The Ultimate Guide to Growing Strawberries at Home

Fragaria × ananassa

We all know what it’s like to come home from the grocery store and dig into the strawberries only to find them too bland, too tart, or too far gone.

And when we get a nice, sweet, juicy batch we inhale them within a day.

Well, if the best tasting strawberries are what you’re after, growing your own is the way to go. You will never taste a sweeter strawberry than one picked fresh from your own garden.

There are multiple varieties to choose from, and as perennials that are hardy in Zones 3 through 10, they’ll come back year after year. And many varieties can be harvested from spring until frost.

A close up of a basket of strawberries sitting on garden table.

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Still, they aren’t necessarily easy to grow.

Plants will survive almost effortlessly, but getting a bountiful harvest takes a bit of work.

With a little knowhow, patience, and persistence, you’ll be on your way to enjoying fresh picked, delicious strawberries right out of your own yard.

Vertical image of al light green sedum growing in a garden bed, beside a large potted spearmint and smaller potted strawberry plant with green leaves.
Photo by Amber Shidler.

There are three different types of strawberries, and to get the best harvest you need to know about them.

But first, some general information. Here’s what’s to come in this article:

Keep reading to learn everything you need to grow this beloved fruit.

Growing From Seed vs. Buying Starters

While growing strawberries from seed is possible, it’s much more common and effective to purchase plants or bare roots.

However, if you’re interested in growing a less popular variety, you may have to start plants from seed.

If this is the route you take, sow seeds directly in the garden in early spring. Be prepared to wait for up to month to see any signs of germination.

Plants generally won’t produce any fruit until the following year, so you’ll have to wait.

Honestly, though, if you’re dedicated to achieving the ultimate harvest, you’ll have to wait for a year anyway. Standard practice for growing strawberries is to remove all the flowers the first year – yes, ALL of them. So sad, I know!

But you’ll be grateful you did the following spring, when plants are larger and stronger, and able to produce a much larger harvest.

Two small, immature strawberries are growing on long, thin stems beside a larger pinkish-white berry, growing on a plant with many clusters of three green leaves with jagged edges.

Okay – I got ahead of myself.

Let’s get back to purchasing plants…

Strawberries are usually sold as individual potted plants, or in bags as bare roots.

Bare roots are just dormant plants. They almost look dead, but they aren’t – or at least, they shouldn’t be!

Here are a couple of things to look for so you know you’re buying a healthy bare root, and not a dead one:

  • First, check for signs of rotting or mold and reject the plant if you find these.
  • Crowns should be intact.
  • Roots should be vigorous.

Once you’ve chosen your plants, it’s time to get them in the ground!

Planting Strawberries and Keeping them Happy

Strawberries can be placed in the ground in early spring as soon as the soil is workable.

Choose a site with loamy, well draining soil. A pH between 6.0 and 7.0 is ideal. And full sun, at least six hours per day, is necessary for high yields.

Strawberries will tolerate less than ideal conditions, however, and even do okay in partial shade – you just won’t enjoy as large of a harvest.

Heavy clay soils with poor drainage will be particularly detrimental to overall growth.

Because soil drainage is so important, raised beds are often used for growing strawberries. You can also plant them in containers and hanging planters. Just be certain not to use old tires as they can leak toxins!

Working two to three inches of compost into the soil before planting will improve soil health and water retention, as well as drainage.

A soil test is really the only way to know if your site needs any special attention.

If you’re interested in using a general all-purpose fertilizer, use one with an N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) ratio of 10-10-10.

A young strawberry plant with three sets of green leaves is growing in a wood-frame raised garden bed, in dark brown soil topped with chipped wood mulch.
Photo by Amber Shidler.

Before putting bare roots in the ground, remove any old leaves from the crowns and soak the roots in water for a good hour.

When placing roots in the ground, it’s especially important to pay attention to depth. The crown of the plant, where the leaves originate, should sit just on top of the soil.

Too deep and it will rot. Too high and it will dry out. It has to be just right, so think Goldilocks here and plant accordingly.

