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.
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.