Strawberries are one of our favorite annual food forest crops! They’re delicious, fragrant, easy-to-grow plants that produce some of the yummiest harvests. Growing strawberries from seed is also surprisingly easy – whether you live in the Southern USA, California, or even the chilliest growing zones. Let’s explore how to cultivate these delicious fruits from seed. Shall we?
How to Grow Strawberries From Seed
Growing strawberry plants from seed is way easier than the other fruits you may have tried. Strawberries are self-fertile and grow anywhere with warm temperatures of 75 degrees and six hours of sunlight. They’re also easy-to-propagate perennial plants – so your strawberries from this year will continually return to your garden – year after year. Germinating strawberry seeds is also straightforward – all you need is a warm, sunny spot, a small pot, and some well-draining soil.
We also want to share our strawberry growing process in more detail below.
Germinating Strawberry Seeds In 6 Easy Steps
The best thing about growing backyard strawberries from seed is that you might only need to germinate their seeds once. You won’t need to germinate strawberry seeds often because strawberry plants are ludicrously easy to propagate due to their prominent runners. But first – we need to germinate our strawberry seeds. Here’s how – in 6 easy steps.
What You’ll Need:
- Six fresh strawberries
- A sharp kitchen knife
- A small terracotta pot or growing container (A 6 to 8-inch pot or even a deep, plastic food container works fine.)
- Nutrient-rich potting soil (Any organic, pre-moistened soil works fine.)
You’ll also need a warm spot to help your strawberry seeds germinate.
Have your gear ready? Then, let’s proceed to step number one.
Step 1. Choose Your Strawberry Seeds
Gather your strawberries. Examine the strawberry skin. Notice that the outer layer has many tiny seeds embedded within the strawberry’s exterior flesh. These are the strawberry seeds we’ll use to germinate. Start by gently peeling the strawberry skin with a knife. Slice the outer layer into small strips. Then – place your strawberry skin on a cutting board or plate. Let them sit still for 24 to 48 hours. The idea is to isolate the seeds so they are easy to dry.
Once dry, carefully remove the strawberry seeds. It should be much easier to isolate and harvest the seeds when dried and cut into tiny strips.
Step 2. Stratify the Strawberry Seeds
Some strawberry cultivars may require cold stratification – or freezing, before germination. The good news is that freezing strawberry seeds is straightforward and almost always works – regardless of cultivar. Start by placing the seeds in a jar or envelope. Then, store them in the freezer for two to four weeks. After their freeze and subsequent thawing, the seeds will think winter is over. They’re now prepared to germinate!
(You might find some rare heirloom varieties come in seed packets from the local seed companies. If that’s the case – you can chuck the seed envelope directly in the freezer. Or, even better, toss the envelope in an airtight container prior to putting it in the freezer.)
Step 3. Plant the Strawberry Seeds In Soil
It’s time to get those seeds warm. But first, grab your 6-inch terracotta pot, germination tray, seed tray, or preferred growing container. Fill it with a nutrient-rich growing medium. Strawberries love germinating and growing in well-draining, sandy loam garden soil.
You’ll also notice that the strawberry seeds are far tinier than other fruit seeds you may have cultivated. So – when sowing the seeds, don’t sow them too deep – perhaps one-quarter of an inch below the soil surface. After planting the strawberry seeds, splash them with a warm drink of water.
Step 4. Place Your Strawberry Seeds In a Bright Sunny Spot
Once your strawberry seeds get planted in the soil, it’s time place the pot in a warm, sunny spot. A bright sunny windowsill, a south-facing window, or a sunlit kitchen counter usually work perfectly. Aim for a soil temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to help the seeds germinate on time. Remember to keep the soil moist but never waterlogged.
(You can also use an LED grow light to germinate strawberry seeds – and to nurture your indoor potted plants as they mature. But – we usually find a sunny windowsill works fine. And – using the sun never costs anything extra!)
Step 5. Wait for Your Strawberry Seeds to Germinate
And now – we wait. Strawberry seeds will usually germinate in three to four weeks. Continue to nurture your strawberry seedlings until they reach a few inches tall. Once they grow to that height – it’s time to transplant them into their permanent home.
(If you sowed the strawberry seed in a relatively large pot and want to keep it as a houseplant, you can skip this next step. If you wish to transplant it into a larger container or the outdoor garden, follow the next step.)