Also, make sure there is plenty of space for the roots and that they are spread out before covering them with soil.

Keep plants watered well until established.

Small bare root strawberry plant soaking in a square plastic container of water.
Soak bare roots for at least an hour before planting.

Once roots are established, runners will start to form – but we will get into how to deal with those when we talk about the different types a little later.

It’s also important to thoroughly weed the area ahead of time, and keep it weed free throughout the growing season. Weeds can easily outcompete the shallow roots of strawberries for water and nutrients.

Once in the ground, it’s best to cultivate the soil around strawberries regularly with a hoe. Work along the soil surface, uprooting any weed seedlings.

Be careful not to disturb the soil more than an inch below the surface – you might damage the roots. Not to mention, new weed seeds will find their way to the soil surface where they’ll be able to germinate.

Protecting and Replacing Plants

If your area experiences particularly cold winters, choose a fitting variety. Also consider adding a layer of mulch, like straw, over your crop in the winter to protect the crowns. You can read more about winter care for strawberries here.

Flowers that show up the earliest tend to produce the largest fruit. But flowers are susceptible to frost early in the season.

So, it’s in your best interest to cover your strawberry patch if temperatures dip below freezing in the spring.

Even though strawberries will keep coming back year after year, they’re most productive within their first 2 to 5 years of life. It’s common practice to replace them every few years, as you notice a drop in productivity.

A small white strawberry is just beginning to develop, alongside a white strawberry flower, growing in the shade of several large green leaves with serrated edges.
Photo by Amber Shidler.

Purchase new starters – don’t dig up runners from the old patch. This way you can guarantee healthy, disease-free plants.

Also, pick a new site for your replacements, which will help to avoid any pests and diseases that may have built up in the soil over the years.

Be careful to avoid areas of the garden that eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes have recently inhabited. They are all prone to verticillium wilt, which can also infect strawberries.

The Three Types

Strawberries fall under one of three types: June-bearing, everbearing, or day neutral.

Pay attention to the type you buy, and hold on to the tag so you won’t forget.

If the tag doesn’t make clear which type it is, do some research online. Knowing the type will make all the difference in your efforts to produce a delicious harvest that meets your needs.


This is the most commonly grown type. Buds form in the fall and then bloom the following spring, producing one large harvest, typically in June.

This is great if you want to make jam or freeze large batches of fruit.

Runners, which are above-ground stems that form from the crown, take root and produce new plants.

A close up of a wooden container with red ripe 'All Star' strawberries set on a green lawn.

‘All Star’ June-bearing plants from Nature Hills Nursery

Runners on June-bearers can be left to root, forming a thick mat of green growth, referred to as the “matted row method.”

Just don’t let your row get too wide. Ideally, it should be less than 18 inches across. Within the row, plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart.

Top-down view of several green strawberry plants with lots of leaves, planted in approximate rows in fertile brown soil in the garden.
Photo by Amber Shidler.

June-bearers especially benefit from removing all of the flowers in the first year. This way, they can focus all their energy on producing more runners.

After harvesting each year, they need to be “renovated” – which refers to the process of mowing or cutting leaves back to just an inch or so above the crown.

You’ll also want to narrow the rows to about a foot wide, and remove any old plants that aren’t producing as well.

A close up of the bright red ripe fruit of the 'Chandler' variety of strawberries.

‘Chandler’ June-bearing plants from Burpee

Rake out all leaves and compost them if they’re healthy, and weed the area.

The idea is to encourage new growth, especially new runners, since young plants produce the most fruit.

Top down view of harvested Honeoye strawberries.

‘Honeoye’ June-bearing plants from Nature Hills Nursery

Since runners are allowed to regenerate the crop, June bearers typically produce a good harvest for a number of years.


Everbearing varieties form buds when days are long, which usually results in two main harvests – one in June and another in early fall.

Plants should be spaced 12 to 15 inches apart, about three to four rows wide.

Top down view of harvested eversweet strawberries.

