Growing and Caring for Strawberry Plants in Pots
I’m a city girl, and I’d always thought that strawberries were shrubs. Whenever I heard the Beatles’ song "Strawberry Fields," I envisioned two ancient iron gates slowly opening to a large field drawing out to the horizon, with leafy strawberry shrubs full with red fruit lined up. Well, as I found when entering a nursery for the first time, this image had nothing to do with reality.
How Are Strawberries Grown?
- Common garden strawberries are small plants that stay at ground level. They never become shrubs or bushes, like raspberries.
- Their leaves are lobed and saw-toothed and they grow in sets of three. They produce other leafless stems where the flowers and fruit grow.
- Strawberry flowers are small, white and have five petals that they lose quickly when the fruit begin to grow.
- There is a peculiar thing about strawberries: they carry the seeds outside the fruit (that’s what the small and dark “freckles” are). Most other fruits keep the seeds inside for better protection.
What Is the Best Way to Obtain a Strawberry Plant?
You have three choices:
- You can get strawberry seeds, but I have read that growing strawberries from seed is difficult so I didn’t try this one.
- Your second choice is to buy a plant, which is just what I did. You can get them dormant or not. When I bought my plant it was small but carried a lot of fruit already. You can transplant it to the soil, a flower box or keep it in a medium size pot. There are special strawberry pots that look like “strawberry condos”. They have several openings around and up and down so you can have several plants at the same time and it’s quite practical if you have space limitations.
- The third and cheaper way if you already have a strawberry is reproduction by runners. At certain times of the year, strawberries grow large stems that when reaching the ground will start a new strawberry plant. This is particularly easy to do.
How to Take Care of Strawberry Plants
- Find them a sunny spot because they love and need lots of light. Prefer a spot where they receive the morning sun.
- If you have them in pots and/or other containers, it is good to move them during the day to take advantage of changing sunlight.
- They are thirsty plants. Water them daily, especially if they are producing fruit. It is best to do it in the morning and to avoid wetting the leaves for disease prevention.
- Keep them guarded from extreme weather conditions and wind. Please note that even if they like sunlight, being exposed to direct midday sunlight can be damaging as well.
- Check the pots for good drainage.
- Keep weeds and unwanted plants in check.
- You need to fertilize them because they need a lot of energy to produce strawberries. Buy a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10, 12-12-12, etc). Follow the directions because too much fertilizer can reduce the fruit yield and it may also stimulate runner production.
How to Pick Strawberries:
- Wait until the fruit is bright and dark red. Pick and eat the strawberries immediately because their flavor is at its best.
- They may last longer if you pick them when they are orangish-red. You can also freeze them, but fresh cut strawberries taste better.
- Cut the strawberries along with the green petals that join the fruit to the stem (this prevents diseases and improves conservation time).
If you still feel doubtful, watch the next video from TheVegetableGardener.