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Strawberries (How to Plant, Grow & Care for) – GIY Plants

Fresh grown strawberries sitting on counter

The strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)  is the tomato of the berry world, with vast differences in flavor between the common supermarket varieties and superior home-grown ones.

Many of us have fond memories of strawberry picking on strawberry farms and taking the first bite out of a juicy, sweet, and tarty strawberry in early summer.

That same memory can be recreated by growing strawberries in the home garden. There are hundreds of home-grown strawberry cultivars to choose from, and they often taste better than supermarket varieties, which are often selected for size and shelf life.

Strawberries belong to the rose family (Rosaceae) family of plants, which includes common relatives such as apples, pears, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, and even roses.

Strawberry Plant Care

Strawberries are a popular fruit because they are quick (55-80 days) to bear fruit, are relatively easy to grow for beginners, expensive in stores, and are typically better quality when home-grown.

All Strawberries do best in cooler, moist climates, though they can also be grown in hot, dry climates if adequate water is available.

Strawberries are perennials, meaning they will come back year after year. Strawberries can be grown from seeds, bare roots, or runner plants.

Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about growing your own home-grown strawberries.


Strawberries are not fussy and will grow in any type of soil rich in organic matter.

However, they grow best in well-drained, slightly acidic (pH 5.0-6.5), organic matter-rich soils that are moist but not wet.

A gentle slope (less than 12%) will improve airflow and lessen the danger of spring frost without too much erosion.


Strawberries should be watered immediately after planting, and then at least an inch (2.5 cm) of water every week thereafter, from rain or supplemental watering.

Strawberries are shallow-rooted and are particularly prone to droughts. Pay special attention to water needs during the summer and when fruits start to bear.

Too much water during the fruiting stage will dilute the flavor, and too little will result in smaller but more intense-tasting strawberries. Try to strike a balance.

Prevent leaf diseases by watering in the morning, which allows the foliage to dry by nightfall. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation is recommended.


Strawberries require a lot of sunshine, at least 8-10 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Plant in a south-facing or east-facing location where they will get lots of morning sun, which dries out the morning dew and prevents fruit rot.

Humidity & Temperature

For optimum strawberry growth, development, and yields, aim for temperatures of 64-75°F

(18-24°C) during the day, and 50-55°F (10-13°C) at night.

Ideal relative humidities are between 65-75%.

Higher humidities may reduce shelf life, reduce calcium uptake (causing tip burn), and create less firm fruit.

Lower humidities will reduce fruit weight and yields but may improve keep. [1]

Fertilizing (NPK)

Fertilize once after planting, and then again in late summer during fruiting.

Apply (side-dressing) 1 pound of 10-5-5 or 8-8-8 NPK fertilizer for every 80 sq. feet of garden beds.

If growing organically, use water-soluble plant food such as seaweed, fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, or a blend.

Diseases & Pests

Strawberries are susceptible to a broad range of insects, fungal, viral, and nematode pests.

  • Fungal diseases include leaf spots, leaf scorch, leaf blight, powdery mildew, gray mold (fruit rot), leather rot, red stele, anthracnose, crown rot, verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt, and black root rot.

Leaf spots are probably the most widespread strawberry disease. They cause dark purple to reddish-purple spots to develop on upper leaves before turning tan, gray, or white.

Fungicides can be used to control most of the common leaf diseases, but good sanitation goes a long way in prevention.

Good airflow, removal of old leaves after harvest, selection of disease-resistant breeds, and careful moisture control help avoid many fungal diseases.

  • Pests include bud weevils, flower thrips, tarnished plant bugs, sap beetles, spotted wing drosophila, leaf tier, spider mites, aphids, leaf rollers, mealybugs, potato leafhoppers, white flies, rootworms, centipedes, slugs, nematodes, and crown borers.

Good sanitation and isolation will help avoid most insects. Fruit-sucking and boring insects can be controlled by quickly removing damaged and overripe fruit. Leaf feeders are avoided by renovating garden beds every year.

Insecticides, careful weed management, and the introduction of natural predators will also help control pests.

  • Viruses are commonly spread by strawberry aphids and other pests. Examples include the strawberry mild yellow-edge virus, strawberry mottle virus, strawberry chlorotic fleck virus, strawberry pseudo-mild yellow-edge virus, and strawberry latent C virus.

There is no effective way to control viruses, so it’s best to plant virus-free cultivars and eliminate insects and nematodes, the common vectors of transmission.

Annual replanting of plants may also help prevent the spread of viruses. [2]

Strawberry Days to Maturity

It takes about 55-80 days for strawberries to bear mature fruit. Strawberries typically blossom 35-40 days after planting and will bear mature fruit 20-40 days after fertilization.

Types of Strawberries

There are many types of strawberries, including summer-bearing, everbearing, and alpine (or some combination of these three).

  • Summer-bearers produce one large crop of fruit once during the growing season, usually for about two weeks. Depending on the growing season of your region, fruits can develop early, mid-, or late in the season.

Popular early-season summer-bearing strawberries include Dunlap, Chandler, Earliglow, and Surecrop.

