Before I started planting strawberries, I wanted to do some research first and learn everything I could.
You see, I want to take great care of my strawberries and ensure they have everything they need to thrive and produce red, sweet berries.
Part of this process is pollination. Without the flowers of the strawberry plants being pollinated, no berries will grow.
How to Pollinate Strawberries
With the help of rain and wind, pollen can be moved from the male to the female parts of the flower. Bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and beetles can also pollinate the flowers. If you grow strawberries in a greenhouse or window sill, gently use your finger or a fine brush to spread the pollen.
Natural Strawberry Pollination
There are a few ways in which strawberries can be pollinated naturally. As we just learned, the anthers (male) need to move to the pistils (female) for pollination to occur so the strawberry fruits can develop and grow.
Wind and rain can help the anthers touch and move pollen to pollinate the pistils but this may not be enough for each pistil to be pollinated.
The best way for strawberries to be pollinated is for various insects, such as butterflies, bees, ladybugs, hoverflies, beetles, and thrips, to visit the flowers to help with the pollination process.
Of these insects, I read in one study that honey bees are the most efficient in moving pollen from the male to the female parts of the strawberry flower.
Ten to sixteen honey bees need to visit the flower 11 times for complete pollination to occur compared to 30 times from a native bee.
Pollination efficiency also increases by more than 6% when honey bees are used to pollinate strawberries, and the percentage of deformed fruit also decreases.
An interesting fact I’d like to share is that wild bees generally fertilize the base of the flower while domesticated bees fertilize the top parts.
The other insects that visit my strawberry flowers further spread pollen. As such, it is important to have a variety of insects pollinate strawberry flowers.
How to Attract Insects to Visit Your Strawberries for Pollination
To attract bees and other insects to my patches of strawberries, I plant a variety of flowers in my garden that bloom throughout the season.
I also ensure I don’t use any insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides while the flowers are blooming.
I’ve learned it is best to choose flowering plants that grow well in my local climate, and you should do the same.
Some of my favorite flowers to plant include cannas, marigolds, and honeysuckle. I also plant some herbs in the form of rosemary, cilantro, and basil.
Pollinating Strawberries by Hand (Or Brush)
Aside from natural pollination, I’ve also helped spread the pollen to the pistils by hand.
It is important to help strawberries pollinate if there aren’t a lot of insects that have come to pay a visit and if the strawberries are grown in a greenhouse or screened-in porch.
Hand pollination then helps the fruits to grow healthily.
There are two ways to hand pollinate strawberries. I’ve taken a small paintbrush and gently brushed the pollen to the pistils, so brush from the outside inward to the center.
Or, when I don’t have a paint or makeup brush or Q-tip on hand, I gently use my finger to transfer the pollen to the pistils. I hand pollinate every 2-3 days after my strawberry flowers have opened.
Benefits of Strawberry Pollination
The benefits of strawberry pollination are:
- The more the strawberry flower is pollinated, the tastier and bigger the berry grows.
- When cross-pollination occurs, deformations in the fruit are decreased, and thus, the strawberry looks “normal” and plump.
- Compared to self-pollination or same-variety pollination, cross-pollination ensures your strawberries are bigger.
- Natural strawberry pollination is best as the strawberries are redder and bigger, thus increasing commercial viability.
The Anatomy of a Strawberry Flower
An understanding of the anatomy of a strawberry flower is needed if you want your strawberry pollination to be a success.
If you have any strawberry flowers in your garden, I suggest picking one before reading this section as a visual guide is most helpful, or you can Google a picture of a strawberry flower and identify the different parts.
A strawberry flower has 5 white petals, 20-25 yellow anthers in a ring shape, and 400 pistils. As such, the flower of a strawberry has both male and female reproductive organs, hence, they’re known as hermaphroditic.
The flowers are self-fertile, and about 80% of the production of the berries is a result of gravity and the wind. But that’s not to say that birds and insects don’t play an essential role in the pollination process.
Back to the flowers for now. The pollen carrying part of the flower is male, and pollinators need to collect the pollen grain from here.
The flower’s female parts are found in the center, consisting of about 400 pistils.
Every pistil needs to be pollinated (or receive pollen grains) to ensure the growth of the berries is successful. Once they are pollinated, they turn into achene or strawberry ovules.
If not every pistil is pollinated, the strawberries will be smaller and maybe misshapen.
The strawberry grows from each ovule that develops into an individual seed. Each seed is actually a fruit and all of the achenes are held together by the red outer layer of the strawberry.
Strawberry flowers are most fertile or receptive to pollination for a week after the flowers have bloomed.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Pollinate Strawberries
Do strawberries need to be pollinated?
Strawberries do need to be pollinated. They can self-pollinate with help from the wind and rain to ensure the male parts of the flower (the anthers) touch and move pollen to the female parts (the pistils). However, strawberry plants benefit more from insect pollination, especially if honey bees can pollinate the flowers.
Can you manually pollinate strawberries?
You can manually or hand-pollinate strawberries. Using your finger, a small and fine-bristled brush (like a paint or makeup brush), or even a Q-tip, move the pollen to the pistils. Hand-pollinate every 2-3 days once the flowers have bloomed.
The Final Pollination
Understanding how strawberries get pollinated ensures that your strawberry plants can yield a good crop with big, delicious berries.
If the strawberry flowers are not well pollinated, the chances of deformed and small strawberries and a small crop yield increase.
If you plant your strawberries in your garden, also plant local herbs and flowers to help attract pollinators.
If you plant your strawberries in a greenhouse or have a pot or two on your window sill or on your screen-in patio, then self-pollinate the strawberries by gently moving the pollen to the pistils every few days once the flowers have opened.
Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.