Strawberries are great plants to keep around the home. They’re as beautiful as they are edible, and growing strawberries in containers is easy. This is your foolproof guide to getting started, complete with everything you need to know to harvest delicious fruit next summer.
Strawberries Varieties You Can Grow in Containers
Gardeners often choose strawberry plants based on their fruiting habits. As such, it’s important to know what type of strawberry you plant to know when it’s time to harvest and how much you should expect. There are four major types of strawberries, and all can be grown in containers. Here are a few top strains from each:
- June Bearing – These create one large crop each June. Larger strawberries typically come from June-bearing varieties, and there are early, mid-season, and late varieties as well.
- Mic Mac
- Sweet Charlie
- Ever Bearing – These provide two or three harvests throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This type of strawberry prefers to cluster in tidy clumps.
- Fort Laramie
- Day Neutral – Produces strawberries throughout the entire growing season, yet the harvest is smaller in size and quantity than June-bearing plants. This makes them great space savers, and you can harvest fruits for a longer period of time.
- Alpine – Small harvest of tasty, bright red strawberries that last all season. These plants are bushy and flavorful, but they don’t ship well. As such, they aren’t commonly found in grocery stores.
- Improved Ruegen
- White Soul
- Yellow Wonder
Plant a few different varieties so you can harvest your own strawberries throughout the year. Many people also preserve fruit, in which case, a single batch that ripens all at once is a bonus. If it’s aesthetic appeal or taste you’re after, alpines and day-neutral plants are gorgeous.
I suggest trying out a few different types and selecting the ones you enjoy eating the most. If you plan to preserve your fruit for a rainy day, go for the June-bearing variety. Or, try out the ever-bearing ones if you want to grow strawberries as a treat for your family all year around.
Growing Strawberries in Containers
To plant your strawberries, you’ll need to consider the type of container, and where you’ll put it. Individual plants will do fine with a 6- to 8-inch pot. You can also use a larger planter like a wooden barrel or plastic planter to hold more than one plant.
Strawberry jars are also sold in stores. They’re perfect for growing this fruit because they’re upright planters with multiple pockets to hold plants on the sides. Just take note that they can be difficult to water.
Once you have all the materials ready, you can plant strawberries using the following steps:
- Place the soil in your container and add organic matter or compost to an inch or two below the surface
- Dig a small mound in the soil, placing the plant into the hole
- Spread the roots
- Cover with soil from root to crown
- Place each plant at least 10-12 inches apart to allow room to grow
- Water thoroughly
- Set the plant in full sun for at least 6 hours
When they’re planted, make sure the crowns are barely above the soil’s surface. You can always add more potting mix if you need it later. Allow the soil to settle first to be sure.
Select a Place to Plant
Where will you plant your strawberries? Grow them in a container on the kitchen counter, find a ceramic garden pot you have free, or use a hanging basket to save precious horizontal space. No matter what type of pot you choose, consider the space you have available in your home, and the variety you plan to plant.
Placement is key, so consider the following requirements for happy strawberries:
- 6-8 hours of full sun daily
- Sandy loam soil with an ideal pH balance of 5.8-6.2
- Soil needs to be well drained, so consider this when selecting a pot
- Smaller containers mean more frequent watering
- Strawberries grow easily in containers as small as 10-12 inches in diameter
- Begin with seeds, or certified disease-free plants
- Leave enough room for the roots to spread throughout the soil
- Clay and metal pots will conduct more heat whereas synthetic and light-colored pots keep roots nice and cool in temperature
When to Plant
Full-grown strawberry plants will spread out two feet in either direction if you allow them to. If you use a small container, only one or two plants will fit, max. A strawberry jar or larger container will allow you to grow more plants in a single container.
How Close to Place Plants Together
Avoid overcrowding strawberries. This fruit enjoys its space, and you should never put more than three plants in a container, or 10-12 inches between seeds. My first time attempting to grow strawberries indoors, I made the rookie mistake of placing as many plants as I could fit into a large container. I realized my mistake when I wound up only receiving two strawberries from my six plants.