Mid-season types include Catskill, Midway, Cavendish, Honeoye, Pocahontas, and Robinson.

Popular late-season cultivars include Sparkle and Tennessee Beauty.

  • Everbearers produce fruit in the spring, and then either smaller crops every six weeks or so or once more in the fall. These provide strawberries throughout the growing season.

Most popular cultivars include Ozark Beauty, Seascape, Tribute, and Tristar.

  • Alpines are the most related to wild strawberries and bear small, often intensely flavored fruit throughout the growing season.

Popular varieties include Red Alpine and Mignonette.

How to Plant Strawberries

How to plant strawberries in a garden bed

Most strawberries are grown from nursery-bought seedlings or dormant bare roots which sprout quickly when planted.

To plant strawberries from seedlings or bare roots, wait until a week after the last frost, and follow the steps below:

  • Step 1 – In the weeks before, make sure to rake the soil to eliminate weeds. Amend the soil with organic matter or fertilizer as needed.
  • Step 2 – Old leaves from seedlings should be trimmed, leaving 1-2 healthy leaves for easy handling. Roots of transplants should be kept under 8 inches when setting plants. Trim if necessary.
  • Step 3 – Thoroughly soak the roots and lay them in a basket, bucket, or sack so they will not dry out. Plant immediately after removing from the container.
  • Step 4 – Dig a hole large enough for roots to spread. Space plants 20 inches apart to ensure enough room to sprawl. Leave 4 feet (1.2 m) between rows if planting many plants. For home gardeners, a 1×1 foot (0.3 m) or larger grid space per plant is sufficient for strawberries to grow as ground covers.
  • Step 5 – Set plants at the correct depth in the soil: make sure the base of the crown is set exactly at the soil surface level. Plants set too deep will smother and die, and plants set too high will dry out.
  • Step 6 – After setting, spread out the roots, firm the soil around the roots, and fill in any air pockets. If the soil is dry, water around each plant, preferably in the mornings.

A few additional tips on planting:

  • Growing in a raised garden bed helps improve drainage and prevents too much spread.
  • Mulching with black plastic, small-grain straws, pine needles, ferns, sorghum fodders, etc. will keep soils moist and drown out weeds.
  • If growing strawberries in containers, pick an appropriate size – about 1 plant per 8-inch (20 cm) diameter container or 2-3 plants per 18-inch (45 cm) diameter container.
  • Terracotta pots are solid, light in color (keeping roots cool and moist), and have great built-in drainage.
  • Ensure maximum light, and rotate containers every week to evenly expose plants to sunlight.
  • Trim runners in containers that are over 4 inches, as they will steal nutrients from nearby friends.

Propagating Strawberries from Runners

How to propagate strawberries from runners for new plants

Strawberries can also be propagated from runners.

To propagate, find a runner which has produced 1-2 healthy leaves. Secure the runner plant to potting soil with a U-shaped fastener with the parent plant still attached.

Trim any excess vines that may have grown from the runner plant. Keep soils moist. Runners will take root in a few weeks.

Once rooted, runner plants can be snipped from parent plants and then transplanted like seedlings or bare roots.

How to Grow Strawberries from Seed

When growing strawberries from seed, select heirloom, open-pollinated, wild alpine varieties, which tend to grow true to seed vs. hybrids. Find seeds from friends, online, nurseries, or seed exchanges.

It’s better to grow seeds indoors before transplanting to get a head start on healthy transplants.

Start seed preparation in December, as the entire process can take months.

Seeds need to be stratified (winter chilled) by placing them in a moistened sowing medium in a Ziploc bag and then placed in the freezer (34-47°F or 1-3°C) for 6 weeks to 3 months.

Take them out when ready to plant, and allow the seeds to come to room temperature.

Sow the seeds by tapping them gently into the soil (without burying them) with a pencil or finger. Place seed trays under a grow light.

Mist the top of the soil with water and keep the potting medium moist and warm until the seeds germinate (this can take as little as one week or up to several weeks). Ensure good airflow and moisture.

When seedlings develop 2-3 true leaves, they can be transplanted into a larger container (if growing from trays) and then hardened off slowly to the outdoor garden.

Plant seedlings one week after the last spring frost.

Strawberry Benefits

Strawberry benefits in a smoothie

Strawberries are packed with many beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, polyphenols, and organic acids.

100 g of strawberries contains the following:

  • 91 g of water
  • 32 calories
  • 0.67 g of protein
  • 0.3 g of fat
  • 7.68 g of carbs
  • 2 g of fiber
  • 4.89 g of sugar
  • Varying amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and vitamins A-C.
  • Varying amounts of polyphenols, antioxidants, and organic acids.

