Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow in the home garden, and you can also grow strawberries in pots, containers, or even window boxes. Growing strawberries in containers is relatively simple and offers a solution for people who long for fresh, homegrown berries but don't have the garden space to plant them.
Growing Strawberries in Containers
Strawberries don't mind cramped spaces and will happily grow in many different types of pots or containers. The important thing to keep in mind is strawberries grown in containers are treated as annual plants rather than perennials.
In a typical home garden, strawberries planted in beds in the ground remain productive for approximately three to four years, depending on their care, maintenance, and the variety chosen. Pots and containers lack the insulating qualities of the ground, and roots may freeze during the winter months. You can take steps to winterize strawberries, but you may need to plant them each year. Thankfully, strawberry plants are inexpensive and a small pot or two will only set you back a few dollars.
Selecting Strawberry Varieties for Pots
There are many different strawberries to choose among at the garden center. The best types of strawberries for pots are those marked "Alpine" and "Ever-Bearing."
- Alpine strawberries have smaller fruits than other types but are tough, hardy plants. Alpine strawberries are prized for their intensely sweet flavor.
- Ever-bearing strawberries produce smaller crops of fruit throughout the summer months. This works perfectly for strawberries growing in containers. More traditional strawberries are labelled "June bearing." These get a large crop in early summer, and then they're done. These aren't ideal for growing in pots.
Both alpine and ever-bearing strawberry varieties are available nationwide at nurseries, garden centers, large home and garden chains, and online from nursery catalogs. Check with your local County Cooperative Extension Office to choose the best ones for your gardening zone and region.
Choosing Pots for Growing Strawberries
Many people have successfully grown strawberries in a wide range of containers. This is a fun way to get creative in your garden and enjoy a steady supply of strawberries. Whether you use a traditional garden pot or something a bit more unexpected is up to you.
Window boxes may be used to grow strawberries as long as they are deep enough to hold rich soil. Be sure your window box has drainage holes and receives bright, full sunlight.
Large Planters or Tubs
Another option is a large planter or tub. Plastic ones are inexpensive, and as long as it has drainage holes punched or drilled into the bottom, it should work find for strawberries. Adding a caster or dolly with wheels underneath enables you to move it around easily when it is filled and is heavy.
Strawberry jars and pots are unique-looking planter containers ideally suited for strawberries. Sometimes they are also used as decorative containers to grow succulents and sedums. A strawberry jar looks like a large terra cotta urn with multiple pouches off of the sides. Place soil into the center of the pot and into each pouch. The pouches increase the surface area and enable you to plant more strawberries than a simple pot. You can also make them out of wood, creating tiers in which more plants are added.
If you have a front porch or an overhang that faces south or receives full, bright sunlight, you can easily add a few hooks and hang many baskets of strawberries. This saves valuable ground space for other vegetables and fruits that cannot be grown in containers.
One or two ever-bearing strawberries, or a few alpine strawberries will grow wonderfully in a hanging basket, and this keeps the fruit away from slugs and bunnies, both of which enjoy strawberries just as much as you do.
It really doesn't matter what material your hanging basket is made of; both plastic and coconut coir work well. Just keep in mind that hanging baskets can dry out fairly quickly and monitor the moisture levels in your pots.
You can get creative when growing strawberries in containers. Coffee cans, old watering cans, feeding troughs, old pots and pans... you can upcycle any of them (and many more ideas) into planters for your strawberries. Whatever you plant in, make sure it has drainage holes. This may mean drilling or using a nail to make holes in the bottom of the container so excess water can drain away.
How Many Strawberry Plants Per Pot?
The number of strawberry plants you can fit into a container will vary by the size of the container and what type of strawberry you're growing.
- Alpine strawberries have a more compact, upright growth habit and should be spaced about four inches apart.
- Ever-bearing strawberries should be spaced ten inches apart. So if you're growing in a small container, you'll only be able to grow one plant per container, but that one plant will provide strawberries all season long.
Best Strawberry Varieties for Containers
While any alpine or ever-bearing strawberry will work well in containers, some varieties offer better taste or more production.
- 'Alexandria' is a red alpine strawberry that produces prolifically and has very sweet berries.
- 'Tri-Star' is an ever-bearing strawberry that produces well in its first year (important since container-grown strawberries are treated as annuals).
- 'White Soul' is a creamy white, fragrant alpine strawberry variety.
- 'Yellow Wonder' produces light yellow alpine strawberries.
- 'Temptation' is another ever-bearing strawberry that fruits well in its first year.
10 Tips for Success With Container-Grown Strawberries
No matter which type of container you choose, here are 10 tips for successfully growing strawberries in containers.
- Pinch back runners that may form on ever-bearing strawberries. In a garden bed, these can become new plants, but in a pot, they just take vital energy away from fruit production.
- Verify your plants receive full sunlight, defined as six or more hours of direct sunshine per day. Strawberries need full sunlight in order to flower and produce fruit.
- Use only good quality, bagged potting soil in containers.
- Add composted manure or garden compost to the container.
- Fertilize strawberry plants once per month with 10-10-10 fertilizer after planting.
- Keep strawberries away from pepper and tomato plants, since many diseases that strike these vegetables also strike strawberries.
- Pick off the first group of flowers on the plants to encourage more flowers, strong root growth, and bigger berries.
- Pick berries as soon as they are ripe. The more berries you pick, the more the plant produces!
- Use a bird net placed over the pot if birds begin eating the strawberries.
- If slugs are a problem, use an organic treatment such as diatomaceous earth or a small saucer of beer placed near strawberries, which attracts and drowns slugs.
Homegrown Strawberries, No Garden Required
Don't let a lack of good gardening space stop you from growing your own tasty, juicy crop of summer strawberries. Get creative with container choices, buy the right strawberries for container growing, and you'll be well on your way to baskets of your very own homegrown berries.