As its name suggests, a strawberry pot is often used to grow strawberries, but you can also use them to grow many edibles and ornamental plants—for example, low-growing, trailing annuals such as moss rose and perennials like hens and chicks grow well in strawberry pots. Hens and chicks is a popular choice because they don't require much water and many cultivars can survive the winter in a container. Some gardeners use strawberry pots to grow herbs and leafy salad greens.
Strawberry pots require a planting technique all their own. You don't fill them with soil and insert plants only into the top of the pot; you also have to insert plants into the side planting holes. The planting technique is unique but very simple, and once planted, your strawberry pot will fill out and look great through the growing season.
What Is a Strawberry Pot?
A classic strawberry pot is a tall, upright, urn-shaped terra-cotta planter with a planting area on top and planting hole openings randomly scattered around the sides of the entire pot. These days, many different materials are used to manufacture strawberry pots, but the design remains similar. Strawberry pots are sometimes referred to as strawberry jars.
Working Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Skill Level: Beginner
Material Cost: $30 to $70
When to Plant Strawberry Pots
Strawberry pots are planted at the same time as any outdoor container—typically in the spring once all danger of frost has passed. Because the potting soil in a strawberry pot warms up fairly quickly, you might be able to plant a little earlier than you do for in-ground garden plants. However, be ready to cover your pots or temporarily move them indoors or to a more sheltered location if spring frosts are predicted.
Click Play to Learn How to Plant With Strawberry Pots
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Terra cotta is the classic material for strawberry pots, but plastics have become increasingly popular and some fabric grow bags are being designed with a strawberry pot configuration. Sizes range from short pots that require just four or five plants to tower-type planters that may accept as many as 15 plants. Some terra cotta and plastic pots have a lip under each side planting hole, which helps retain soil as the plants become established. However, the lip also makes planting a bit tricky. It's a nice look, but it's not necessary, and any strawberry pot that strikes your fancy will work just fine.
Gather the following tools and materials before beginning:
- Garden gloves
- Drill with 1/8- or 1/4-inch twist bit
- Strawberry pot
- General-purpose potting mix
- 5 to 15 plants per pot (depending on size of planter)
- Time-released fertilizer
- 11/2- or 2-inch-diameter PVC pipe
Before Getting Started
To minimize the messiness of planting, consider placing the strawberry pot in a wheelbarrow as you work with it. Strawberry pots are messy to fill because soil can very easily tumble out of the side planting holes.. Working in a wheelbarrow prevents you from wasting potting soil and requires less clean-up. The wheelbarrow also makes it easier to rotate the pot, and requires less bending for you.
When purchasing or selecting plants for your strawberry pot, small plants are your best choices. The reason for this is that you must be able to fit the plants into those small side planting holes, and its easier to do when a plant is small or young with a somewhat loose and pliable root system.
As a growing medium, use a well-draining potting mix suited for most plants. A lightweight mix makes the pot easier to lift and move and will evenly distribute water throughout the pot. An exception is if you are filling your pot with hens and chicks or another succulent plant, which are better suited for a coarser growing medium, such as a cactus/succulent mix.
Prepare a Watering Column
Because the planting holes in a strawberry pot are randomly scattered around the pot, it can be tricky to water all plants adequately—sometimes the plants near the top of the pot are the only plants that receive adequate water, while plants at the bottom sit in standing water and the other plants remain somewhat parched. To ensure all plants are watered well, you can insert a porous PVC pipe down the center of the pot.
To create a watering column, measure the height of your strawberry pot and cut a piece of PVC pipe that is 1 to 2 inches shorter than the height of the pot. Drill a series of 1/8- to 1/4-inch holes into the pipe, spaced randomly about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
Prepare the Potting Mix
Blend a timed-release fertilizer with a good quality standard potting mix. Most pots will hold about four quarts of potting mix, but different-sized pots take different amounts. The only way to gauge how much soil you'll need is to fill the pot and then dump it into a wheelbarrow or other container. Then, blend in slow-release fertilizer based on the quantity of soil and the recommended amounts on the fertilizer packaging.
Moisten the Potting Mix
Dampen the potting mix before filling the pot. Doing so makes the potting mix easier to work with because it reduces dust and keeps it from tumbling out of the side planting holes. Thoroughly blend the soil with your hands so that it is uniformly damp and so the fertilizer is evenly distributed.
Begin Filling the Pot with Soil
Begin filling the pot from the bottom up to the level of the first planting holes you encounter. Use your hands to lightly tamp down the soil.
If you created a watering column, insert the PVC pipe into the center of the pot and press it into the soil so that it's anchored in place. Stuff a piece of paper or paper towel into the top of the pipe to prevent potting mix from falling into it.
To place each plant into its planting hole, remove it from its container, and gently compress and stretch the root ball. Be careful not to damage the root system; gently massage the roots into a more tubular shape. It's okay if some soil is dislodged from the root system.
To add plants to the side planting holes, you can work from the exterior or interior of the pot:
- From the exterior of the pot, gently push the root system through the hole into the interior of the pot.
- From the interior of the pot, gently guide the foliage through the planting hole until the foliage is fully exposed on the exterior of the pot with the root system remaining inside the pot.
Continue adding potting mix up to the next level of planting holes. As you reach each new level of planting holes, press gently to firm up the soil and insert additional plants. Straighten the watering column pipe if it has tilted. Continue in this fashion until you reach the top of the pot.
Finally, add the last layer of potting soil and plants to the top of the strawberry pot, around the watering pipe. Plants with an upright growth habit work well for the top of the pot because they camouflage the pipe and won't trail down over the other plants.
Water the Plants
It's time to give your plants their first drink of water. Apply water directly into the PVC pipe. The pipe will fill up and drain quickly, so fill it a couple of times to make sure water is dispersed evenly.
- If you did not construct a watering column, use a watering can or garden hose to gently apply water to the top of the pot as well as to the side planting holes. Apply water until you see it draining from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
Repeat these watering routines whenever the soil is dry to the touch.
A terra-cotta strawberry pot can quickly become dry because terra-cotta clay easily wicks away moisture. During hot, dry weather it might be necessary to water the strawberry pot daily or perhaps even twice a day. On very hot days, it might be helpful to also trickle water down the outside of the pot to make sure water reaches soil in the side planting holes
Maintain Your Pots
You now have a beautifully-planted strawberry pot. Within a few days, your plants will perk up and begin to grow toward the sun. Keep the plants watered and fed, turn the pot every few days so that all plants receive an equal amount of sunlight, and deadhead faded blooms and harvest edibles to keep your plants healthy.
Growing Strawberries in the Home Garden. University of Minnesota Extension