Learn the best way to grow strawberries including when to plant, recommended growing conditions, in-ground and container growing, year-round strawberry care, different fruiting times, and—the best part—how to harvest the sweet, fresh fruit.
If you need help with raspberries, this shows how to transplant raspberry canes.
One big difference between homegrown strawberries and the ones at the grocery store is the flavorful taste and tender texture you get at home.
Unlike strawberries that must have tough exteriors to withstand long-distance travels, the only thing we have to worry about at home is which way we want to devour them. And what’s better than growing for taste?
One thing I wish I’d known when I started growing strawberries over twenty years ago is that they can be fairly short-lived and do require upkeep. One plant may live a few years—not longer, the soil will need feeding to keep the plants nourished, and it pays to root the runners for free, new plants.
Strawberry | Genus: Fragaria
Strawberry Growing Tips
Classic | Perpetual | Everbearing | Alpine
• Hardiness Zones 5 to 8
• Full sun
• Soil: well-draining and fertile
• Timing: transplant late spring for same-season fruit
• Propagation: allow runners to root
• Self-fertile with help from wind and insects
Top Tips For Growing Strawberries
1Know Which Type of Strawberry You Are Growing
The 3 Basic Types of Strawberries
This one throws off a lot of gardeners: depending on which type you are growing, you will get fruit at different points in the growing season.
If you do not know the type of plants you have, time will tell: pay attention to fruiting times. First comes flowers, then comes fruit.
The names for types of strawberry plants vary in different regions but here are some common ones.
Classic strawberries or June-bearing strawberries produce an abundance of fruit in early summer.
These next two groups can be “day neutral.” This means what it sounds like: they are not particularly sensitive to the amount of light available and simply continue to flower and fruit during the summer months.
Perpetual or everbearing strawberries usually have two harvests: one in early summer and the other in late summer or early fall. The first harvest is often more abundant than the second. Some also produce a small midsummer harvest.
Alpine strawberries grow as ground cover, producing tiny berries from early summer to fall. It takes a lot of plants to produce a meager harvest. I have masses of them in my back garden and, unlike the other strawberries, they are largely ignored by wildlife, so they are not really anyone’s first choice.
Whatever you choose, plant similar varieties together so the care and harvests are aligned.
All of them need a cold winter to ensure future fruiting.
Tips for Buying Strawberry Plants
- Start at your local plant nurseries to see what is available and recommended in your growing conditions.
- Strawberry plants are prone to some diseases, so ensure the ones you purchase are guaranteed to be disease-free.
- If you belong to a horticultural society or local garden club, there may also be members willing to share their experience and trade plants. But do beware of any diseases present if you are offered free plants.
2Provide Optimum Growing Conditions
Where to Plant Strawberries
Strawberries enjoy a sunny location, sheltered from strong winds so insects can assist with pollination.
Use fertile, well-drained soil. I plant mine in (very) well-rotted (composted) manure.
Not sure if your soil is well-draining? Here’s how to test it.
3Decide if You’re Growing in Containers or In-Ground
- Most strawberry plants produce fruit for 3 years or a bit longer.
- Growing strawberries in the ground is easiest for long-term, perennial growing.
- While you can grow in containers, it may shorten the lifespan of the plant.
- Window boxes, flower bags, and hanging baskets are fine for a single growing season.
- You can also overwinter containers (in cold storage, always above freezing) to continue growing in spring.
Strawberry Planting Tips
- Follow the directions on the plant tag to ensure you plant the strawberries properly (the root crowns like to be at an exact depth) and they have room to grow.
- Plant your strawberries in a weed-free zone and be vigilant about keeping other plants from creeping in. Grass lawn is terrible for invading a strawberry patch and depriving the plants of water and nutrients.
- Space your plants about 14 to 18 inches apart for larger varieties. The runners will soon take over so you will need to keep on top of them, removing and/or propagating them (there is more on this in the FAQ section, below).
- The edible fruits form when the flowers have been pollinated. While strawberries are self-pollinating, they do get assistance from insects and gentle winds that help things along.
- Because of this, you don’t want to cover the plants with netting (which keeps birds out) or shield them with a screen (like this squirrel screen I use), until pollination has occurred and the fruit is forming.
- I can tell pollination has taken place when the flowers suddenly start wilting although the plant otherwise looks healthy and happy.
4Provide Proper Care
- Straw is an ideal mulch for strawberries—if you’re sure it does not contain herbicide residue. Place it around plants to suppress weeds, and, when the berries have formed, place it underneath to provide a safe resting place until they are ready for picking.
