Introducing Strawberry Plant Pollination
The world of horticulture is getting to be a pretty crazy place. In a world where something called an Ugli fruit exists (it’s a hybrid of grapefruit, orange, and tangerine) it’s starting to seem that the options are endless when it comes to manipulating what nature does all by itself.
If you’re into growing edible plants, you may be curious about some of the best ways to pollinate the plants. One plant in particular that really benefits from proper pollination processes is the strawberry plant.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it before when you buy a pack of strawberries from the grocery store and they’re huge and red, but they taste like nothing. Hopefully, you’ve also experienced the alternative and found some wild strawberries, only to find that they are almost impossibly sweet and ruby red.
It turns out that GMO-grown strawberries are mimicking natural pollination processes by making the strawberries grow super fast and big, but what ends up being missed is the time it takes to develop flavorful fruit.
This article is going to go through all of the basic information you need to know about strawberry plant pollination, the differences between homegrown and industry-grown plants, and ways to pollinate your own plants!
Are you short on space but curious about growing strawberry plants? Check out this article on 5 Methods of Growing Strawberries in Small Spaces.
Strawberry Plant Pollination for Dummies
Strawberry Plant Anatomy
First thing is first, let’s talk about the general anatomy of a strawberry plant. Strawberry plants are hermaphroditic, meaning that they contain both male and female plant parts – the male stamen and the female pistil.
During the flowering stage, a strawberry plant becomes fertilized with pollen from the stamens that hang out around the outer edge of the flower, makes its way to the pistils that are closer to the centre of the flower. Once this happens, the plant has all that it needs in order to produce delicious fruit.
Since the plant has both plant parts in order to self fertilize, it can actually pollinate itself and produce fruit. But there needs to be a little bit of movement in order for the pollen to be brought from the stamen to the pistil.
Natural Pollination vs. Planned Pollination
There are two different camps when it comes to pollinating plants. Some folks believe that doing it yourself will produce the same yield as letting it happen naturally. But if you’re growing commercially, chances are your plants are growing in a controlled environment where pollination isn’t happening completely naturally.
At the end of the day, the more a plant is pollinated, the higher yield it’s going to provide. The more it’s pollinated, the more red, juicy, and large the fruit is going to be. But, what is the difference if pollinators do it, or if you do it by hand?
Planned pollination is great for strawberry growers who have to meet a certain yield and can’t risk un-pollinated plants, but the fact of the matter is that nature really just knows how to do it best.
If you’re growing plants in a controlled environment, chances are that not much cross pollination is going on, which has proven to be super beneficial to plants. In this type of environment there’s also a good chance that they aren’t experiencing much pollinator diversity, which is also proven to improve the yield and quality of strawberry fruits.
Benefits of Natural Pollination
Now we know that heavy pollination increases both the yield and quality of strawberry fruits, but why is that exactly? Turns out there are explanations behind the dramatic effects of natural pollination, and here are a few:
Plant Hormone Increase – when a plant receives a heavy amount of pollen, this then stimulates in increase in the production of the hormones auxin and gibberellic acid. Auxin is what encourages cell division and growth, which accounts for nice, large, and juicy strawberries.
The effects of gibberrellic acid is very interesting in that it delays the softening of strawberry flesh, thus increasing the overall shelf life of the strawberries. Who knew that natural pollination also made the fruit last longer?? I didn’t until today!
Cross Pollination – Cross pollination is beneficial because it’s introducing new genes to plants. The more genes a plant has, the less likely it can be dramatically effected by disease, and the more robust the plant health will be.
There will be less deformations, better flavor, and overall better health for the plant. It’s the exact same reason why people eventually learned that having babies with your relatives is bad! Gene diversity is good!
Better Fruit – There have been tons of studies about whether natural or forced pollination is better, and the numbers really speak for themselves. Studies show that bee pollination results in a 39% healthier, sweeter, brighter, and larger fruit than wind pollination can provide, and a whopping 54% better than self pollination.
3 Ways to Pollinate Strawberry Plants
So, now that you’ve received that long winded essay about why strawberry pollination is good for the plant, now it’s time to learn about the ways that you can get your strawberry flowers fertilized so that they can start producing some fruit!
1. Get the Bugs Involved
Bugs are the best pollinators out there, and bees aren’t the only ones! Exposing your strawberry plants to moths, butterflies, flies, and even hummingbirds is truly the best way to get those fruits fruiting.
The more exposure your plant has to pollinators, the more pollen it will be exposed to, resulting in more and better fruits. Choose an area in your garden that is shielded from wind and consider planting other plants in the area that attract pollinators, like sweet smelling flowers.
Insect diversity is important. This is because different insect species focus on different parts of the plant. Domesticated honey bees will linger around the top of the flower, whereas wild bees will fertilize more around the base.
If you’re growing your plants in containers indoors, you can always just move the plants outdoors for the warmer months ensuring that they get that pollinator exposure, and you can move them back inside after.
2. Get Some Movement Going
If you don’t have a backyard and you’re growing your strawberry plants indoors in your home or in a greenhouse, chances are that you don’t have access to a plethora of bug species, but worry not.
Strawberries are capable of getting pollinated all by their lonesome, but they will need a little arousal. This can be done by creating some wind in the space that they’re growing. You can put a fan in the room to create some movement, you can wave a magazine around, fart, anything to get the air moving.
But remember, wind pollination isn’t nearly effective as insect pollination, and this will also decrease the opportunity for cross pollination. You may end up being slightly disappointed by the yield if your plants are growing inside, but, c’est la vie.
3. Put Some Work In
Now if you want to be a little bit more precise with the pollination process, then you can always decide to do it yourself as well. If you have a little patient and good eyesight, then it won’t take much time at all.
The tiny motes of pollen can be found on the stamens of the strawberry flowers and are large enough for you to see. Even though they are very light, they are moveable. You can brush the outer edge of the flower with either your finger or a small paintbrush in order to move the pollen towards the centre of the flower.
If you’re going to do this, it would be a good idea to transfer pollen from a different strawberry plant than the one you’re taking the pollen from. This way you can control the cross pollination a little bit better which will hopefully result in a better fruit yield.
You may have noticed that this article is slightly leaning towards the natural side of things, but that’s because I always like to make an effort to preserve natural processes that should be preserved. After all, letting bees do what they do best is a great way to ensure that the entire animal kingdom doesn’t collapse!
Hopefully you’ve got a better understanding of how strawberry plant pollination works and you’re well on your way towards a healthy, juicy, and sweet bunch of beautiful, red strawberry fruits.