Strawberries taste much better when they’re grown at home. You may not know it, but store bought strawberries don’t have the full flavor potential of this delectable fruit.
If you want to experience the amazing flavor of a ripe homegrown strawberry, try growing your own plants in pots. Even if you only have a small balcony with partial sun, you can get ripe strawberries. So, in this article, I’ll share my full guide to growing strawberries in containers!
Types Of Strawberry Plants
There are 3 distinct types of strawberry plants, each with their own traits. I have a personal preference when it comes to growing strawberries in containers, but you can certainly try growing any type in a pot.
★ Day-neutral. Day-neutral strawberries are ideal for growing in containers. These plants can produce fruits in their first growing season (even from seed!). Plus, they produce continual harvests, all season long. The only downsides are smaller harvests and fruit size.
June bearing. As you may have guessed, June bearing strawberries are typically harvested in the month of June. These plants typically give a single, large harvest around this time of year. After June, the plants will not produce again until the following season.
Everbearing. Everbearing strawberries are similar to day-neutral varieties in that they produce multiple harvests through each season. However, instead of continual harvests, you can expect to get 2 (maybe 3) harvests – one in the spring, and one in fall.
If you have your heart set on a particular strawberry variety, just grow that! The biggest factor will be the harvest window. I like getting strawberries from spring through fall, so I grow day-neutral varieties in containers.
However, if you intend on making jams or preserves, you may want a bigger spring harvest. In that case, June-bearing might be the best choice!
Planting Strawberry Seeds
Germinating strawberry seeds can be a tricky pursuit. However, if you use my planting technique and keep a close eye on your seeds, you’ll be successful.
Strawberry seeds are small. So, be careful of planting them too deep, or they may not sprout.
Note: If you have purchased bare-root strawberries or seedlings, skip ahead to transplanting.
When to plant strawberry seeds
First off, you’ll need to time your planting right. Strawberry seeds are best planted in very early spring, about 10-12 weeks before your last frost date. This allows time for the seedlings to grow indoors and get ready for transplanting.
If you miss your window for planting, you can always purchase bare-root strawberry plants later. These are affordable and can be planted out around your last frost date.
Germinating strawberry seeds
To germinate strawberry seeds, they need 3 things: Water, light, and warmth. Strawberry seeds germinate best around 75°F, and need to be kept moist until they sprout. They are also tiny, so surface-sowing is best.
Gently mist the seeds to avoid displacing or burying them in the soil. Cover the trays with a humidity dome to avoid the seeds drying out during germination. Mist daily if needed, and never let the seeds dry out!
Strawberry seeds usually germinate within 1-2 weeks under ideal conditions. The seedlings are tiny, so look closely for any signs of sprouting.
To keep the soil moist, bottom water your trays regularly. This method helps avoid disturbing the tiny seedlings or washing them out of the soil. Be sure to dump out any excess water after bottom watering.
As your seedlings grow, they should be given plenty of bright light. I recommend grow lights, but if you don’t want to use them, a sunny window will work.
After 4-6 weeks, your plants should be transplanted into larger containers. I like using 3.5″ square pots where they will continue to grow larger until they are ready to move into their final container.
Note: You can move the plants directly from their seed cells to a large pot, but just make sure you have room for this indoors until it warms up outside.
Transplanting Strawberry Plants
Once your plants are filling out their small pots (roots reaching bottom and sides), they are ready for transplanting. This involves moving the plant and roots to a large container!
Best soil for strawberries
Strawberry plants grow best in slightly acidic soil with rich fertility. So, most potting soils will work well for growing your strawberries in pots.
Ideal container size for strawberries
Strawberry plants can be planted in a variety of container sizes. However, I have found that strawberries grow best in 1-2 gallon pots. If you want to plant lots of plants, consider planting in multiple containers rather than a single huge pot.
Hanging pots are a popular choice for container strawberries since they will be away from potential threats, like animals. However, I don’t recommend using designated “strawberry planters,” as normal deep planter pots are better.
How close to plant strawberry plants in pots
While transplanting, make sure to get the plant spacing correct. In containers, strawberries can be planted closer together than in the ground, about 6-8″ between plants.
This tight spacing allows for larger harvests, sooner. However, it also means that you must prune away any runners that try to re-root to avoid overcrowding in your containers.
After transplanting, be sure to water the plants into their new home. This helps the roots integrate seamlessly into a new environment.
It is normal to see slow or stunted growth for the first 2-3 weeks after transplanting strawberries. During this time, the plants are setting roots into the large body of soil and getting established.
When is it safe to move strawberries outdoors?
Strawberry plants are cold hardy, meaning they can survive frost. However, when growing from seed, it is best to avoid frost in spring.
For best results, transplant strawberries shortly after your last frost date. Young strawberry plants are more vulnerable to frost damage. Cold temperatures can cause setbacks in growth, especially in the first year.
How much sunlight do strawberry plants need?
When it is time for your strawberry plants to get outdoors, find a nice sunny spot. Strawberry plants perform best with full sun, but can still be productive in a partial shade location. As long as the plants are getting a few hours of direct sunlight, you can expect good results.
Strawberry Runners and Flowers
A few weeks after transplanting, you may start to see some long, extending shoots coming off of your plants. These are called runners, and are best removed during the early stages of growth.
Runners are the plant’s way of reproducing. Each runner has the potential to re-root and create “daughter plants” in nearby soil. By removing the runners, you help the plant focus its energy on growing a strong root system and a better yield.
Flower are also common to see after transplanting. These are what will eventually become the fruits. However, for the first month or so after transplanting, I recommend removing the flower buds.
Again, the helps keep the plants on track, producing strong roots and lots of foliage. Once established, the plants can be left to grow their flowers and produce berries.
Your first harvest will usually come a couple of months after transplanting outdoors (for day-neutral varieties). If you planted June bearing strawberries, you’ll have to wait until next spring for a harvest.
Now this is important: Only harvest strawberries when they are fully ripe (deep red color). If you harvest too early, the flavor will not be at its best.
Learn more about when to pick strawberries here.
Each strawberry variety is different. Some can stay on the plant for up to a week fully ripe, while others need to be harvested promptly to avoid rotting.
Critters and pests
To avoid losing your berries to wildlife, keep your strawberry plants elevated. This will make it more difficult for chipmunks, squirrels, and mice to munch on your berries.
If you notice slugs in your garden, you may want to consider proactively controlling them. Again, elevation helps, but slug bait may still be necessary if your fruits are getting eaten.
The plant foliage may also be vulnerable to aphids, thrips, beetles, and other pests. I prefer to only use organic insecticide, and only in dire situations. Avoid spraying the opened flowers or developing fruits.
Birds are also notorious for eating ripe strawberries. If you notice blackbirds or other avian visitors eating your berries, you can try the painted rock method.
Essentially, you find strawberry-shaped rocks, clean them up with water, and paint them red. Then, place them near your strawberry plants to trick birds into trying the false berries. I have tried this and have seen surprisingly good results!
Container Strawberry Plant FAQs
As you grow your strawberries in containers, you may have some of these common questions:
I hope this article helps you with growing strawberries in containers! I love growing strawberries for their vastly superior flavor. Now, it’s time to make your own homemade strawberry jam!