Vegetative propagation using runner plants is an important method to expand the cultivation area for the strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch.). However, excessively long runners need an increased total amount of nutrients and energy to receive elongation from mother plants, which may lead to poor growth or reduced output. The use of plant growth regulators (PGRs) is an adoptable way to solve such problems.
The objectives of this experiment were to study the effects of PGRs and their application methods on the growth and development of runners, runner plants, and mother plants, and also to find effective ways to control the number and length of runners without harmful side effects. Chlormequat chloride (CCC), 6-benzylaminopurine (BA), and ethephon (ETH) at a concentration of 100 mg·L−1 were applied via three different methods: injection into crowns, medium drench, and foliar spray. The results showed that BA injection into crowns was the most effective combination among all treatments, which prominently shortened the length of runners and increased the number of runners and leaves on a single plant. Furthermore, plants with BA solution injection tended to produce stronger runners with higher fresh and dry weights, without affecting the health states of mother plants. The ETH solution seemed to have toxic effects on plants, by leading to many dead leaves and weak runners, and increased activities of antioxidant enzymes. Other than the injection method, the other two application methods of the CCC solution did not significantly affect the growth and development of both cultivars. Runner plants grown for 30 days were not affected by any treatments, and they were in similar conditions. Overall, BA injection into crowns is recommended for controlling the number and length of strawberry runners.