Tips For Winterizing Potted Strawberry Plants


By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

Whether grown in pots or outdoor beds, suitable winter care of strawberries is essential. Strawberry plants need to be protected from both cold temperatures and wind in order for them to reproduce each year. Therefore, you’ll need to know how to care for your outdoor bed or strawberry plant pot in winter.

How to Over Winter Strawberry Jars

One of the most common questions pertaining to strawberry plants is, “Can you keep strawberries in a strawberry jar over winter?” The answer is no, not unless you plan on keeping them indoors, well away from any freezing temperatures. For instance, you can move pots to an unheated garage for winterizing potted strawberry plants until the return of spring; however, more often than not they are put in the ground instead.

While normally these plants are quite hardy, especially those planted in the ground, keeping them in strawberry pots (or jars) outdoors over winter is not recommended. Most strawberry jars are made of clay or terra cotta. These are not suitable for winter weather as they absorb moisture easily which leads to freezing and makes them more prone to cracking and breaking. This is detrimental to the plants.

Plastic pots, on the other hand, withstand the elements better, especially when sunken into the ground. For this reason, strawberry plants are usually removed from their clay containers after the first initial frost, and repotted into plastic ones that are at least six inches (15 cm.) deep. These are then placed in the ground about 5 ½ inches (14 cm.), leaving the rim sticking up from the soil rather than flush with it. Cover the plants with about 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10 cm.) of straw mulch. Remove the mulch once the plants show signs of growth in spring.

Winterizing Strawberries in Outdoor Beds

Mulch is all you need for winterizing strawberries in beds. The timing for this depends on your location but usually takes place after the first frost in your area. Generally, straw mulch is preferable, though hay or grass can also be used. However, these types of mulch usually contain weed seeds.

You’ll need to apply anywhere from 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10 cm.) of mulch over the plants, with raised beds receiving somewhat more for additional protection. Once the plants begin growth in early spring, the mulch can be cleared away.

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Winterizing Potted Strawberry Plants

Of all the fruits, strawberries are among the easiest to grow and winterizing your potted strawberry plants will keep them happy year after year.

Pots used to grow strawberries are usually made of terra cotta the reddish-orange pots we all know so well. Both ‘regular’ terra cotta pots and those made specifically for strawberries or small succulents will work just fine. The reason for using terra cotta is that it’s highly porous which allows for better soil drainage. You can purchase strawberry pots at your local home and garden centers or online at places like Amazon.com. Another popular choice of container gardeners are wire hanging baskets lined with coconut fiber or moss.

Strawberries are perennials — they go through a period of dormancy in the winter and return each spring ready to go again. With a minimal amount of preparation for getting them through the winter, your strawberry plants in pots can be as productive as those grown in the ground. The amount of winterizing required depends on what planting zone you live in.

Depositphotos strawberry plants

Virtually every planting zone is conducive for growing strawberry plants at least a few months out of the year. If you don’t know what zone you live in, go to PlantMaps.com to find out. Those living in zones 2-7 have harsh winter temperatures which will require winterizing your potted strawberries. Those living in zone 8 or higher can rest easy because no extra attention is necessary.

Winterizing strawberry pots in cold climates can be accomplished by putting the pots in a cool garage or cellar, or by removing the plants from the pot, planting them in plastic pots and planting those pots in the ground up to the top rim of the pots (leaving the plants exposed). The plants should then be covered over with a lose layer of straw.

For more temperate climates that don’t experience extended periods of temperatures below freezing, simply place the plants under the deck or on a covered porch to protect them from winter precipitation. If you have an extended period of below freezing temperatures, bring them into your garage or cellar.

Those living in the warmest climates — where berries are produced commercially — simply removing unwanted runners from the plants to promote healthier growth of the ‘main’ plant and watering them less frequently is sufficient.

That’s about all there is to winterizing your potted strawberry plants. Honest. Strawberries make a great container crop for the following reasons. They…

1. Have shallow root systems

2. Are low-maintenance plants

3. Produce small fruits that don’t require a lot of room

4. Have a vine-like quality that allows them to grow and produce outside the container

5. Naturally propagate runners that can be rooted quickly and easily into more pots

Ever-bearing strawberries (those which produce berries in the spring and late summer) are usually the best for growing in pots. Some of the more popular varieties of ever-bearing berries are Calypso, Alpine, Arapahoe and Alexandria.