’Eversweet’ Everbearing plants from Burpee

For the largest harvest, runners of everbearers should be pinched off. Runners on this type of plant aren’t very vigorous, and if left to grow, you’ll just end up with smaller, less productive plants overall.

Instead, you’ll want to encourage the growth of one large, healthy plant.

Several pale yellow immature strawberries are growing on long, thin stems and hanging towards the ground on a plant with large green leaves, in dark brown garden soil.
Photo by Amber Shidler.

To further encourage well-established roots, remove the flowers.

Feel like your patience is being tested? There’s a bright side with this one: You can start letting flowers bloom in July and beyond.

Come August, you should be able to enjoy your first harvest, which will continue on until frost.

A close up of the red fruit of the 'Ozark Beauty' strawberry cultivar, set on a wooden surface, fading to soft focus in the background.

’Ozark Beauty’ everbearing plants from Gurney’s via Home Depot

So, that’s the bright side. There’s also a not-so-bright side…

Because you’re preventing runners, which are the mechanism by which these plants naturally regenerate themselves, you will likely notice a dip in fruit production within just a couple of seasons.

Because of this, it’s standard to replace everbearers every two to three years.


Day-neutral strawberries are different because they don’t rely on the length of day to begin flowering.

Closeup of a six-petaled white strawberry flower with a yellow center, growing on a plant with green leaves.

Instead, they are sensitive to temperature. They will produce fruit in temperatures as low as 35°F, but anything above 75°F and flower production will stop.

In cooler areas, this is great! You’ll be harvesting fruit from early spring until frost.

In areas with warmer summers, harvest periods will be similar to that of everbearers – one in spring, and one in late fall.

A close up of a plastic basket containing the bright red fruits of the 'Albion' variety.

’Albion’ Day-neutral plants available from Burpee

General requirements for day-neutral varieties follow the same recommendations as everbearers, including removing runners and flowers.

Let flowers go to fruit once you reach July though, for a late summer/early fall harvest!

Choices, Choices, Choices!

Are you trying to find the best type for your location? If so, check out our 35 of the Best Strawberry Varieties for Home Gardeners to find the right cultivar for your berry patch.

Pests and Diseases

There are a number of diseases that can infect strawberries, including leaf blight, leaf scorch, leaf spot, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew.

Gray mold, or Botrytis fruit or Botrytis flower rot, is one of the most common and  difficult strawberry diseases to control when the conditions are right for infection. We have an entire guide on gray mold on strawberries here.

Many of these pathogens can be greatly reduced by picking the right location for plants.

Full sun and well-draining soil go a long way to reduce the occurrence of diseases. Keep rows narrow and weed free to improve air circulation.

Also, avoid watering at night. Wet leaves in the cool of night are an invitation to many diseases and fungi.

Look for disease resistant varieties if possible.

Aside from diseases, you’ll want to keep an eye out for a number of critters.

Bird netting over strawberry plants in a raised garden bed.

While you’re at the store picking up your strawberries or shopping online, grab some bird netting. Trust me. This one is a great product from KLEWEE, and it’s available on Amazon.

KLEWEE Bird Netting, 7.5′ x 25′

Birds are great at getting to your delicious fruit the day before you plan to harvest. Netting can help to avoid that pang of disappointment.

Deer might take a bite or two out of plants as well, like in my case where there are plenty of them living in the area.

Intruders that are smaller but often just as damaging include slugs, spider mites, bud weevils, and spittlebugs.

Top-down shot of several strawberry plants growing in dark brown soil topped with wood chip mulch, with many green tops and leaves but no berries, since wild deer ate all of them.
Sadly, the deer got to this bunch. Photo by Amber Shidler.

Healthy plants can handle some damage. But slugs and weevils in particular have the biggest impact on harvest.

Slugs bite chunks directly out of the fruit, and weevils bore into buds with their curved snouts and suck the pollen out.

If the problem is severe, look into using diatomaceous earth for slugs and horticultural oils for weevils. Also, pick off any buds if you notice they’re damaged or aren’t producing a berry.

Harvest and Delicious Uses

You’ll know that your berries are ready to harvest when they’re red all over and fully ripened.

