Chances are excellent that you already know what strawberries themselves look like. However, you might not be familiar with the plants from which they come. Strawberry plants are easy to distinguish from other plants, once you learn some of their characteristics. Strawberry plants produce runners and can spread quickly and vigorously over a patch of ground, regardless of other plants in the area.
Note the level of sunlight in the area. Strawberry plants prefer full sun, although an area with part sun is also acceptable. As a rule, they will not grow in full shade.
Observe the leaf shape of the plant you think may be a strawberry. Strawberry leaves usually have three lobes and are dark green, slightly jagged around the edges and curve upward in a slight cupping shape as they unfurl. The leaves of strawberry plants become flatter as they grow larger.
Look at the way the leaves connect to the plant. Strawberry leaves connect via slender green stalks to a large stem that is called a crown.
Check whether the plant has runners. Identify a runner by noting whether a long, slender stalk connects a smaller plant to a larger one; the larger is the parent plant, while the smaller is called the daughter.
Examine the flowers, if there are any. Strawberry flowers have round, white petals with yellow centers. As the flowers are fertilized, a single green pointed fruit will begin to grow from the center of each flower.
Observe the berries. Strawberries start out green, then begin to redden as they ripen. Berries that do not receive much sunlight may have lighter pink or white patches.
- Strawberries are perennial plants, but their roots are susceptible to frost. If you find strawberries growing in your yard and you want to protect them, consider mulching them over the winter. Strawberry crowns are frost-hardy, and will put down new roots when the old ones die. Runners sent out by strawberry plants can be separated from their parents by cutting the runner. The plant at the end of the runner will send down new roots from its crown, just like the parent.
- Encourage new growth in your strawberry plants from year to year by trimming back the old growth once a plant has finished producing berries for the season. The University of Illinois Extension recommends cutting off all the leaves about 1 inch over the top of each crown once all berries have been harvested. Leaves can then be mulched or composted. This encourages the plant to create new leaf and runner growth for the following year's berry production.