Step 6. Transplant Your Strawberry Outdoors Or Into a Larger Pot
Your strawberry plant is surprisingly hardy, low-fuss, and easy to grow. So you can easily transplant your baby strawberry plant outside in your garden once the risk of frost passes. But – you can also grow strawberries in hanging baskets, containers, as a window box, around your front porch, kitchen window, or even on your highrise balcony. Just ensure they have at least six hours of daily direct sunlight – and they should thrive.
Transplanting your strawberry plant outdoors is also a piece of cake. Start by digging a transplant hole roughly the same size as the pot it’s growing in. Then, carefully remove the strawberry plant with a garden
One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen is planting your strawberry plant too deeply. If it’s too deep – the roots will never thrive. Ensure the strawberry plant’s crown (where the roots and true leaves emerge) rests on the soil surface – this is the best way to ensure your strawberry plant grows at the correct depth. Give the plant a generous drink after transplanting.
May or June is the perfect time to plant strawberry shrubs outdoors. If you’re planting multiple strawberry seedlings, sow the strawberry plants in your garden with at least one to two feet between plants – and four feet between rows.
Outdoor strawberry plants also love a thick mulch layer after transplanting. It helps them retain moisture and fight off surprise frosts – especially when the plant’s still young.
Once your strawberry plants develop, you’ll have a nearly never-ending supply. You can also double and triple your strawberry patch by propagating the runners. (We’ll show you how in a moment.)
Related – Growing Lemon Trees From Seeds
Propagating Strawberries From Their Runners In 3 Easy Steps
Strawberry plants reproduce via their tiny runners. Strawberry runners are the most exciting part of the strawberry plant. They are baby root plants that make cloning and propagation ten times easier! Propagating strawberries from runners is also easier than starting them from seed. And if you have an existing berry patch, it’s even simpler.
- Mature strawberry plant with runners
- Sharp garden scissors
- Deep growing trays or medium-sized growing cups
- Well-draining, high-quality growing soil
Here’s our 3-step process for cloning your strawberry plants – even if you don’t have much gardening experience.
Step 1. Harvesting Strawberry Runners
Once your runners reach around three inches from the crown to the leaf, and once they have two or three trifoliate leaves, you know it’s ready to harvest. If the runner is longer than five inches, it’s likely too big to root effectively.
So – seek runners between three and five inches long. Then – gather a pair of sharp garden scissors. Finally, carefully cut the runner from the berry stem. (When cutting – leave a one-inch stem! The stem offers stability and acts as a docking tail to help anchor your baby strawberry runner when transplanting.)
Step 2. Planting Strawberry Runners
Transplant your strawberry runners in your growing trays or cups shortly after cutting them. Don’t wait too long – or your runner will dry out and die.
Start by gathering your growing cell trays. Fill them with a peat-free, well-draining potting mix. Ensure the soil is moist – preferably, before adding the runners.
Make tiny, half-inch holes in the soil. Then, gently place your strawberry runner transplants in the holes. When planting, remember to keep the crown just atop the soil level. Bury the roots and the one-inch stem, which acts as an anchor to keep the plant upright and sturdy.
Step 3. Nurturing Strawberry Runners
Your baby strawberry runner is sensitive to drying out. They enjoy constantly moist soil – and gentle misting. Help them stay moist during the first few months – it’s crucial to their longevity. They also need plenty of sunlight – even in this young stage. If you can – give it at least six hours of daily light.
In around one to two weeks – your strawberry cuttings will begin rooting. After one to two months – your runner will grow to approximately six inches tall and develop several full-sized leaves. At this point – you know your strawberry runner has rooted, is healthy, and is waiting for a permanent home. Continue to transplant it outdoors – or keep it in a growing pot of your choice!
Strawberry Plant Growing Requirements
Homegrown strawberry is easy to grow when you offer plenty of light and favorable weather conditions. They’re surprisingly hardy plants. But, they need the following conditions to produce the maximum berries per plant.
We usually aim for at least six hours of sunlight daily for our backyard or container strawberries. But if you want abundantly yummy and soft fruits, it’s wiser to aim for at least eight hours of daily sunlight. The more direct sunlight you can offer your strawberry patch, the better.
Soil + Fertilizer
Strawberries are famously shallow-rooted and demand well-drained soil. If you can’t offer well-draining growing conditions in your native soil, it’s better to grow them in a raised strawberry bed. Raised-growing beds are easy to build. And they will help maintain well-draining soil for your sensitive strawberries.
Strawberries are surprisingly light feeders. But you can still offer them a nitrogen fertilizer boost if they aren’t producing satisfactorily. Blood meal or organic fertilizers like backyard compost rich with organic matter are usually sufficient.
