Skip to Content

How To Tell If My Bare Root Strawberries Are Dead

If it's your first time purchasing bare root strawberries online, you might be a bit confused with the product you've received. It will look like bundled sprouts of spindly roots that may even look dry and completely brown. Are they dead? Did it die during shipping? We did some research, and here's how you will know for sure.

Bare root strawberries may be dead or not fit for planting if they show the following signs:

  • It looks dry and shriveled
  • Mold and mildew are present
  • The crown is rotten
  • It has a bad smell
  • Has cuts and damage
  • Feels light and airy

If it looks slightly dry and brown and you can see a bit of green on it, don't panic because your bare roots are just fine. They only need to be moistened and planted right away.

Would you like to know more about the proper handling of bare root strawberries? Read on below, and we'll tackle what it should look like, whether it's fit for planting, and how long you have to wait for it to grow.

bare root strawberry plants soaking water ready for replanting, How To Tell If My Bare Root Strawberries Are Dead

Are My Bare Root Strawberries Dead?

It's pretty easy to tell if your bare root strawberries are dead through physical examination. There are two parts of the bare roots that you need to inspect, and these are the roots and crown.

To help you visualize, check out this diagram of the anatomy of a strawberry plant.

To continue on, here are the common signs that your strawberries are dead:

1. It looks dry and shriveled

Bare roots can look brown and slightly dry and this is okay. However, if the roots are so dry its threadbare and the crown is shriveled, there's a high chance that it could be dead.

But don't worry if the root and crown looks slightly brown and dry. Chances are, these bare roots are still good for planting and are just dormant and needs a bit of moisture.

2. Mold and mildew are present

Presence of mold and mildew on bare root includes turning into white or grayish color, a cottony material growing around it, blackish material forming, or a visible fungus.

Can you wash it off? You can certainly try if the mold doesn't seem to have consumed the crown entirely. Wash and treat with a fungicide approved for use on strawberries before planting.

It is important to note however, that if you do this, it is not recommended to be planted in a field along with other plants to avoid contaminating the others. Plant in a container and see how it grows.

View this Bonide fungicide for organic gardening on Amazon.  

3. The crown is rotten

You will know that the crown is rotten if it looks like it has been left on water and wilted away. This means it has been exposed to too much moisture causing the crown and root to turn rotten.

This may also mean it is infected with bacteria and fungus. Having an odd smell is another sign of rotten bare roots. Unfortunately, there is no way to recover from a root rot.

4. It has a bad smell

Rot, fungus, and bacteria can cause bare roots to have a foul odor. When this happens, it's not a good idea to plant it because affected roots could contaminate the soil and other plants. The bare roots should have no scent or just a faint, earthy scent.

5. Has cuts and damage

Shipping and handling can be rough, so on very rare occasions the product can arrive with broken roots, cuts, and other type of damage. It can also be caused by improper packaging by the seller.

Planting it depends entirely on the severity of the damage and the condition of the bare roots. If the crown is still intact, you can try to plant it and see if it will grow. 

6. Feels light and airy

When you hold the bare roots, it should feel full with a little bit of weight, and not light and airy. If it's the latter, there's a chance that the crown has dried up to the core making it not suitable for planting.

What Should A Healthy Bare Root Strawberry Look Like?

photograph bare root strawberry plants being

If the bare root strawberry show any of the signs above, they're assumed dead and not suitable for planting. It's very important to contact the seller about any issues, especially with fungus, root rot and bacteria so they are aware of the issues and address it properly on their plantation.

If you have any doubts that that roots are completely dead, you can try to plant or revive just to give them a chance to grow, but don't get your hopes too high.

So what does a healthy bare root strawberry look like?

  • It should have an earthy smell
  • The bunch should feel slightly heavy when held on the hand
  • It should show hints of green on the crown area
  • It should feel hard and firm
  • It is slightly moist
  • The crown has a good amount of roots

Check out this very informative video below on what to do when you receive your bare root strawberries and how to start planting them.

How Do You Revive Strawberry Roots?

What happens if the bare root you received from the mail is nearly dying? Is there a way to revive it?

If you received dry bare roots, simply soak them for 20 minute in clean water. The moment you soak them the roots are activated and moved out of the dormant stage. This means you will need to plant them within a few hours. Leaving it soaked or activated for several days will make it prone to mold, bacteria, and fungus.

bare root strawberry plants soaking water wooden table

Unfortunately, rotten, moldy, and fungi-infected bare roots should not be planted to avoid contamination of your other plants. Throw them out away from other healthy plants.

What Does Root Rot Look Like In Strawberries?

Strawberries are very easy to grow but they are susceptible to some types of fungus, bacteria, root rot, and powdery mildew. Knowing proper care techniques is essential.

When a root is rotten, it may look either mushy or gritty and turn black in color. The crown may have a grayish tint indicating it has been severely affected.

Here's what a root rot looks like in strawberries.

strawberry root caused by bacterial infection

If the strawberry plant has grown, it will show signs of root rot if it appears wilted or demonstrates stunted growth. Fixing root rot is not easy because it means the entire soil quality is affected. If it is grown in a field, entire farming operation of the plants may need to stop and fumigation is recommended before replanting.

How Often Do You Water Bare Root Strawberries?

Strawberries like a moist environment and soil but it doesn't want to get soggy and too watered down, otherwise it easily grows molds and fungus.

Most recommend watering it 1-2 inches of water daily but others like to use the "finger test" method. Dip your finger about an inch down the soil. If the soil is still moist, don't water it unless it feels dry.

How Long Does It Take For Strawberries To Sprout From Bare Root?

With proper care, bare root strawberries should start showing signs of growth through new leaves within 2 to 3 weeks from date of planting. It should also be able to produce berries within a minimum of three months.

Strawberries can sprout from bare root within a few weeks, but the exact timing depends on the variety. Some varieties take longer than others. Strawberries usually grow best when planted at the end of spring or early summer.

Why Are My Bare Root Strawberries Not Growing?

bare root strawberry plants soaking water on plastic container

The most common reason for this is that the roots were planted too deep or too close together. When planting bare roots, fan out the roots when burying them on the ground. Additionally, the crown should not be buried too deep.

Some strawberry varieties take longer to grow so try to wait another week. However, if you have followed all instructions and you still see no new leaves or growth, it is possible that the bare roots you purchased were in fact already dead.

Wrapping Up

bare root strawberry plants soaking water ready for replanting

Bare root strawberries are very hardy and will generally survive standard shipping time. Even if it looks wilted or a little dry, it should still be good for planting unless it has completely shriveled, has mold, or has started rotting.

Thank you very much for reading. We hope we were able to help you identify whether your bare root strawberries are dead or not.

For more information on bare root planting, check out these great articles below.

How Long Can Bare Root Plants Be Stored Before Planting?

Are Bare Root Roses Grafted?

How Long Do Hostas Take To Grow? [Inc. From Bare Root, Bulb, Or Seed]