If you live in a climate with winters (like we do), you may wonder if your strawberry plants will survive the cold weather. So, in this article I’ll answer the question: do strawberry plants come back every year?
Quick answer: Strawberries are perennial (multi-year) plants in zones 4-9, meaning they will regrow in spring after dying back each winter. Some varieties can produce good yields for 5 years or longer, though most perform best in their first 2-3 years.
There is much more to understand about your strawberry plants, such as how to protect them in the winter, if you should prune off the runners, and how to keep your plants productive, every year. So, let’s dive into it!
Are Strawberries Perennial or Annual?
In nature, are strawberry plants annuals or perennials? In other words, do they live for a single season and then die, or do they survive for many years?
In short, strawberries are naturally perennial, meaning they can live for many years. The plants will go dormant in winter weather, regrowing in spring when the weather warms up.
While peak production happens in the first 2-3 years of growth, strawberries can be kept alive indefinitely. It is best to stagger plantings so that you have productive strawberry patches every year.
Where do strawberries come from? With native origins in North America, the strawberry plant will happily survive winter weather, growing back every year in spring.
Life Cycle of a Strawberry Plant
So we know that strawberries are perennial, but what is their growth pattern and reproductive strategy?
Types of strawberry plants
Depending on the variety, a strawberry plant will provide harvests at different times of the growing season. There are 3 main types of strawberry plants:
- June-bearing. June bearing strawberries produce a single crop of strawberries in late spring to early summer. After this harvest, the plants won’t produce fruit again until the next year. They also will not fruit in their first year and only begin producing in year 2.
- Everbearing. Everbearing strawberries produce a large crop in early summer, and then have another 1-2 smaller harvests before winter. The size and number of additional fruitings will depend on the length of the growing season and the specific variety. They can fruit in their first year after planting from seed.
- Day-neutral. Day-neutral strawberries produce continual harvests, as long as the plants are not in dormancy. They will also produce fruit in their first year of growth, making them our favorite type of strawberry.
If you like preserving strawberries, then June-bearing may be a better option for you. Jams, pies, and other preserves require a large amount of berries, all at one time.
However, if you’re like us and are growing strawberries for snacking throughout the year, then go with day-neutral types. These will produce smaller harvests, all season long!
How do strawberry plants reproduce
Strawberry plants have 2 main methods of reproduction:
- Seed. Every strawberry is covered in tiny seeds. Each of these has the ability to produce an entire new plant. However, strawberry seedlings are tiny and fragile, so it is less common to see volunteer strawberry plants in your garden.
- Runners. Strawberry plants will naturally send off “runners,” or daughter plants during the growing season. These are essentially clones of the original plant and will re-root into the surrounding soil. It is often a good ideal to prune all but 1-2 runners. Leaving a few runners can help fill in your strawberry patch and provide a backup if the mother plant dies.
Since strawberry seedlings take so long to grow, it is much more common to start a new strawberry planting from bare-root plants. These are pre-grown plants that are essentially a rooted cutting that will begin growing full-sized leaves right away.
However, if you want to plant strawberries from seed, you’ll want to start early indoors. Give your strawberries at least 8 weeks indoors before planting out in early spring. Since strawberries are cold-hardy, you can plant them outdoors as soon as the soil is workable.
Winter Tips For Strawberries 🥶🍓
When the cold weather is approaching, there are a few important things to do for your strawberry plants.
- Insulate the beds with mulch. While strawberries can handle freezing temperatures, they do have limits. If you live in a spot with harsh winter storms and or cold, windy weather, cover your strawberry beds in late fall with an organic mulch such as straw. In spring, the plants can grow directly through the mulch, or you can remove it.
- Don’t allow them to dry out. If you have a particularly dry fall or winter, you may need to water your strawberry beds to keep the roots moist. Mulching also helps retain soil moisture, so this is just one more reason to do it!
- Don’t prune in winter. Do not cut back strawberry plants in winter. Instead, you can prune June bearing varieties in summer, after they have finished fruiting. In winter, allow the plants the die back naturally to avoid vulnerability to the cold.
- Fertilize. The best time to amend your strawberry beds with fertilizer is late in fall before winter. Use a general purpose (ideally organic) fertilizer without too much nitrogen. This allows time for the nutrients to break down in fall and early spring in time to boost plant growth the following year.
- Clean up fallen fruits. Many pests and diseases can spread via dead, fallen strawberries. Avoid these problems by keeping your strawberry patch tidy throughout the year and harvesting regularly. In fall, take a look through the plants to pick up any dead or dying foliage and fruits.
After a successful overwintering, your strawberry plants will come back early in spring, continuing the growth cycle. We love this time of year, as strawberries are some of the first fruits we get from the garden every year!
If you live in a warmer climate, your plants may actually benefit from more cold weather. So, try to select varieties that are better suited for your warmer region (types that need less chill hours).
I hope this article has helped you learn about whether strawberries come back every year. In most places, strawberry plants will regrow in spring after the winter weather is over, making them an exciting crop for almost any climate!