The reasons for strawberry plants dying is because of a nutrient deficiency in the soil, frost damage, crown rot or drought stress due to under watering which causes the leaves to shrivel and turn brown. Strawberry leaves turn yellow and die back in response to over watering and crown rot.
Keep reading to learn what exactly is causing your strawberry plants to die and how to revive them or prevent it from happening…
It is important to note that strawberry plants have a relatively short lifespan of around 6 years and tend to decline after two years in terms of fruit production and healthy of the plant.
Strawberry Plants Dying after Planting (Brown Leaves)
There are several reasons why strawberry plants appear to be dying shortly after planting.
- Planting the strawberry plant too shallow increases the risk of drought.
- Planting strawberries too deep in the soil can cause crown rot.
- Not watering strawberry plants frequently enough as this is the time they are most vulnerable to drought.
The symptoms of an under watered strawberry plant suffering drought stress are brown wilted leaves and shriveled fruit.
Strawberry plants should be watered as frequently as required to keep the soil moist whilst the roots are establishing in the soil.
Watering generously encourages the roots to grow which increases the plants resilience to drought.
Watering too lightly causes the surface of the soil to be moist but the water does not infiltrate the soil to the strawberries plants where it is required causing the leaves to wilt, shrivel and turn brown.
Drought can affect strawberry plants in pots in particular.
Pots have less capacity for soil and do not hold as much moisture. If the pot is in full sun then the soil tends to dry out much quicker, therefore you should water pots more frequently.
Water pots as frequently as required to keep the soil moist which you can test with your finger or a water meter which monitors the moisture content of soil.
Strawberry plants can usually recover from drought stress if you adjust your water practices but this depends on how long the strawberry plant has been without enough water.
To help mitigate the risk of drought as much as possible, strawberries should be planted in soil that has been amended with compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure as these materials help to conserve moisture.
On the hottest days of Summer it is likely that the strawberry plant requires daily watering to provide enough moisture for the developing fruit if it has to contend with blazing sun and high temperatures.
Note that it strawberry plants should ideally be planted in Spring so that the roots can establish in the soil without the heat of summer sapping moisture from the leaves before the roots can uptake enough moisture.
If planting during the Summer, water your strawberry plants everyday to prevent them from turning brown and dying.
Strawberry Plants Dying from Crown Rot
One of the most common causes of a dying strawberry plant is crown rot.
This happens when the crown (the point at which the stems meet the base of the plant) is planted too deeply in the soil and therefore in constant contact with damp compost.
The roots require consistent moisture but the growth above the ground prefers to be on the dryer side to avoid disease.
The risk of crown rot is increased by watering the strawberry plants overhead as the overly moist and humid micro-climate which encourages the disease.
Crown root slows the growth of your strawberry plant and discolors the tissue of the crown and often with brown or yellow leaves depending on the stage of infection.
Once your strawberry plant has crown rot or root rot it dies back and should be discarded. Do not plant any strawberry plants in the same place as the fungus that is responsible can live in the soil and infect new plants.
Use a fungicide on the soil to prevent reinfection of other plants.
Prevention is key so always water you strawberry plants at the base rather then overhead to prevent promoting the conditions for the disease.
Strawberry plants that are planted at the right depth in well draining soil are at a much lower risk of crown rot.
Plant strawberries 18 inches apart to ensure good air flow to reduce the risk of a humid micro-climate which can promote crown rot.
Strawberry Leaves Turning Yellow and Drooping
If your strawberry leaves are turning yellow and wilting this is a sign of stress cause by too much moisture around the roots.
Strawberry plants require the soil to be moist yet well draining. If the roots are in consistently damp soil then this causes the leaves to turn yellow and promotes the conditions for the fungal disease root rot which can cause the strawberry plant to die back.
Strawberry leaves turn yellow because:
- Slow draining soils. Strawberries planted in heavy soils such as clay retain too much water and are most likely to suffer from leaf yellowing and root rot. Strawberries require porous, light, friable soil that that allows for good drainage. This is achieved by amending the soil with lots of organic matter such as compost, leaf mold or well rotted manure as these materials have a tremendous capacity to hold moisture yet allow excess water to drain away from the roots which is the perfect balance for healthy strawberries.
