How to Plant and Grow Strawberries in Containers

Strawberries are one of the best plants to grow in containers and even do well indoors. All they need is a sunny spot where they can get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. If you don't have a sunny enough window for them, they can be supplemented with artificial sunlight. To get the best results, you will need to choose the right type of strawberry and plant it correctly.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "Purchasing and planting certified transplants is your first step in creating a healthy strawberry bed.
Certified plants are virus free and help reduce the spread of other strawberry pathogens."

Types of Strawberries

There are many different varieties of strawberries; however, all fall into one of three categories: June-bearing, everbearing or day neutral. June-bearing strawberries produce a large, concentrated crop once a year during a three-week period, usually in June as their name suggests. Everbearing, also called ever bearing, produce two crops of strawberries, one in the spring and another in the late summer or fall. Day neutral are often considered new improved everbearers. They are capable of bearing fruit continuously from June through September. Day neutral strawberries prefer cooler temperatures, however, and will not flower or bear fruit during hot weather.

Within each of the categories are a number of different varieties. Which one you choose depends upon your climate, growing conditions, and when you want the fruit to ripen. For example, red alpine strawberries (an everbearer) are usually the best choice if you intend to grow your strawberries indoors, because they are more tolerant to shady conditions. The Brighton variety, another everbearer, is known for doing well in hanging baskets. If you plan to keep your plants outdoors, check with your local greenhouse to see what varieties will grow best in your area.

 

How to Plant and Grow Strawberries

Strawberries should be planted in the early spring in areas with a cold winter (zones 1 through 5), as soon as the soil can be worked. In warmer areas, strawberries can be planted in the fall. Of course, if you plan to keep them inside, strawberries can be planted at any time of year.

Strawberries prefer a soil with a pH between 5.3 and 6.5, but will grow in soils that have a slightly higher or lower pH level. It is a good idea to add a controlled-release fertilizer to the soil before planting. You should also trim off any older leaves from the plant and remove all flowers and runners. Roots should be trimmed so they are about 4 to 5 inches in length, and remove any damaged areas. The plant should be placed in the soil so the midpoint of the crown is even with the soil's surface and the roots fan out.
 
Water your strawberries well after planting and check daily. Water frequently until the plants take root. Then reduce watering to when the top inch is dry. Water is crucial for good fruit development.
 
TIP: Karen suggests, "To keep your plants as healthy as possible and limit pest and disease problems, good cultural practices should be used; Water in the morning, so leaves are able to quickly dry. Using drip irrigation is also helpful to keep the leaves dry and diseases at bay. Plant strawberries in well drained areas with good air circulation. Avoid planting strawberries where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers wer previously grown, as they are all host to vertericilium wilt."

For the first 6 weeks after planting, remove all blossoms on everbearing and day-neutral plants, by either pinching or cutting them. This will give them time to become established before expending energy towards growing fruit.
 
TIP: Karen advises, "Strawberries should be fertilized once a month, using a well balanced fertilizer. They can be sensitive to over feeding, if you find you are experiencing excessive leaf growth and not much fruit, try fertilizing less often."
 
Strawberries are prone to both aphids and spider mites. For either case, an appropriate insecticide needs to be used. Strawberries are also susceptible to developing powdery mildew and verticillium wilt. If your strawberry plant has purple spots on the top surface of its leaves and white fungus on the bottom, it has developed powdery mildew and needs to be treated with a fungicide. Be sure to read the label carefully and follow all recommendations.

Hanging Strawberry Baskets

Suspending strawberries off the ground is a great way to keep slugs, snails, and sow bugs off them. Five to six strawberry plants can grow in the top of a hanging basket in the spring. But if you want to make the ultimate hanging strawberry basket, gather 24 strawberry plants, a 16 inch wire basket, potting soil, and some sphagnum moss, coconut fiber or a specially designed basket liner. Line the wire basket with the damp sphagnum moss, coconut fiber or basket liner. Insert 18 of the plants into the basket sides through the sphagnum moss. After you have finished, fill the basket with potting soil and plant the remaining plants in the top of the basket. The basket will continue to produce fruit for about 3 years. Make sure hanging baskets are rotated to ensure that all plants get adequate light, 6 to 8 hours of sun is required for fruit production.

Strawberry Pots

Strawberry pots are designed to hold 1 to 3 plants at the top. The pockets in the sides hold any runners that developed as the plant matures. However, many gardeners fill all the openings with strawberry right from the start. To plant your own strawberry pot, you will need a piece of PVC pipe that is capped at one end, a drill, potting soil, and a strawberry pot. Cut the pipe so that it fits inside the strawberry pot with the uncapped end even with the pot's rim. Drill 1/8-inch diameter holes 1 inch apart down alternating sides of the pipe. In other words, on one side your first hole might be 1/2-inch inch from the top, but on the other side your first hole would be 1 inch from the top.

Partially fill the pot with soil and insert the tube, capped end down, into the center of the pot. Loosely add the rest of the potting mix. Plant each pocket. Add more soil around the roots if needed. Finish by planting 2 to 3 plants at the top and soaking the soil well. Water the pot by inserting a funnel into the pipe and pouring water into it, ensuring that the water is distributed evenly through the pot.

TIP: Karen says, "When planting strawberries in a container, choose a light colored container to avoid over heating the soil the summer sun."

Harvesting

Strawberries are ready to be picked as soon as the fruit has turned red. Of course, the exact shade of red that indicates ripeness depends on the variety of the strawberry. It is best to pick the fruit gently during dry weather, making sure that the green calyx (stalk) of the plant remains with the fruit. Strawberries can be stored for about 2 days in shallow trays in the refrigerator. For longer periods, it is best to freeze them.

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