(We also read an excellent tip suggesting offering a balanced fertilizer to June-bearing varieties after they finish harvesting. Five pounds of a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer should help the plant replenish itself.)
Strawberries, while they can’t stand getting waterlogged, need a surprisingly high amount of water. The best strategy is to monitor the soil – and never let it get dry. When fruiting, strawberries love around an inch of weekly water if the weather is hot and dry. Many reliable sources cite that strawberries can even benefit from slightly more – up to two inches of daily water. (That’s not a typo. Two inches daily!)
Drip irrigation is our favorite method for watering strawberry crops, as it can help minimize the risk of root rot and plant disease. We also use the garden hose to wet the strawberry plant’s base. (Overhead irrigation is a top contributor to strawberry plant diseases. So – drip irrigation or carefully irrigating the soil with a garden hose usually works far better.)
Harvesting strawberries is our favorite part! Grip the strawberry stem a half-inch above the berry. Then, pinch the stem above the calyx. (The strawberry calyx, or cap, is the leafy part at the top of the strawberry.)
Keep the calyx on the strawberry until you eat it. Doing so helps keep the fruit fresh, firm, juicy, and delicious. I usually rinse the fruits with a spray bottle or under the faucet before eating – even though we never use pesticides or herbicides in our garden.
Many strawberry cultivars are markedly cold hardy – so they don’t mind cooler nights or brisk outdoor weather. But, make no mistake. Strawberries still prefer warm weather. That’s one reason we recommend adding mulch with straw around your strawberry patches.
Many organic mulches work beautifully – like aged manure, leaf debris, fertile soil compost, aged straw, plant debris, or coarse wood chips.
A thick mulch layer maintains soil moisture and keeps strawberry plants warm during cold nights. Four inches applied during December can help prevent winter injury and keep your plants safe. Hopefully, they continue to cultivate fresh berries for years to come.
(A thick mulch layer can also help prevent your strawberry runners from running wild – and taking over your garden! More on this topic later in this article.)
Strawberry Planting and Growing Schedule
Here are the critical dates all strawberry growers should know.
|April is the perfect time for transplanting your baby strawberry plant outdoors. The soil will be warm enough to nurture the tender strawberry seedling’s roots. And – the risk of overnight frost is also gone for many American gardeners.
|May is another excellent month to transplant your dormant or newly germinated strawberry plants outside. The late spring weather is usually beautiful, pollinators are beginning to buzz, and there’s ample sunlight. Your established June-bearing strawberry cultivars can also start flowering and fruiting during May.
|June is one of the most vital months for June-bearing strawberries. Expect a significant harvest during the warm June weather. Ever-bearing strawberries can also have their first fruit in June. Your day-neutral strawberries might fruit in June but will most likely fruit more heavily in July.
|July is when your strawberry plants should start to produce yummy and delicious fruit regularly. All three strawberry varieties, ever-bearing, June-bearing, and day-neutral strawberries, can yield tons of ripe fruit in July. The weather can also get tremendously hot in July – so give your strawberry plants at least one to two inches of weekly water. Don’t let them get too dry!
|We’ve read from several reliable sources that August is an excellent time to apply compost or a 10-10-10 fertilizer to your strawberry plants. Your ever-bearing strawberry plants might also have their second crop in August. So – keep your eyes open. And remember to monitor the strawberry garden soil for moisture. Never let it get too dry.
|September, October, or November are excellent months to add an extra cozy mulch layer for your outdoor strawberry plants. Old straw, bark mulch, aged animal manure, or backyard compost works perfectly. You don’t need a massive layer – a few inches of straw mulch does some good. Day-neutral strawberries can fruit well into September, October, or even November. But – if you live in a colder growing zone, an overnight frost might kill the day-neutral plant earlier than anticipated. Your ever-bearing strawberries could have their second harvest in September or early October.
Study your unique strawberry cultivar! There are hundreds of varieties, and many of them differ slightly in their flowering and fruiting schedule. However, the strawberry growing calendar above should help guide your overall timetable.
Choosing the Best Strawberry Varieties and Cultivars
Before you grow ripe strawberries from seed – you must choose your cultivar. We’ve studied and cultivated nearly a dozen strawberry cultivars. But that’s just scratching the surface – remember that hundreds of strawberry cultivars exist! And – while we haven’t researched every strawberry known to man, we’re sharing our top three favorites below.
They are as follows.