Below, we summarize some key strawberry nutrients and their purported benefits:

Key Nutrients Purported Benefits
water Hydration and body temperature regulation
fiber Aids in digestion, good for gut health, and beneficial for teeth and gums
calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium Helpful for regulating blood pressure and hydration levels; promotes heart health, among other mineral benefits
Vitamin A Benefits vision and immune systems
Vitamin B Helps Improve metabolism, creates new blood cells, and maintains healthy skin, brain, and body cells
vitamin C Protects the body from cellular damage; strengthens the immune system and may help lower blood pressure; involved in collagen production and iron absorption
anthocyanins A phenol and antioxidant which gives strawberries their red coloring; may protect the lining of the circulatory system, helping prevent plaque build-up and regulating blood pressure
quercetin A flavonoid (plant pigment) and antioxidant that’s believed to help reduce inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar
ellagic acid A phenol and antioxidant that helps slow down the digestion of starchy foods, helping to regulate blood sugar levels
malic acid Acts as an astringent and may remove teeth discoloration
alpha-hydroxy acid Helps eliminate dead skin cells and cleanses the skin; may help with signs of aging
salicylic acid May help reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots on the skin; tightens skin pores and removes dead skin cells, helping with acne
lycopene Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that may help prevent prostate, breast, and lung cancer

For full amounts of nutrients, see the full USDA nutritional chart.

Strawberries have many uses, and they can be consumed in many different ways:

  • eaten raw, frozen, or immersed in water
  • made into salad dressing
  • blended into a smoothie
  • baked into muffins and other baked goods
  • used in jams, jellies, or pies
  • dehydrated into fruit leather
  • used as a face mask, or
  • made into ice cream.

Strawberry Companion Plants

The following plants make great companions for strawberries:

  • Legumes (e.g. peas, beans, peanuts, clovers, and lentils) are nitrogen-fixing and increase soil organic matter, and are great companion plants for nitrogen-demanding strawberries.
  • Flowering plants such as marigolds, geraniums, chrysanthemums, and lavenders attract bees, which help pollinate strawberries. They also have chemicals that repel pests.
  • Alliums and root vegetables such as garlic, leeks, chives, onions, radishes, shallot, and beets have strong smells which repel insects. They also loosen the soil.
  • Herbs such as cilantro, basil, sage, dill, thyme, horseradish, nasturtiums, and oregano also help repel pests.
  • Borage is a particularly good herb as the flowers attract pollinators and beneficial predatory pests. Borage also adds trace minerals to the soil, which help strawberry growth.
  • Spinach produces saponins in the roots, which have antifungal and antibacterial properties, adding an extra level of protection for highly susceptible strawberry plants.
  • Asparagus spread roots on different planes than strawberries, and do not compete directly with strawberries for nutrients, making them great companions.
  • Rhubarbs and lettuces make great strawberry culinary companions, but also have large leaves which shield strawberry fruits from birds and insects. They also benefit from the protective weed-suppressing and moisture-retaining mulch provided by strawberry vines.

Avoid plants such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, melons, pumpkins, sunflowers, mint, peppers, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, roses, and okra. They attract verticillium fungi diseases that also affect strawberries.

Avoid brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cauliflower, etc.) as they compete with strawberries for nutrients, causing stunted growth.

Strawberry vs Wild Strawberry

The modern strawberry or garden strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) was first identified and bred in France in the 1750s from two wild species: Fragaria virginiana, a wild North American strawberry, and Fragaria chiloensis, a wild variety from Chile.

The hybrid became the dominant species of commercial strawberries because of its large size and notable flavor.

Before hybridization, wild strawberries were the dominant strawberry crop, deriving from non-crossbred species such as Fragaria vesca (aka European strawberry, common wild woodland, or alpine strawberry).

Wild strawberries are known for their small size, but aromatic and delicious taste. They don’t produce as many vines or runners as garden strawberries. Unlike garden strawberries, wild strawberries also tend to grow true to seed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years does it take for strawberries to produce fruit?

Strawberry plants can produce blossoms and develop fruit in the first year after planting. However, it is recommended that you wait until the second year for the best-tasting berries. Pinch off the first-year blossoms to allow the plants to channel their early energy into developing strong root systems. This will result in larger, healthier, and tastier berries in year two (the next season).  

Do strawberries come back every year?

Yes, strawberries are perennials so they will come back every year. Leaves and vines die off during winter, but the root and crowns will survive in a dormant state before producing new leaves and vines next spring. Although strawberries come back, it is recommended that you propagate new plants every 4-5 years to avoid diseases and ensure the most robust plants.

How many strawberries do you get from one plant?

Strawberry yields depend on the cultivars, climatic conditions, and type of strawberries grown. An average plant can produce up to 30-50 strawberries per plant, with the average yield per plant weighing between 0.5-1.5 lbs (or 300-680 g). Commercial planters typically aim for marketable yields above 1 lb. (or 450 g) per plant.

Why is strawberry not a fruit?

Botanically, strawberries are neither fruit nor berry. They are considered false fruits (or accessory fruits) because the fleshy part of the strawberry does not derive from the ovary of the plant (definition of a fruit), but a different part called the receptacle. The brownish or white specks, which we commonly refer to as seeds, are the true fruits in strawberries. They are called achenes, and each surrounds a tiny seed.


[1] Lieten, P. (2002). The Effect of Humidity on the Performance of Greenhouse Grown Strawberry. Acta Horticulturae, 567, 479–482. https://doi.org/10.17660/actahortic.2002.567.101.

[2] PhD, J. H. F. (2020b). Strawberries (Crop Production Science in Horticulture) (2nd ed.). CABI.

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