Any type of strawberry can produce fruits when grown in containers. June-bearing strawberries will give you one main crop in the early summer during roughly a two-week period. And both day-neutral 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 produce smaller fruit, as well as fewer runners, than the other varieties. No matter which you choose, make sure you get the right size container, because they have different container size needs. 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 transplants. Transplants will immediately look lush and pretty in containers, but you'll need to wait for dormant bare-root crowns to establish and produce leaves. Strawberry plants dislike crowded conditions, so plant only three strawberry plants per square foot of soil. Because their roots are fairly shallow, measure the surface area of the container to determine area (as long as the container doesn't taper sharply.)
Fill the container with a loose, loamy potting mix that will hold moisture but quickly drain away any excess water. Make sure to use a container with a drainage hole in the bottom.
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, but do not cover the crown with soil.
Place the Container
Set the pot in a location that receives at least eight to 12 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, or about twice per week. You don't want the plants to be sitting in water or soggy soil. So make sure the soil remains slightly damp—not dry or soggy—to provide the best environment for fruits to form. In general, the soil in containers dries out faster than the soil on the ground. Thus, long periods of hot, dry weather might necessitate twice daily watering.
Feed Your Strawberries
Most container plants benefit from some supplemental feeding. Feed your strawberries every three to four weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Make sure to apply a balanced fertilizer in the fall as well, as the plants will begin forming perennating buds within the crown that will become next year's flowers and fruit.
Provide Winter Protection
Strawberries produce best if they are allowed to go dormant in 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.
- Beauty: Some varieties of strawberries produce flowers that look like miniature wild roses, making them both aesthetically pleasing and delicious.
- 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 can 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. If you want to grow June-bearing strawberries, it's best to choose a long planter box rather than a pot.
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. Strawberry plants dislike extremely hot temperatures, so opt for light-colored containers if you live in a hot climate.
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. However, you can snip the runners and space them out in the pot to create new strawberry plants for free.
Iowa State University Extension Office. “What Are the Differences between the Different Types of Strawberries?” Iastate.edu. N.p., n.d. Web.
University of Minnesota Extension Office. "Tips for Growing Strawberries in Containers.” Umn.edu. N.p., n.d. Web.