When buying your plants, make sure you purchase plants with nice green foliage, few if any runners and plants whose root crowns are firm but fleshy feeling. Plants can be purchased at your local home and garden centers, or from fellow gardeners in your area who have plants to spare. Any of these reputable seed and plant catalogs are also excellent sources for quality plants that come with limited guarantees: Henry Fields, Gurney, Jung, Burpee, Park Seeds and Harris Seeds.

Growing strawberry plants in pots is a fun, economical, easy and delicious way to introduce yourself or your children to gardening and healthy eating.


Strawberry Plants

Make sure your strawberries receive plenty of direct sunlight if neighboring plants or an overhanging tree have grown to block the sun during part of the day, trim the obstruction back. Keep the fruit up off the soil, using bedding such as straw or a plastic strawberry mat. Check your strawberry patch bedding regularly and add more bedding or rearrange it as necessary. Protect your fruit from birds using netting. Feed your plants with a high potassium, low nitrogen plant food to maximize fruit production and minimize leaf growth.

  • Bring the strawberry pot out and remove the mulch and bubble wrap when the temperature reaches about 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water the strawberries and feed them a dose of fertilizer formulated for tomato plants.

If the strawberry pot is small, you can bury the entire pot in the ground. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the container, and put a layer of straw or bark chips in the bottom of the hole. Bury the pot up to the lip of the container, and cover the entire thing with a thick layer of organic mulch.


Strawberry Raised Garden Bed Position

Strawberries like sunny positions, so it is vital to set up the raised bed in the full sun. Strawberries can grow in partial shade, especially during long and hot summer days, but quality of the fruits in spring and autumn will decrease.

Strong wind can damage the plants, flowers and fruit and decrease the crop. During summer, wind can increase moisture evaporation and force a gardener to water more often. Long story short, position raised beds in area of the garden, sheltered from the strong winds.


How to Winterize Potted Strawberry Plants

Among all the fruits, strawberries are one of those that can be easily grown. Having a potted strawberry plant winterized will keep the happy plant year in and year out.

The popular reddish-orange pots used to grow strawberries are mostly made of terra cotta. The common terra cotta pots and those which are specifically made for strawberries will work perfectly. Terra cotta is highly porous, this characteristic gives a better soil drainage, this is why it is the preferred. You can purchase the strawberry pots either at local garden stores, or you get them online on websites like Amazon.com. Other container gardeners will prefer to use wire hanging baskets lined with moss or coconut fiber.

Strawberries are perennials plants: they experience dormancy in the winter and yield fruits again every spring.

They may require little preparation to enable them survive the winter season. Your potted strawberry plants can have the same productivity as those planted in the natural ground. The required amount of winterizing depends on the planting zone you are situated.

Every planting zone is conducive for you to grow your strawberry plants for at least the first few months in the year. If you want to be sure of the zone where you are situated, please visit PlantMaps.com to be sure. Those who reside in zones 2-7 have harsh winter temperatures that will require winterization for their potted strawberries. Those who reside in zone 8 or higher can relax, as there will be no extra attention required.

Winterizing strawberry pots in cold climes is done by leaving the pots in a cellar or cool garage, and also by taking the plants out of the pot to plant them inside plastic pots and further planting those pots in the natural ground up to the top rim level of the pot. Only the plant will be visible, but it should be covered with a loose layer of straw.

For warmer climates that usually don’t experience long periods of temperatures lower than zero degrees, the plants can be placed below a deck or could be placed on a covered porch to protect from winter precipitation. If you experience a long period temperatures less than zero degrees, you should bring them into your cellar or garage.

Those who reside in warm climates should just remove unwanted runners that may be on the plants, in order to enhance the healthier growth of the strawberry plant, and they should also water them at a lower watering frequency. It is noteworthy that the naturally ideal climate for the commercial production of berries is the warm climate.

