Any type of strawberry can produce fruits when grown in containers. June-bearing strawberries will give you one main crop in the early summer. And both day-neutral and everbearing strawberries offer a longer season than June-bearing varieties. Day-neutral plants produce berries sporadically throughout the summer, and everbearing strawberries will give you two to three harvests each season. However, everbearing strawberries are not as hardy as the day-neutral varieties and will need protection to make it through cold winters. To increase your odds of a successful harvest, follow these steps for growing strawberries in containers.
Equipment / Tools
- Watering can
- Garden trowel
- Strawberry crowns or seedlings
- Planting container
- Potting mix
- Liquid fertilizer
Prepare the Plants
You can start strawberries from either bare-root crowns or seedlings, but seedlings started in small 3- to 4-inch pots will establish themselves in containers faster than bare-root crowns. Strawberry plants generally spread around 2 feet in every direction. You should only place one to two plants in small containers, but you can fill all the openings of a strawberry jar (a planter crafted specifically for growing strawberries).
Fill the container with a loose, loamy potting mix that will hold moisture but quickly drain away any excess water.
Plant the Strawberries
Plant the strawberry plants, so their crowns (the place where the stem meets the roots) are just above the soil surface. Make a small mound in the potting mix, and spread out the roots over the mound. Then, cover the roots up to the crown with the potting mix, and water the soil well. Add more potting mix as needed after the soil settles from watering.
Place the Container
Set the pot in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of sun each day to ensure plenty of flowers and fruits. If the sunlight is coming from only one direction, rotate the container every three to four days if possible for the plants to grow evenly. Also, make sure the plants are protected. Just because the strawberries are in pots doesn't mean pests can't reach them. Insects, birds, and rodents will still be attracted to your plants, so keep them protected with netting or fencing.
Water the Plants
Water your strawberries whenever the soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface. You don't want the plants to be sitting in water or soggy soil. But you also don't want them to remain dry for days and start to wilt, especially while the fruits are forming. In general, the soil in containers dries out faster than the soil on the ground. Long periods of hot, dry weather might necessitate daily watering, and as the plants grow more roots they will need more frequent watering.
Feed Your Strawberries
Most container plants benefit from some supplemental feeding. Feed your strawberries every three to four weeks with a liquid fertilizer that is high in phosphorous.
Provide Winter Protection
Strawberries produce best if they are allowed to go dormant in the winter. However, the roots might freeze in colder areas, and some containers will crack if left out in freezing temperatures. You can move your containers into an unheated garage or under a deck for winter protection. Water only when the soil becomes excessively dry. You also might be able to mulch up and around the container and leave it in place.
Reasons to Grow Strawberries in Containers
Strawberries are a great choice as container plants for a few primary reasons:
- Space: Strawberries are a compact plant, and even gardeners with limited space typically can manage a few pots.
- Convenience: You can have pots of strawberries close to your kitchen or outdoor seating area for easy picking.
- Pest, disease, and chemical control: Growing strawberry plants off the ground will help to cut down on pest problems, as well as bacterial and fungal diseases. It's also easier to prevent unwanted lawn and garden chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, from hitting your plants.
Types of Containers for Growing Strawberries
Whether it is a specialized strawberry pot, a hanging basket, or a planter, use a container with good drainage. Either several drainage holes at the bottom of the container or multiple holes throughout the container will do.
Strawberries have a relatively small root ball and can be grown in containers as small as 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches deep. However, the smaller the container, the more frequently you will need to water.
Moreover, synthetic pots and light-colored pots will keep the roots cooler than dark colors and natural materials that conduct heat, such as clay and metal.
When to Replace Strawberries in Pots
Even with the best care, strawberries are short-lived perennials. Your plants likely will need to be replaced roughly every three years when their output diminishes and they begin to die.
If you really want to make growing container strawberries easy, treat them as annuals. If you don't intend to keep your plants for multiple years, you won't have to do typical maintenance, such as pinching off (deadheading) the spent flowers. You can let the plants flower and fruit as much as they can and just replace them with new plants the next growing season.