Pay attention to the days to maturity on the plant tags that they came with, so you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect.

Be careful not to damage the plants or pull them out of the ground when you’re harvesting. Rather than pulling on the berries, keep those green tops intact and snip the stems with clean scissors or pruners.

Wait a few days between harvests if you can, to avoid stressing the plants. And pick in the cool of the morning since your fruit will bruise less easily than it will when the sun is beating down in the afternoon.

A woman wearing a long-sleeved black sweatshirt holds a plastic container filled with just-picked strawberries in her left hand and picks more fruit from a plant with bright green leaves with her right hand, which is wearing a blue latex glove.

Keep freshly picked berries cool and wait to wash until you’re ready to use them.

If you have enough plants to get a big yield, there are so many wonderful things that you can do with strawberries beyond eating them out of hand. Here are a few tantalizing suggestions:

First, try a strawberry blueberry crumble for dessert, or a slice of classic strawberry rhubarb pie. Both of these recipes can be found on our sister site, Foodal. And to grow your own rhubarb alongside the berries, read our article for expert tips.

A red strawberry in the foreground that is just about ready to pick but with a tip that is still greenish-white, growing next to two immature white strawberries on stems hanging downward with large green leaves that have serrated edges.
Not quite ready to pick, but almost there!

Not in the mood for pie? Try this strawberry rhubarb butter from Erika’s Gluten Free Kitchen. Or, if it’s too hot to bake, you can’t go wrong with a simple strawberry fool, like this one from The Magic Saucepan.

A bright and tasty strawberry balsamic vinaigrette makes a tasty addition to garden fresh salads. Try this version from our friends at The Fitchen.

Summer strawberry popsicles are a tasty combo made with lime and watermelon. The Domestic Dietitian shares the recipe for this one.

No Going Back

This classic, beloved fruit is in high demand. And, ranked as number one on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, buying organic can be pricey.

But let’s be honest – picking strawberries out at the grocery store is a gamble.

In my experience, they are almost never as sweet and juicy as I imagine they will be, especially when they are out of season.

Two vibrant red strawberries hang from skinny stems towards the brown earth, growing on a plant in the sunshine with green leaves.

Once you get a taste of fresh picked, homegrown strawberries, you’ll want more. And more. And more.

You know what they’re like?

Delicious. Every. Time.

It may take some trial and error, but as perennials, strawberries are a little more forgiving than annual edibles.

And even if you don’t get a great harvest with your first go, you’ll still likely get a little something sweet to snack on.

Have you ever tried growing strawberries? What’s holding you back? Leave a comment below!

For more berry growing inspiration, you’ll need these guides:

Photo of author
Amber Shidler lives in Cincinnati, Ohio and holds a dual bachelor’s degree in botany and geography. For four years she worked as a horticulturist, but is now a stay-at-home mom. With experience in landscape design, installation, and maintenance she has set her sights on turning her tenth-of-an-acre lot into a productive oasis. Amber is passionate about all things gardening, especially growing and enjoying organic food.
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lawncarepal (@guest_3381)
5 years ago

Thanks for coming to me at the right time. I love strawberry and want to plant it in my garden. So I found you with helpful tips. After reading this article I think I can plant it by myself. Thanks for sharing this.

Nancy Hoffman
Nancy Hoffman (@guest_4070)
5 years ago

Thanks for the info, neighbor! (NKY here!) I have just planted my first 4 plants last night. I also have 3 blueberry bushes, and a pretty large raspberry patch. I love making jam, so that is my goal for this year.

Sandi Clipfell
Sandi Clipfell (@guest_4589)
5 years ago

I lost a lot of berries this year they would turn pinkish like they were ripening but turned soft. I was told you need to spray, what about this?

