To gardeners, what is more rewarding than growing delicious, sweet strawberries? Picking a warm, sun-ripened strawberry is incredibly satisfying, especially if you grew your plants from seed.
However, growing strawberries from seed begins with germination. So, in this article, I’ll share our technique for germinating strawberry seeds in as little as 5 days!
Of course your germination results may vary based on the age of the seeds, the planting conditions, and the variety of strawberry you are growing. Let’s get started!
When Should You Plant Strawberry Seeds?
Before you plant, be sure you are doing it at the right time. If you want to get a harvest of strawberries in the first year, you’ll have to plant your seeds very early indoors.
In general, you should plant strawberry seeds at least 10-12 weeks before your average last frost date. This gives the plants time to grow strong indoors and extends each plant’s growing season.
After growing indoors for a couple of months, your strawberry plants will have a big head start. Many types of strawberries will fruit in the same year they were planted.
Can I use seeds from a store bought strawberry?
While the internet may want you to think this is a good idea, I wouldn’t recommend planting seeds from a store bought strawberry. Here’s why:
- Store bought strawberries have poor flavor. The best tasting strawberry varieties are not the type you buy at the store. Store bought strawberries are typically bred to have a good shelf life, and a larger size. This leaves much to be desired in the flavor category.
- Store bought varieties are hybrids. Most store bought strawberries come from hybrid plants. This means that the seeds you save from them will not grow true to the original plants.
Instead, I recommend finding a well-reviewed day-neutral strawberry variety from a reputable seed seller. In this article, the seeds we grew were the ‘Elan’ strawberry, a great candidate for growing in containers.
How To Germinate Strawberry Seeds Fast (Steps)
With your planting date set, and seeds in hand, you just need a few more supplies to germinate your strawberry seeds. Here is a list of things you’ll need:
- Strawberry seeds
- Seed cell trays
- Seed starting soil (or regular potting mix)
- Spray bottle with water
- Propagation tray and humidity dome
With your supplies in hand, you’re ready to plant! This is our go-to technique for germinating strawberry seeds.
Germinating Strawberry Seeds (Steps):
- Pre-moisten seed starter mix.
Add room temperature water to your soil and mix it thoroughly until it is moist, but not soaking wet. The soil should stick together when you squeeze it, but shouldn’t drip much water.
Note: Since strawberry seeds are so small, a seed starting mix is ideal, since it contains no large pieces of wood or rock.
- Fill seed cell trays with soil.
Add the pre-moistened soil to your seed cell trays, compressing gently until full.
- Drop 2-3 seeds in each seed cell.
If you have many seeds to spare, add at least 2-3 seeds to the surface of each seed cell. This ensures you get at least 1 successful germination. If you have limited seeds, plant 1 seed per cell.
- Press the seeds into the soil’s surface (do not bury).
Strawberry seeds require light to for the best germination results. Do not bury the seeds with soil! Instead, press the seed gently onto the surface of the soil to make good seed-to-soil contact.
- Gently spray the soil with water.
Using a spray bottle, gently spritz the soil and seeds, careful not to dislodge the seeds from the soil. Seeds require consistent moisture in order to germinate.
- Use a humidity dome to prevent seeds from drying out.
To keep the seeds wet, cover the trays with a humidity dome. If you don’t have a dedicated humidity dome, you can cover the trays in a plastic food container, or even just plastic wrap.
- Fan trays out daily and mist with water as needed.
Uncover the trays once a day to refresh the air inside. While you do this, check to see if the seeds have dried out and spray gently with water as needed.
- Keep soil between 65-75°F until seedlings emerge.
For the quickest germination, keep the seeds warm, around 75°F, and no lower than 65°F. We use a seed heating mat to keep temperatures warm.
How long does it take for strawberry seeds to sprout?
After your seeds are planted, all that is left to do is wait! Strawberry seeds typically take between 1-2 weeks to sprout, but may germinate in as little as 5 days.
Tips for quick sprouting:
- Keep it warm
- Provide light from a bright window or LED grow lights
- Never let the seeds dry out
Older seeds may take longer to sprout, and colder temperatures can also slow down germination. Keep the seeds in a warm spot with plenty of light for the best results.
Do Strawberry Seeds Need Cold Stratification?
Cold stratification is essentially when a seed is exposed to cold, wet conditions for several weeks or months. This process helps initiate germination in some cold hardy plant varieties.
In our experience, most strawberry seeds will germinate without cold stratification. However, if your seed packet explicitly recommends it, you should.
Follow the planting directions above, but instead of moving the seeds to a warm spot, put them in the refrigerator. Make sure they are covered with plastic wrap so that the seeds stay moist.
Keep the seeds in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. After this period, move the seeds into a warm room with plenty of light to sprout.
My Strawberry Seed Is Stuck!
This is a common problem we face when growing strawberries from seed. The seedling sprouts, but the seed coat is stuck on top of the plant, preventing the leaves from opening up.
When this happens, the plant will usually shed the seed coat on its own. However, if the seed remains stuck, you may need to try to remove it. This problem usually stems from low humidity, so try to keep the soil wet while seedlings emerge.
First, know that attempting to remove the seed is a delicate task! Failure usually means a dead plant, so be very gentle.
- Moisten the seed with water and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. This softens the seed coat, making it more malleable.
- Using your fingers or tweezers, gently squeeze the sides of the seed to open it up. Don’t pull the seedling upwards, as it is too weak and will easily tear.
I’ve gotten good at this process, but only after killing countless strawberry seedlings! Be patient, and the problem usually solves itself.
How Long To Grow Strawberries From Seed?
Strawberry plants are perennial, meaning that they overwinter outdoors and come back each spring. When growing from seed, some varieties will fruit in their first growing season.
When planted from seed, strawberry plants take about 4 months to produce their first fruits. Some varieties will not produce fruit their first year, meaning the first harvest will come after 365+ days.
What To Do After Strawberry Seeds Sprout
After your seeds have sprouted, they will need light! We like to use LED grow lights to give our plants a strong start. A sunny window is not ideal, but if you take this route, make sure it is a South-facing window.
Strawberry seedlings are also tiny! This means that they grow slowly in their first few weeks, gaining momentum as the leaves become larger. Early on, avoid watering from the top, bottom-watering instead.
If your soil does not contain nutrients, you can begin fertilizing at 1/4 strength about 2 weeks after sprouting. This will help the plants develop strong root systems.
Do your best to keep the seedlings warm. While strawberries can handle cold temperatures, they will grow fastest when kept between 65-75°F.
I hope this article helps you successfully germinate your strawberry seeds! Like I said, they are one of the most rewarding plants to grow from seed. The next growth stages are seedling, transplanting, flowering, and harvesting your delicious, homegrown strawberries!