Strawberries are a favorite plant to grow for many gardeners. Their delicious fruit can be used in so many ways, and they can be grown in the ground or in containers.
Strawberries are short-term perennials. Each plant will continue its growth for a number of years. Their growth slows down in the cooler months, but once spring comes around, they’ll spring back into full growth and start producing flowers and lovely, sweet fruit.
Learn everything you need to know about the growth habit of this delectable fruit.
Are Strawberries Perennials?
Strawberries are perennials and can be left to grow in the same spot for a number of years. Generally, their growth will slow down over winter and resume again once the weather warms up in spring. In cool to warm areas, the plants don’t actually die down. They just stop growing. However, in areas with cold winters, you might find that your strawberry plants do die down to the crown.
In fact, strawberries are very good at reproduction. Once the plant has gone a full season and produced some lovely fruit, it will send out runners, usually in summer. These runners then take root, and a new strawberry plant is born.
This means that if you plant a handful of bare-rooted strawberries in a garden bed and just let them grow, the entire bed will be full of strawberry plants after a couple of years. The new plants will replace the original ones as these come to the end of their productive years.
However, this could mean that soon your strawberry bed will become overcrowded, and the individual plants may not get enough water and nutrients to produce their delicious fruit.
Therefore, growing strawberries as a perennial is a balancing act between encouraging the runners to grow and making sure that the bed is not too overcrowded.
To keep your strawberry plants growing as perennials and to ensure that they produce fruit, you have to thin out your beds on an annual basis. Do this task in the fall, once the plants have started to slow their growth. You should aim for spacing of around 12 inches for each plant. It’s best to remove the weakest or smallest runners first and then any plants that have lost their vigor.
Alternatively, you can cut off the runners from existing plants as they start to grow. Wait until you see some roots forming and then sever these runners from the main plants. You can then take the runners and plant them in another garden bed or even in a pot or grow bag.
How Long Will Each Strawberry Plant Produce Fruit?
Most strawberry plants will continue to produce fruit for around four to five years if they’re given the right growing conditions. However, after 2 or 3 years, the quality of fruit may start to diminish, and production will be reduced.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you let your strawberries grow and produce for around two years and cut off any runners to plant in successive beds for future cropping. If you do this, then you’ll always have a consistent supply of strawberries from your garden.
Planting the strawberry runners in new beds also reduces the risk of diseases and stops these from spreading from plant to plant. In fact, once you’ve removed all the strawberries from one bed, you should not plant strawberries in that same bed again for around three years.
Growing Strawberries As Annuals: Benefits and Drawback
Many commercial growers will grow strawberries as annuals to get the most fruit from the plants that they grow. As a home gardener, this is not necessary, but there are some advantages.
Benefits of growing strawberries as annuals
- There’s no need to thin out the existing crop of strawberries before winter.
- You can plant a new season of strawberries in a different spot.
- The fruit will always be abundant, sweet, and juicy.
- If your winters are mild, you can use the space to grow a winter crop.
Drawbacks of growing strawberries as annuals
- You have to purchase new plants and replant them every year from late winter to spring.
- You also have to remove the old plants after the fruiting season is over.
- To keep your plants producing to capacity, you must remove any runners as soon as they appear.
How To Prepare Strawberries For Winter
Preparing your strawberries for winter need not be a difficult task if you follow these steps.
- In the fall, remove any dead leaves and old fruiting stems from the plants.
- You can even mow the foliage down to near the ground level but be sure not to damage the crowns as these will produce the new season’s growth.
- Thin out the plants to allow plenty of space and airflow between each plant. You should give each plant around 12 inches of growth area between other plants.
- Add some organic fertilizer to allow the plants to store some nutrients for next season’s growth.
How To Take Care Of Strawberries During Winter
In most areas, you don’t need to do anything special for your strawberry plants over winter. However, if your winters are extremely cold and your area is frost-prone, it’s a good idea to cover your plants with a thick layer of mulch before the first frost is due.
You can use straw, hay, or composted wood chips to cover your strawberry plants. Some people even use a cover of blankets or fleece. Or, you could create a cold frame with a plastic covering to place over your plants.
Just remember to remove any cover that you use before the warm weather arrives so that your plants can grow happily.
Growing Strawberries In Hanging Baskets
Another great way to grow strawberries is in hanging baskets. This keeps them off the ground and away from pests such as slugs and snails. It also means that runners are easy to spot when they appear and can be removed to plant into another basket.
If you do this, then you can have a succession of baskets that have strawberries at different stages of their life cycle. Your first set of strawberries will produce well for around two years. During this time, you want to remove all the runners and plant these into a new basket.
Then after two years, discard the first lot of plants and keep tending the successive ones. This also gives you the chance to refresh the potting mix in the original planters. You can then plant these up with runners from the other pots.
Depending on the size of your hanging basket, you should be able to accommodate 2 to 5 plants in the same pot. Make sure that you don’t overcrowd them, though, as they do need some space to grow.
Also, be aware that strawberries grown in pots will require more regular watering as these tend to dry out much faster than those grown in the ground.
There are plenty of other ways that you can grow strawberries, too, such as special grow bags that have multiple planting holes.