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What Causes Mushy Strawberries? Identifying and Preventing Fruit Rot

TheListLady lives in New York City, where she writes about food, healthy living, education, and travel.

Mushy and rotten strawberries? No thanks! Learn how to identify and prevent different kinds of fruit rot.

Mushy and rotten strawberries? No thanks! Learn how to identify and prevent different kinds of fruit rot.

How to Avoid Mushy Strawberries

Strawberries are among the fruits most often grown in home gardens. Providing general care like full sun, well-drained soil, organic matter, and a weekly inch of water produces the greatest and healthiest yield. Preventive care should also be practiced.

It's important to know what to do but also what not to do when cultivating strawberries.

Fruit Rot Identification and Prevention

There are several kinds of fruit rot. Learn about each, how to identify, and prevent them from overtaking your fruit!

  • Verticillium Wilt
  • Strawberry Gray Mold
  • Anthracnose Fruit Rot
  • Leak Fruit Rot
  • Leather Fruit Rot

Verticillium Wilt

Verticillium wilt is a serious fungal disease of the soil that occurs if strawberries are planted near other plants known to harbor the disease. Common plants that harbor the disease include eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.

Prevention Tip: Be careful where you plant.

Verticillium wilt infestation

Verticillium wilt infestation

Strawberry Gray Mold

Strawberry gray mold is caused by the Botrytis cinerea fungus and is the most serious and common form of strawberry fruit rot. The disease can reduce your yield by 50 percent or more. The mold flourishes during long periods of rain and overcast conditions during bloom time and harvest. Strawberry infections generally appear on the fruit as a light-brown patch that quickly enlarges and decays. With moist conditions, fluffy fungal growth is visible on the infected tissue. The gray-brown color gives the disease its name.

Prevention Tip: Better airflow and improved sunlight penetration will help reduce the possibility of gray mold. This is readily achieved by thinning out the strawberry beds. During the winter, dead leaves and debris should be removed from the beds to reduce possible sources of fungus.

Anthracnose Fruit Rot

Anthracnose fruit rot, caused by Colletotrichum acutatum, is a destructive disease affecting California cultivars if they grow on black plastic. The practice, most destructive during warm weather, can cause between 60-75 percent of fruit loss. Anthracnose fruit rot appears on green strawberries and ranges in appearance from soft to firm brown or black spots.

On ripe fruit, the disease appears as purple spots and enlarges quickly until the whole strawberry rots. Pink lesions on the surface can turn to masses of orange spores. Spores are dispersed to other fruit in splashing water. You may think this is a convenient way to prevent weeds but it should be entirely avoided.

Prevention Tip: Do not use black plastic for weed control.

Rhizopus on a strawberry

Rhizopus on a strawberry

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Leak Fruit Rot

Leak (Rhizopus nigricans) was once a common and destructive form of fruit rot occurring after harvest. Commercial strawberries are now refrigerated during shipping which helps prevent the problem. Fruits affected by the fungi show no changes at first and remain the same color. Later, the affected sections turn light brown and the strawberry becomes soft and watery. The strawberry then collapses and leaks fluid, which is why the disease is called Leak.

Rotten strawberries, especially those that are packaged, will soon become covered with white, cottony fungus and black spore-producing structures. The fungus will only enter ripe fruit through a wound. If you see this white, cottony fungus when shopping for strawberries, they are already contaminated, and simply washing them at home won't prevent Leak.

Prevention Tip: Carefully select commercially grown strawberries.

Leather Fruit Rot

Leather rot (Phytophthora cactorum) happens occasionally on both green fruit and ripe fruit. Rotten strawberries will be light brown in the middle and have shades of purple on the edges. Late stages of decay will make the fruit leathery and tough. Sometimes, you cannot tell if the purchased fruit is diseased until you take a bite.

Prevention Tip: Avoid eating tough strawberries.

When all goes well, there is nothing like a perfect strawberry!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 TheListLady


Michael on August 19, 2019:

My strawberries go red but stay small and do not firm up they are all soft. Any idea of the cause anyone

Frederick ackom mensah on August 10, 2018:

What make strawberries' have small leaves and brown colour at the ends

Anne Whittick on June 12, 2015:

Our allotment strawberrys go to mush within a couple of hours of being picked.

TheListLady (author) from New York City on March 22, 2013:

You're welcome rebeccamealey! I wish I had some homegrown strawberries right now! What's on the market is just awful. Soon - very soon I hope I can have another garden patch. I need real food.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on March 15, 2013:

I love homegrown strawberries. When I was growing up we had the coolest strawberry patch ever with huge berries! Thanks for these great tips!

Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on October 14, 2011:

Thanks TheListLady for this great info on strawberries, we tried growing them a few years ago but didn't have much success, so we continue to buy them at the store. But we never know when they are good or bad. They look good in the store, but sometimes you bite them and Yeeechhhh!

JT Walters from Florida on September 22, 2011:

Hi TheListLady,

I have always wondered why strawberries were so mushy and had green gray mold. Now I know. I like this hub as I have always aspired to grow starwberries but never had much luck in the area I live in Florida.

Great Hub.


CountryCityWoman from From New York City to North Carolina on August 15, 2011:

Great info. So often using black plastic is recommended to control weeds - but I can see that it would block air and overheat the ground. No good.

Thanks for a great hub. Rated up!

on August 15, 2011:

Lately markets have started packing strawberries in clear containers. Previously it was dark colored containers and you could not see if the fruit was fuzzy until you opened the container - ugh!

Good hub and thanks - rated up!

anglnwu on August 13, 2011:

Great information. I didn't know much about this subject until now. Rated up.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on August 11, 2011:

I love gardening and this was useful information for us. My uncle has strawberries garden in his back yard, it looks beautiful when the fruit appear, it looks contrast with the leaves. Red and green....wonderful. Thanks for writing this. Vote it up!


BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on August 10, 2011:

You know I often see awful strawberries in the market. Ugh. And sometimes you buy them in the carton and they look fine but you get home and unpack and there is that white fuzz- ugh - diseased strawberries. Really time to grow your own. I grew some years ago and the super taste cannot be compared to this commercial fruit.

Nice hub- thanks and rated up!

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