- Zone 5 or Colder | In colder climates, strawberry plants do best if covered in straw mulch during the winter months to prevent a deep freeze.
Watch the Heat
- While strawberries do nicely with full sun with nice, even water, heat can cause some problems. A temperature of 16C/61F or lower is best. Adding straw mulch or some shade can prevent this problem. One heat wave in early summer can wipe out the crop.
- Once the fruit has formed, more heat is fine so long as the plants never dry out.
- If your soil is not so fertile, meaning rich in organic material, you may need to amend it with a slow-release, organic fertilizer, safe for food crops.
- If you notice a gray-white powdery substance forming on your strawberry plants, it could be powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis). This has suggestions for powdery mildew prevention and treatments.
How often strawberry plants produce fruit in a growing season depends on the type of strawberry.
There are exceptions, but, generally:
Classic or June-bearing strawberries fruit once a year in early summer.
Perpetual or ever-bearing strawberries fruit in early summer and provide a smaller crop in late summer or early fall. Some may also fruit midsummer.
Alpine strawberries fruit ongoing from early summer to fall.
Strawberry plants can be planted any time the ground is not frozen. If you want berries the same year, plant them in spring when the risk of frost has passed or buy plants with already ripening fruit.
Coffee grounds are not specifically beneficial for strawberry plants. Coffee grounds are fine to add to your compost pile where they can decompose along with a variety of other suitable greens (fruit and vegetable scraps and more). They do not however have any superpowers though that are superior to other compostable items. You can read more about coffee grounds in the garden here.
Strawberries are self-pollinating but do benefit with assistance from insects including bees and the wind. For this reason, the plants should never be covered with protective netting until pollination has taken place and fruit is forming.
It is not necessary to cut back strawberries for winter. It is recommended to leave dead growth in place for added insulation during colder seasons. In spring, any dead foliage can be removed.
In colder zones (zone 5 or lower) you should cover your strawberry plants in a generous layer of mulch for winter protection. Here in hardiness zone 6, I apply straw about 6-inches deep.
It is possible to grow strawberries indoors year-round in greenhouse conditions. This is much more challenging in our homes due to fluctuating conditions caused by heating and cooling systems, varying light conditions, and drafts. Some gardeners report success growing alpine strawberries indoors although they grow very slowly.
Strawberry plants can grow nicely in containers if the right growing conditions are provided including adequate light, water, and well-draining soil.
This style of stackable pot is one option and holds a lot of plants. Single flower pots or hanging baskets are another option. You can grow them in pots for a single season or keep them going for a few years by overwintering the containers, preventing the plants from freezing.
Many strawberry plants need at least 60 days to produce mature fruit.
You can tell strawberries are ready to pick when:
-They look edible (either red or white with no green patches on the fruit, depending on the variety).
-They have a delicious, sweet fragrance: seriously, use your nose—it’s lovely.
-They slide off the stem with a slight pull.
Wildlife eating the fruit is another sign of readiness. Birds and chipmunks are no fools: they know a good thing when they taste it.
The best tip is just try one!
You can grow new strawberry plants from existing plants either by rooting runners (shoots that grow from the mother plant) or by sowing seeds.
Starting strawberries from seed is a long, slow process.
Growing strawberries from runners is the fastest method. Runners are shoots that form from the mother plant. Submerged in moistened soil, they will produce roots after about six weeks which signals they are ready to be cut from the mother plant and grow independently.
Strawberry seeds, which form on the exterior of the edible parts, can start sprouting if the fruit and seeds are mature enough and conditions are right. This is called vivipary and you can read more about it here.
Day neutral strawberries are varieties that produce flowers and fruit ongoing during the summer months, regardless of the increase and decrease in daylight hours.
June-bearing strawberries produce a single, large crop at the beginning of summer. Everbearing strawberries produce two or more smaller, consecutive crops throughout the growing season.
Strawberry plants can produce fruit for 3 to 4 years before they begin to decline in productivity. It is a good idea to replace your plants every few years to maintain a good yield.
Empress of Dirt
Printable Garden Planner & Notes
An assortment of basic garden checklists, undated calendars, and note pages for planning and tracking your gardening season.
This is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device to print as much as you like for your own personal use. It is not a physical product.
PayPal, Credit Card, or Apple Pay
Digital products are not available in EU, UK, and Northern Ireland due to tax regulations.
Also see more fruits you can grow in pots.
There you go. Now get growing.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