Will those strawberry hanging baskets at the local nursery really produce sweet, juicy berries? With the right care, they might! Read our tips below on how to grow strawberries in containers and learn the simple steps to enjoying a sweet harvest.
How to Grow Strawberries in Containers
As with any plant, growing strawberries in pots or hanging baskets is a little different from growing them in the ground. But with a few things in mind, you can grow strawberries in containers successfully.
Being compact plants by nature, nearly all strawberry cultivars will grow well in just about any container, though some varieties are hardier, and some containers are better suited for strawberries.
Plant spacing, soil type, watering, and even post-harvest care also contribute to the health and production of container strawberries.
See which plants make great strawberry companions.
Planting strawberries in containers
We’ll start with the basic necessities: plants, containers, and soil.
Choosing the right type of strawberries
The best container strawberry plants will have a mounding habit rather than a prostrate habit. This means that they grow vertically as well as horizontally, giving them a rounded appearance, rather than spreading out and producing lots of runners.
Everbearing varieties produce few runners and fruit in the spring and fall, with a small crop in the summer if the weather isn’t too hot.
Day-neutral types are similar, except they will continue to flower and fruit year-round as long as temperatures remain between 35 and 85 F.
Alpine strawberry plants remain small and bushy with no runners and produce small, delicate, intensely flavorful berries.
- Ozark beauty
- Ruby Ann
- Mara de Bois
- yellow wonder
- white soul
- improved Rugen
Best containers for strawberry plants
Whether you choose a hanging basket, specialized strawberry pot, plastic pot, or clay or ceramic planter, the container must have adequate drainage. It should also be at least eight inches deep and ten inches wide.
Although strawberry plants have compact root balls, they do not like to be crowded. Plan to space plants six to eight inches apart for maximized production; this means that smaller containers may hold only one plant.
High root temperatures may affect fruiting, and since containers lack the insulation in-ground plants benefit from, this is a greater problem for container strawberries. Choose lighter colored containers or provide shade for the pots (but not the plants).
The best soil for strawberries in pots and baskets
Use a loose, loamy, organic potting mix that holds moisture but drains excess water. Equal parts potting soil and coconut coir, with a bit of compost and perlite mixed in for nutrients and moisture retention, should do the trick.
Growing strawberries in pots and hanging baskets
Once you’ve prepared the soil and planted your chosen strawberry plants in the containers you selected, put the potted strawberries in a place where they will receive six to eight hours of sunlight each day. To ensure even growth, rotate the containers every few days so each side of the plants receives sunlight.
Watering strawberries in pots
The trick to watering container strawberries is to water frequently with just enough to moisten the soil but not make it soggy. During the hottest part of the summer, this might need to happen one or more times per day. As soon as the top inch of soil feels dry, give the plants a drink.
Note that watering is especially important during fruiting, as the plants need that moisture to produce plump, juicy berries.
Propagating new strawberry plants
The easiest and quickest way to propagate new strawberry plants is by runners. When the parent plant grows in the ground, these runners will put down roots and create new baby plants genetically identical to the parent. Since container strawberries don’t have as much soil surface to work with, they need a little help.
Fill a few small containers with potting mix (see above for ideal soil), then place the node portion of each runner in a container, holding it in place with a pile of soil, small rocks, or sticks. A node is a growing point and should be easily identifiable on a strawberry runner, as it will likely already have a baby plant on it.
Once the new plant has become established, snip the runner connecting it to the parent plant. If given enough time, the runner will shrivel up on its own, but cutting it before this happens won’t hurt anything.
Feeding the strawberry plants
Because many purchased potting mixes come “precharged,” or mixed with fertilizer, adding fertilizer at the time of planting is often unnecessary. The addition of quality compost to a DIY mix may also provide all the nutrients the strawberries need a the time of planting.
However, they may benefit from side-dressing. Choose a fertilizer with 15 percent nitrogen and use one tablespoon per plant.
Harvesting your container strawberries
Strawberries can be harvested about three times per week once they begin ripening. Pick only fully ripened berries, and do so by pinching them off at the stem. Store in the refrigerator and only wash the berries just before eating them. Washing prior to storage can encourage mold growth.
After the harvest has ended, the strawberry plants will begin preparing to produce berries for the next spring. Adding fertilizer at this point will help maximize bud formation, and thus next year’s crop (see above for fertilizing details).
If you live in an area where temperatures often dip into the 20s or lower during the winter, move the strawberry plants into an unheated garage or another protected area during their dormancy.
Alternatively, you can wrap the containers in an insulating material or pile mulch up around them.
When to replace strawberries in pots
Being short-lived perennials, strawberry plants often need to be replaced about every three years, or when their production slows and they begin to die. Treating them as annuals and replacing the plants every year reduces maintenance, but you will pay for it by purchasing new plants more frequently.
Disadvantages of growing strawberries in containers
Increased exposure to extreme temperatures is perhaps the only disadvantage to growing strawberries in containers. However, as noted above, this can easily be remedied by choosing light-colored containers, shading them, and watering frequently. And the mobility of containers makes the plants easy to move and protect from the winter cold.
Enjoy a sweet, successful harvest
Strawberries are popular container plants for good reason. With the right care, they will produce sweet, juicy berries and even new plants to ensure harvests in years to come.
Want to grow more of your food in containers? Try growing some of these:
Serena Manickam is a freelance editor and writer and sustainable market gardener in rural Virginia. She holds a BA in environmental science and runs Fairydiddle Farm, a small market garden in which she grows no-spray produce and herbs to sell at a local farmer’s market.