Honeoye is one of our favorite strawberry cultivars – and one of our top overall fruit cultivars! They’re cold-hardy, tremendously productive, disease-resistant, firm, fragrant, and delicious. They are the best for adding to your homemade fruit salad, chopped and served with a piece of pie, or eaten right off the shrub.
- Size: Around one foot tall and one and a half feet wide.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: Three through eight.
- Type: June-Bearing
- Self-Pollinating: Yes
- Cold Hardy: Yes
- Appearance: Honeoye strawberries are beautiful-looking, well-shaped, and deepy-red colored, glossy fruits.
Alpine strawberries are another to-die-for fruit crop and food forest addition. They’re delicious, cold-hardy, and easy to grow. And unlike hybrid strawberries, Alpine varieties come true to seed. The only problem is that they aren’t nearly as easy to propagate as regular strawberries, as they don’t have runners. So – these are one of those strawberry cultivars where knowing how to grow them from seed is a huge advantage.
- Size: Up to one foot tall and one and a half feet wide.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: Three through ten.
- Type: Day Neutral
- Self-Pollinating: Yes
- Cold Hardy: Yes
- Appearance: Alpine strawberries are smaller than many other strawberry types and have a tear-drop shape. The plants have lovely white flowers and are much tidier than other strawberries since most do not have runners.
Ogallala strawberries are one of our favorite fruit crops for potted growers, raised garden beds, strawberry beds, or new gardeners without much experience testing soil. Use them to build a delicious perennial border. They’re far less fussy to grow than other fruit shrubs. And they also have a reputation for having superb drought resistance.
- Size: Six to twelve inches tall, up to one and a half feet wide.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 through 8
- Type: Ever-bearing
- Self-Pollinating: Yes
- Cold Hardy: Yes
- Appearance: Ogallala strawberries are large, plump, and fragrant fruits. They have a deep red color throughout.
Always research whichever strawberry cultivar you want to grow. Many vary slightly in flavor, taste, texture, climate preferences, and winter hardiness.
The Three Strawberry Types – June-Bearing, Ever-Bearing, and Day-Neutral
Also – we forgot to mention that strawberries come in THREE types. (No matter which cultivar you grow, they will almost always fit tidily in one of the following groups.)
June-bearing strawberries are summer-fruiting strawberries that bloom during May and usually continue fruiting heavily during the warm summer months – at least during June and July. June-bearing strawberries are our favorite for outdoor gardens.
Ever-bearing strawberries famously produce two or three harvests per year. These usually occur in the summer and fall. Ever-bearing strawberries are perfect for container growing.
Day-neutral strawberries usually begin fruiting in May to June to late summer. Unlike June-bearing types, day-neutral berries will continue fruiting until the frost kills them in late autumn or mid to late winter. Day-neutral varieties are also excellent for container gardens.
Remember that this small strawberry assortment only scratches the surface – as there are countless hundreds of strawberry cultivars!
Common Problems With Strawberry Plants
Strawberries are among the least fussy ground cover fruit crops in our food forest. And – once your perennial strawberries develop for a few years, growing them becomes even more hands-free.
That said – there are a few common strawberry problems you might encounter. They are as follows.
Anthracnose Fruit Rot
Anthracnose fruit rot is a nasty disease that significantly impacts strawberry fruit production. Consider the following diseased fruit symptoms.
- Sunken black pits deeply embedded in the fruit
- Infected leaves, including black or water-soaked leaf spots
- Mummified fruit may also occur in overly dry conditions
- Wilting, drying, and dying flowers
- Unsightly fruit lesions
Your infected fruit may also exhibit a gross-looking, salmon-like spore fungus if anthracnose exists alongside prolonged wet weather, wet conditions, or humid weather.
Like many fungal diseases, the best management strategy for anthracnose is to avoid outbreaks by sourcing a healthy and robust strawberry specimen that can bear healthy fruit. (That’s because most anthracnose infestations begin by introducing infected material.)
We’ve also read that drip irrigation can help mitigate anthracnose spreading – and overhead irrigation can exacerbate symptoms and encourage further fungal growth.
Strawberry Runner Takeover
Strawberry runners (the daughter plant) make cultivating and cloning strawberries a piece of cake. But – excess strawberry runners can also hurt your strawberry yields! We even read a report that says most agricultural strawberry growers face significant challenges removing the extra runners on time – to the point where they’re trying to automate the strawberry runner removal process.
While extra strawberry runners might be a tremendous problem for commercial growers, they’re usually a boon (and a high-quality problem) for small-time backyard growers. Managing them is also easy. Snip and remove any excess strawberry runners with a sharp garden knife.
