Strawberry plants are sought-after for their sweet, edible fruit which is popular worldwide in desserts, pastries and preserves, as well as simply eaten fresh. These plants belong to the rose family, Rosaceae, and are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and North America. They can be grown outdoors or indoors, but either way they will be susceptible to the effects of underwatering if you neglect them for too long.
Underwatered strawberry plant – Signs and how to revive
Signs of an underwatered strawberry plant
Underwatered strawberry plants become wilted due to the lack of moisture in their cells. For any plant to remain upright and to maintain the rigidity of its plant tissue, it needs to have a continuous supply of water. When the roots are unable to absorb any moisture from the soil, the rest of the plant will stop receiving water and nutrients, and its cells will dehydrate, becoming less ‘full’, which results in the limp appearance of the whole plant.
Other problems that cause wilting in strawberry plants:
- Low temperatures
- High salinity
- Saturated soil
- Disease or pest infestation
Underwatered strawberry plants may also turn brown from dehydration. When a leaf cannot replace its lost water, the plant tissue will die and the leaf will turn brown and, eventually, dry and crisp.
Other problems that cause strawberry plants to turn brown:
- Incorrect watering technique
You need to hydrate your plants before 10 am or after 5 pm, especially if the temperature is hot outside. This is to ensure that the plants can absorb water without it evaporating.
Check the soil around the plants: if it is too moist, you may be overwatering, rather than underwatering. If the soil is very dry, however, you are probably not watering the plants enough. Try to aim for moist soil that is neither too dry nor too wet.
2. Nitrogen deficiency
If your plants are turning yellow or brown despite being watered correctly, it could indicate a nitrogen deficiency. This happens in soil that has been overplanted, or in nitrogen-deficient soil. Provide the plants with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to fix the problem easily.
Strawberry plants may turn yellow or brown due to diseases like leaf spot, verticillium wilt, leaf blight and leaf scorch.
How to revive an underwatered strawberry plant
To revive underwatered strawberry plants, first confirm that the problem is indeed underwatering by pushing your index finger one to two inches into the soil. If it feels dry, the plants need water. Move the wilted plants out of the sun, place them in a sink or tray filled with water, and allow the soil to absorb the water through the drainage holes of the pots.
If you are watering the plants from above, you can poke several holes in the soil’s surface to allow water to penetrate it more easily, because very dry soil can become a bit hydrophobic. Water the soil until it feels moist and until water flows out of the drainage holes if the plants are potted. If the soil is still feeling dry, wait at least 30 minutes to one hour and water the plant again. Repeat the process until the soil is properly moist.
You can also mist the foliage with water to rejuvenate the plants quickly. Place the plants in an area where there is no full sunlight or heavy wind for the duration of their recovery.
How to water strawberry plants
Strawberry plants need to be watered regularly, and should ideally receive an average of one to two inches of water per week. New plants can be given one inch of water weekly to establish growth.
Water established plants with a shaker hose or through drip irrigation. Keep the hose at least two inches away from the plants and, during non-peak growing season, water at least twice weekly to keep the soil moist. Water earlier in the day as this allows the moisture to seep through the root system before it evaporates from the heat of the sun.
To check whether the plants are receiving enough water, feel the top two inches of soil. If the soil is moist at two inches deep, the plants have enough water. Do not overwater them, because they will then become prone to root rot. Improve the soil’s quality by mixing in a quality, well-draining potting mix.
How are strawberries grown?
Strawberries of the common garden variety are small plants that stay at ground level. They do not become shrubs or bushes. These plants grow in sets of three and produce leafless stems from which the flowers and fruits grow. These fruits carry their seeds on the outside, unlike most plants that keep the seeds inside the fruit for better protection.
Other problems you may encounter when growing strawberry plants:
- Plants dying shortly after planting, due to transplant shock
- Plants dying due to crown rot
- Plants dying from frost damage
- Plants suffering from fungal diseases
Strawberry plants are popular plants that can be grown both indoors and outdoors. They are sought-after worldwide for their sweet, edible fruits. Like most plants, they will be prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long, and the most common signs of this are drooping and wilting.
To revive underwatered strawberry plants, give them a good soak to allow all of the soil and roots to be saturated, and keep them away from direct sunlight to speed their recovery. You can also spray their foliage with water to help rejuvenate them.
Image: istockphoto.com / Mila Usmanova