Everything You Need to Know About How to Grow Strawberry Plants

Everything You Need to Know About How to Grow Strawberry Plants

There are few things as sweet (literally!) in a gardener's life than tasting the strawberries they grew. Want to experience that same satisfaction? Read on to learn how to grow strawberry plants, whether you have a small strawberry hanging planter, a big patch or something in between. Plus, learn helpful tips on getting the most — and best — berries for your buck.

1. Find the Perfect Strawberry

As groundcovers, strawberries keep a low profile. They spread through runners (also known as stolons) that extend from the original plant's base and establish roots in the surrounding soil. You have three main types of strawberries to choose from: Junebearing, everbearing and alpine.

Junebearing Strawberries

Junebearing strawberries produce most of their fruit in — you guessed it — June. They're ideal for preserving. However, they run the risk of damage in a late-spring cold snap. Individual plants last several seasons, but their new runners keep your patch going year after year. Top picks include 'Earliglow,' 'Jewel' and 'Sweet Charlie.'

Everbearing Strawberries

Everbearing strawberries, such as 'Seascape' and 'Evie-2,' produce a heavy crop in June followed by summer and fall crops. Everbearing plants last several seasons but have few runners, so be prepared to purchase new ones when needed. Some varieties also work well in containers — 'Mara Des Bois' and 'Ruby Ann' are top picks for potted berries.

Alpine Strawberries

Alpine strawberries produce small fruit and no runners. Also referred to as woodland strawberries, these reliable berries tend to grow well in colder temperatures and need less direct sunlight than other types. You can try planting a collection of Alpine varieties or opt for a fun pick like 'Alpine Yellow Wonder.'

2. Select a Sunny Site

Once you've identified the right strawberry (or strawberries!), it's time to scout the perfect spot. Look for:

  • Full sun

  • Well-draining, loose, sandy soil

  • Access to water

You can also plant strawberries in containers, pots designed specifically for strawberries or a strawberry hanging planter.

Or, take a more unconventional route and incorporate strawberries into your landscape as a groundcover.

3. Purchase Plants

Strawberry plants typically come in three different forms:

  • Bare root: These plants arrive dormant and will look brown and spindly. But fear not; all you have to do is give them a little sun, water and soil, and they're good to go!

  • Starter plants: These actively growing plants have foliage and perhaps a bloom or two.

  • Seeds: You know those brown specs on the outside of the strawberry? Those are seeds! You can purchase strawberry seeds and start them indoors to transplant outside when the weather warms.

4. Time Carefully

Plant bare-root plants or transplant seedlings as soon as the soil is warm enough to work in the early spring. They can handle the frost. You can also plant seedlings in the fall.

5. Plant Correctly

Before planting, apply a well-balanced fertilizer (like a 4-4-4 or 3-6-4 fertilizer designed for vegetables) to the soil per the bag's instructions.

Bare-root plants require a bit of TLC before they're ready to go in the ground. First, soak the roots in room-temperature water for about two hours. Trim the roots to approximately 3 inches long, then remove any flowers or dead leaves. Use your trusty trowel to create a hole that won't crowd the roots. Ensure the crowns are level with the soil line. If they're planted too deep, they may not grow out of the soil. If they're too shallow, they may not be able to absorb the water they need to flourish.

Simply plant seedlings at the same height they were in their original container.

Space plants per your plant tag or seed packet. They'll seem far apart, but don't worry. You'll have a booming strawberry patch before you know it!

6. Pinch Back

Once your strawberry plants start forming buds, you'll want to pinch off all flower buds for at least the first few weeks. By removing flowers, you force plants to direct their energy toward developing strong leaves and roots so that, later on, they have enough energy stored up to create a bumper crop of dreamy, juicy berries.

For Junebearing strawberries, pinch back all flowers in the first season. While it can feel disappointing to miss out on a harvest your first year, it's a key step when learning how to grow strawberry plants — you'll have healthier plants and a bigger harvest next June.

For day-neutral and everbearing varieties, pinch back blossoms until early July the first year, then allow blooms to develop into berries for the remainder of the growing season.

7. Take Proper Care

Caring for your strawberry plants involves a few key steps:

  • After planting, add a layer of mulch to tamper weeds and keep moisture levels consistent.

  • Pull weeds regularly.

  • Water, water, water! Strawberries need roughly an inch of water per week.

  • Manage your runners wisely. Each year, perform the right maintenance on your runners to ensure maximum results:
    • Year one: Remove all runners.
    • Year two: Leave four runners.
    • Year three and beyond: Remove all nonproductive plants.

A bed will last about five years. After that, you'll want to start the cycle from scratch.

8. Harvest

As soon as you see juicy red berries, pick them! Pull off berries with a small piece of stalk attached, which will help encourage new growth. You can freeze them, make jam, whip up a strawberry mojito or, better yet, eat them straight off the plant.

9. Renovate Strawberry Beds

In the strawberry world, "renovating" is a fancy term for thinning out when you're done harvesting. It prevents beds from becoming overgrown, which causes smaller and fewer berries.

Follow these simple steps to keep your strawberry bed performing its best:

  1. Pull weeds.

  2. Create a 6- to 12-inch space between each row.

  3. Within rows, ensure a 3- to 4-inch space between plants.

  4. Focus on keeping the strongest-looking runners.

  5. Cut back or mow leaves off plants.

  6. Fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer in early spring.

  7. Irrigate as needed throughout the rest of the growing season.

Now, you're ready to pick your perfect strawberry variety, plant them in a patch or pot, and maximize their growth and production. With smart prep and strategic care, you can experience the joy of deliciously satisfying homegrown strawberries.

Shop strawberry plants for every spot, with Burpee.

Written by Kelly Reilly, www.kelly-reilly.com

Kelly's passion is empowering new gardeners to achieve their goals through accessible, easy-to-understand digital content.

May 26, 2022
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