We’ve also read that failure to manage strawberry runners can result in them taking over your backyard. So – don’t skip this step!
Managing strawberry runners is easy if you only have five or ten strawberry plants. But it’s tricky and labor-intensive if you’re a commercial strawberry grower – with hundreds or thousands of plants.
We usually remove strawberry runners that develop on young plants less than a year old – as the runners sap the young plant of energy. After the strawberry plant matures for a year, we’ll begin using the strawberry runners to propagate new plants.
Black Root Rot
One little-known fact about strawberries is that they have shallow roots. Up to ninety percent of their roots are in the top six inches of soil! Their shallow roots might not seem problematic until you notice black root rot.
Strawberry plants infected with black root rot can experience stunted growth, wilted leaves, and won’t produce daughter plants. The root structure can eventually rot, turn black, and die. Many strawberry gardeners watch in horror (lol) as their strawberries slowly fade and succumb. Infected plants can die within 365 days of infection.
And black root rot has other complications. It seems several organisms cause this issue in strawberries, including the following.
- Pythium spp.
- Fusarium spp.
- Rhizoctonia spp.
- Various nematode species.
Black root rot can attack your younger berry plants, but many grizzled gardening veterans say your mature plant is even more susceptible.
Luckily – black root rot is relatively easy to prevent. The main trick is to ensure your strawberry rootstock is a healthy, disease-free plant. That’s another reason we teach all our gardening friends to propagate strawberry runners. Keep your strawberry plants healthy, and then use runners to clone more. That way – you significantly reduce the odds of introducing an infected specimen into your food forest garden.
Leaf diseases aren’t the only problems you face when growing strawberries. Many bugs also love these plants – almost as much as we do.
They are as follows.
Famous Strawberry Plant Pests
- Red spider mites
- Spotted wing drosophila
- Sap beetles
- Root weevils
- Strawberry clippers
- Owlet moths
Even though strawberry plants are easy prey for many garden pests – we still advise against synthetic pesticides.
Instead, use organic pest control methods. Covering your strawberry plants with row covers can help prevent invading insects from attacking strawberry roots and burrowing underneath the plants. Organic pesticides, like hot pepper and garlic spray, are excellent pest control methods that won’t damage your crop. Citrus or neem oil spray can also help repel insect pests and deter bugs who eat strawberries.
Thanks for reading our guide about how to grow strawberries from seed!
Strawberries are easily one of our favorite outdoor food forest crops. And we also love growing them on our porch, in sunny windowsills, and even on a bright kitchen counter.
What about you?
- Have you had much luck germinating strawberry seeds indoors?
- Do you grow strawberries indoors? Or out back in your garden?
- Have you had much experience with strawberry plant pests? If so – did you successfully manage them?
- Do you grow cold strawberry seeds? Or – have you ever skipped throwing them in the freezer?
- What’s your favorite organic fertilizer for strawberry plants?
We love growing strawberries. And we’re also excited to hear from anyone with experience cultivating these yummy backyard treats.
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!
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How to Grow Strawberries From Seed | Resources, References, and Works Cited
- Strawberry Uses, Pests, and Propagation | PlantVillage | PennState
- Strawberries | Grow Your Own | The Royal Horticultural Society
- Growing Strawberries | UNH Coop Extension
- Strawberry Varieties for the Inland Northwest & Intermountain West | Danny Barney, Ph.D. | University of Ohio
- Anthracnose Fruit Rot In Strawberries | NC State Extension
- Anthracnose Strawberry Management | Purdue University
- Strawberry Anthracnos | Ohio State University Extension Website
- Strawberry Runner Cutting Automation Report | Cal Poly | Strawberry Center
- Growing Strawberries for Your Home Garden | University of Minnesota Extension Website
- Growing Strawberries In Wisconsin | University of Wisconsin Extension Website
- Strawberry Black Root Rot | Utah State University Extension Website
- Black Root Rot In Strawberries | NC State University Extension Services
- Strawberry Growing for Beginners | West Virginia University Extension Website
- Strawberry Clipper Weevils | North Carolina State Extension Publications
- Growing Strawberries In the Home Garden | Colorado State University Extension Website
- Fertilizing June-Bearing Strawberries In Spring | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
- Growing Berries In Your Backyard | University of California | California Garden Web
- Strawberry Leather Rot | University of California | Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
- Growing Strawberries | PennState Extension
- Washinton Grown Harvest of the Month | Berries | How It’s Grown | HEAL | Seattle Public Schools Nutrition Service