- Pots without drainage holes in the base. Strawberry plants should be grown in pots with drainage holes in the base so that excess water can escape. Some decorative pots do not have drainage holes which causes the water to pool and the soil to become saturated which causes the leaves to turn yellow.
- Watering the strawberries too frequently. Strawberries prefer moist soil but if you water everyday with a soaker hose then excess water does not get a chance to drain away from the roots which promotes root rot. Well draining soil with lots of compost mitigates most of the risk from over watering as its structure encourages excess water to drain away rather then pool around the roots. Water strawberries as frequently as required to keep the soil moist but not boggy.
With well draining soil amended with compost, and watering to ensure the soil is moist rather then saturated and with suitable pots and containers the starawberry plant stands a chance of recovering from its yellowing appearance.
However strawberry plants that have been in boggy soil for long periods are likely to develop root rot and such be discarded to prevent spreading the disease.
Strawberry Plants Turning Yellow and not Growing
If your strawberry plants are yellow despite best watering practices then the most likely cause is a deficit of nutrients in the soil which most often happens in sandy or stony soil that does not retain much nutrients.
Strawberry plants are heavy feeders in the Spring and Summer, when the foliage is growing and they are developing fruit. Therefore they require rich fertile soil for healthy growth.
Yellow leaves and stunted growth is a sign of stress due to poor soil.
To prevent yellow leaves it is important to plant strawberries in soil that has been amended with compost, well rotted manure or leaf mold as these materials have a good balance of nutrients and create the optimal balance of moisture for strawberry plants to thrive.
The soil should be amended to a depth of at least 10 inches before planting.
For strawberry plants growing slowly with yellow leaves, I recommend transferring them to pots or containers as it is easier to control the soil profile for the strawberries requirements.
Feed strawberry plants with a fertilizer that has a high potash content (such as a tomato feed) over the Spring and Summer every two weeks to encourage good fruit production and to prevent yellowing leaves.
Strawberries Dying from Frost Damage
Frosts damage can cause strawberry leaves to curl up, turn brown and even black depending on the severity of the frost.
Strawberry plants are most often killed by late frosts in Spring as they have not had time to acclimatize to the outdoors, especially if they have been grown in a greenhouse at a nursery before being sold and planted in your garden.
If there is only light frost damage to your strawberry plant with only a few affected leaves then it is possible that the plant can revive if you cut back the affected growth and protect it from any more forsts.
However preventing damage in the first place should be prioritized as a sharp late frosts can wipe out an entire garden of strawberry plants.
When growing strawberries it is a good idea to buy horticultural fleece before hand so you can protect them when a frost is forecast or grow strawberries in a green house or poly tunnel to protect them from frost.
Strawberry plants are susceptible to fungal disease grey mold and powdery mildew on their leaves.
Grey mold appears on the decaying parts of the plant in humid conditions such as older leaves or flowers with a grey, fuzzy appearance causing the plant to rot and die back.
Powdery Mildew appears as white fungus that stunts the strawberry plants growth and causes the leaves to shrivel and curl.
For more information on grey mold and powdery mildew read these articles by the RHS.
Strawberry Plants only Live for 6 Years
Individual strawberry plants have a relatively short lifespan of around 6 years or so with the best fruit in first and second years, even in optimal conditions.
After the second year strawberry plants decline in productivity and can die back eventually usually because of fungus in the soil which turns the leaves brown.
So do not be alarmed if your plants are dying after several years as this is the normal life cycle of a strawberry plant.
- Dying Strawberry plants is usually because of under watering. If the soil is not consistently moist whilst the strawberry plant’s roots are establishing the leaves lose too much moisture, which causes wilting and brown leaves resulting in a dying strawberry plant.
- Strawberry leaves turn yellow as a result of root rot and nutrient deficiencies in the soil.
- Frost damage in the spring can turn foliage brown or black and cause the strawberry plant to die back.
- Strawberry plants only live for 6 years and can die back due to the fugal disease grey mold and powdery mildew.