That’s about all there is to winterizing your potted strawberry plants. Honest. Strawberries make a great container crop for the following reasons. They…

1. Have shallow root systems

2. Are low-maintenance plants

3. Produce small fruits that don’t require a lot of room

4. Have a vine-like quality that allows them to grow and produce outside the container

5. Naturally propagate runners that can be rooted quickly and easily into more pots

Ever-bearing strawberries (those which produce berries in the spring and late summer) are usually the best for growing in pots. Some of the more popular varieties of ever-bearing berries are Calypso, Alpine, Arapahoe and Alexandria.

When buying your plants, make sure you purchase plants with nice green foliage, few if any runners and plants whose root crowns are firm but fleshy feeling. Plants can be purchased at your local home and garden centers, or from fellow gardeners in your area who have plants to spare. Any of these reputable seed and plant catalogs are also excellent sources for quality plants that come with limited guarantees: Henry Fields, Gurney, Jung, Burpee, Park Seeds and Harris Seeds.

Growing strawberry plants in pots is a fun, economical, easy and delicious way to introduce yourself or your children to gardening and healthy eating.


How To Prepare Strawberry Plants For Winter

Strawberries Planted In The Ground

Let’s first take a look at planted strawberries. First and foremost, all strawberry plants need to be protected from the cold.

For plants in the ground, that means applying a heavy 4 to 6″ thick mulch of straw, shredded leaves, or even pine needles in late fall.

When it comes to mulch, the key is choosing a material that allows for air to still get to the plants and roots below.

A 4 to 6″ mulching of plants will prepare and protect strawberries from winter’s freezing temperatures

If using leaves, shredding is a better option that whole leaves. Whole leaves can become soggy and thick, and smother plants out.

Strawberries should be mulched in late fall, once they have gone dormant for the season. Check near the crown of the plants, and if there is no new green growth, they are ready to be mulched.

Should I Prune Or Cut Back Plants Before Mulching?

This question comes up often when it comes to caring for strawberries. One thing is for sure, never mow or prune back strawberry plants in the fall!

For one, next year’s fruit already set on the plants. And cutting them back at this point eliminates next year’s fruit. But it also leaves plants with little to no protection, and most likely will result in a total loss of the plants.

Cutting back or mowing off strawberry plants should only be done right after they have finished fruiting in early summer, and never in the fall!

Cutting back or mowing off plants is an excellent idea to build vitality and strength in plants.

But it should only be performed after their last fruiting in the early summer, giving them time for regrowth before going into dormancy.

Potted Strawberry Plants

Potted strawberry plants are a bit more susceptible to the freezing temperatures of winter than those planted in the ground.

But with that said, winter care is pretty simple and straightforward as long as you bring them in out of harms way.

Potted strawberries need a bit of extra protection to survive winter.

Unless you live in an arid climate with warm winter temperatures, potted strawberries need protection from freezing out.

How To Protect Potted Strawberry Plants

An unheated garage, barn, or shed are all great options for giving potted strawberries protection.

Bringing them out of the direct cold is a great start, but providing a little extra cover is a good idea. This can be done easily with a few different methods.

Placing pots inside a burlap sack, or wrapping them in burlap and then filling with straw will usually do the trick.

The burlap and straw provide protection, while still allowing the plants to breathe.

Another option is to place pots in a 5 gallon bucket and surround with straw or shredded leaves. If none of these options are available, you can also bury the pots in the soil outside, and cover with 6 inches of straw.

Once spring arrives, all potted plants can then be uncovered and brought back outdoors.

Be sure to not allow the soil in potted plants to completely dry out over winter. The plants still require moisture to survive, even in their dormant state.

Check soil every week or so and water as needed.

For more on growing strawberries, see our article, How To Plant And Grow Strawberries.

This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, publishing two articles every week, 52 weeks a year. This article may contain affiliate links.


A Few Thoughts for Those in Warmer Growing Zones

If you live someplace that doesn’t enjoy minus 40 winters, you could probably overwinter your strawberries in a pot or a raised bed. In addition to placing the straw on top of the strawberry plants, you’ll also need to wrap the pot or bed with burlap, old blankets, or some sort of insulation. You might also want to move the pots into an unheated garage or some other sheltered-but-cold location that will generally stay below freezing for the winter.

Those of you who live in zone 5 or warmer, I would love to hear what works for you in the comments.

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