounding soil the roots will form out of the bottom of the runner plant.

After the plant has sent out and establish new baby plants, they can be pruned from the main plant. After this you can dig out and remove the mother plant as it won’t produce fruit very well after the 4th year.

The new plants will grow lots of new strawberries and can even be transplanted to a new space or a pot. You can expect one mother plant to send out at least 4-5 baby plants which will be plenty to replace your original crop.

Red flowering strawberries will send out less runners that pink or white flowering strawberries but you still will get 1-2 plants off of each.

How to prune strawberry plants | Summary

Strawberry plants can be pruned at the end of summer after they have finished producing strawberries. Remove old, brown leaves, old flower stems and any runners that you don’t want to grow into new plants.

The plant should be watered regularly in spring and it will burst back to life, replacing old leaves and growing new stems to grow new flowers.

Happy planting.