Essential Information to Care for Strawberries in Containers
Strawberries are versatile. You can grow them indoors or out, in containers, raised beds, or greenhouses, around the home, wherever you want. What’s essential is the amount of care given to the plants. Here’s how to care for them:
Try a loose, well-draining soil. Loamy potting soil mixes are ideal, as long as it drains away excess water easily.
If the soil an inch under the surface feels dry, give your strawberries a drink. Too much water will leave your plants soaking in soggy soil for too long, which can lead to rot issues. Of course, you don’t want your plants to become too dry either. The soil in containers will dry out faster, and hot weather may increase the frequency you need to water your strawberries.
Strawberries require 6-8 hours of full sunlight each day. If sunlight only enters through one window, it’s important to rotate the container every 3-4 days for even results.
These plants are temperate and enjoy 70-85 F temperatures, meaning they don’t well under hot or tropical conditions. Too much shade will result in sour fruit.
Too much heat or humidity will kill off your plants as well. Containers provider warmer temperatures than growing outdoors, so plants in containers will often contain root temperatures similar to the pot and surrounding soil. If you need to keep your plants cooler to avoid overheating, there are some tips you can try.
Mulching in the Winter
As is typical for outdoor plants, container strawberries can go dormant in the winter months, depending on the variety. That said, you don’t want to roots to freeze or your container to crack from ice and cold pressure if you live in a snowy area. Move your containers into an unheated garage, or under a deck, move them inside, or cover the plants in mulch to protect them from the cold.
Container plants benefit from supplemental feedings once in a while. Find a liquid fertilizer that’s high in phosphorous, or a slow-release fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Feed your strawberries every two or three weeks, and again after your first harvest.
Make sure you also prune and get rid of any weeds when necessary. This will keep your plants from becoming overrun or unruly. For healthy plants, you’ll also need to rotate the crops between harvests so they receive a healthy amount of nutrients from the soil. Never plant strawberries on top of a place you’ve previously planted tomatoes or other nightshades.
You’ll also need to pinch off flower buds. Fflowers and leaves will pop up shortly after planting. June-bearing varieties require you to pinch off the flowers during the first year, while ever-bearing and day-neutral crops will form around the beginning of July. Pinching off the flowers will lead to little or no crop the first year, but a much better yield and healthy plant life later.
Avoid common problems like overfertilizing your plants, or selecting the wrong type of soil. Too much fertilizer will lead to excessive leaves and poor flowers, for example. There are also some pests and common diseases particular to strawberries to look out for.
Look out for insects or climbing creatures, as they’re most often attracted to these plants. Greenhouses or netting is helpful, along with fences for outdoor gardens. The most common strawberry-loving insect is the tarnished plant bug, which results in disfigured, nub-like strawberries.
To avoid disease while growing strawberries in containers, rotate the plant’s location even few years and select a variety that’s disease resistant. Make sure you also avoid overwatering, which leads to two of the most common diseases. Common diseases in strawberries include:
- Botrytis (fruit rot)
- Verticillium Wilt
- Red Stele (root rot)
Steps to Harvest and Store Strawberries Grown in Containers
Once you have the fruit, harvest it to feed your family or preserve what you can’t eat for use later on.
How to Harvest Strawberries
You’ll know it’s time to harvest the fruit when you notice them turning red. Taste a ripe one to know for sure. To harvest strawberries, which are sweetest when they’re fully ripe, follow these steps:
- When you see a strawberry nearly ripe, allow it to sit for another day or two
- Gently pull the fruit from the stem, or cut the stem above the strawberry instead of pulling the fruit off
- Store berries in a shady, cool location
- Leave the fruit unwashed until you plan to eat it to keep it fresh longer
How to Preserve Strawberries
Preserving strawberries is easy and there are many different methods and recipes you can use. No matter which method you try, fresh strawberries will taste the best. You’ll know they’re at their peak, and when they’re in season, you can use them to create jams or preserves.
Another alternative is to freeze them, which makes a perfect addition to smoothies. Frozen strawberries keep for up to 3 months, and you can always use them to make jam later as well.
Keep in Mind
Even under the best care, container strawberries will need to be replaced every three years or so. For easy growing, you can skip pinching the flowers and other maintenance tasks if you intend to allow your June-bearing berries to fruit as much as possible one time only. Replace the plant each year to collect a new harvest, or move them outdoors to allow the plants to expand.