Matt Suwak
Matt Suwak(@mattsuwak)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Sandi Clipfell
4 years ago

The ample rain much of the country has received lately keeps our trees happy, but it makes fruit and vegetable production a nightmare for the gardener! Strawberries want well-drained soil. Your berries ripening but turning soft likely indicates the presence of a fungal infection. My favorite method for preventing this issue is to avoid any kind of spraying whatsoever. That means having the well-drained soil strawberries need, and limiting your watering strictly to periods when it’s needed. Most plants survive and do their thing with an inch of rain water a week, and a little bit more if it’s very… Read more »

Colin D
Colin D (@guest_4877)
4 years ago

Great article. What do you do after fruiting? Do you cut all the leaves and runners back, pot the runners for new plants, or just clean and fertilise and mulch?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Colin D
4 years ago

Sorry for the delayed response, Colin! My Uncle Norm is Farm Manager at Linvilla Orchards in Pennsylvania, and we got in touch with him to weigh in. Our best advice would be to clip back the leaves to 1 inch above the crowns. Then, throw 1 inch of dirt over the crowns – strawberry crowns grow up and new roots emerge from growing crowns. Apply a heavy dose of fertilizer- new flowers form in September. Water during summertime periods of drought, since this is a shallow-rooted plant. If crowns become too large, you can split and discard half of the… Read more »

M Hughes
M Hughes (@guest_6173)
4 years ago

This is a very helpful article. I have a lovely 1st year patch and the observations will be so beneficial. Thank you.

M Hughes
M Hughes (@guest_6174)
4 years ago

Very helpful article. Thank you.

Bill gunter
Bill gunter (@guest_7175)
4 years ago

Got a question- my plants are really loaded with berries but they are getting ready too early, they’re not getting any size to them?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Bill gunter
4 years ago

Do you know what type you’re growing, Bill? When strawberry plants are crowded, they will produce smaller fruit. Pruning the runners can help your plants to conserve energy, providing more space for a smaller yield of bigger fruit to grow.

PAULA (@guest_7855)
4 years ago

Can you plant the top of a store bought strawberry? If so, will it yield fruit? Thanks for your time

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  PAULA
4 years ago

Strawberries can be grown from seed or by planting runners. Unfortunately, you can’t start a new plant by attempting to root the top of a mature fruit.

matt (@guest_8254)
4 years ago

Hi –
I purchased some strawberry plants from local place this march. had them in my garage in this planter and have had them outside for past 6 weeks or so.
they are juneberry variety and getting full sun.
i water once about every 2 days.
i don’t see any strawberries yet? I am a beginner so think i am doing something wrong….
we are located in a suburb of philadelphia, pa.
any help appreciated.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  matt
4 years ago

Many strawberry plants do not produce fruit in the first year, so this isn’t uncommon. Have your plants developed any flowers? For June-bearing types, you should remove these in the first year, so the plant can put its energies into becoming established. With proper care, you can count on a bountiful harvest next year.

Happy to hear from a reader who is gardening in my neck of the woods- I grew up in Delco. 🙂

matt (@guest_8303)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
4 years ago

Thank you Allison –
A fun thing to do with my teenage boys and we always look forward to the local strawberry season – so we thought this year we would try our own. Sad to hear probably no fruit this year but guess I should have read ahead before doing this.
No, we have not had any flowers yet this year.
Do you think (or others) that the plants are too close together? It’s roughly 15-20 plants.
Thanks again and happy to meet someone from ‘Delco’

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  matt
4 years ago

Wow, that’s a lot of plants! What size is the bed that you have them planted in? Strawberries need full sun, well-draining soil, and about 18-24 inches of space is recommended between plants.

Failure to produce flowers can be the result of too much nitrogen in the soil. This causes plants to produce beautiful, abundant foliage instead. Did you fertilize when you planted/have you been applying additional fertilizer throughout the season?

matt (@guest_8368)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
4 years ago

Hi – can you see the picture in my 1st post? they are all in the same planter – about 1ft by 2 ft?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  matt
4 years ago

Hi Matt,

Unfortunately the photo was not attached. But a planter of this size is only big enough for a couple of plants, depending on the cultivar. They need at least 18 inches of space in between each. Good luck!

matt (@guest_8567)
Reply to  Allison Sidhu
4 years ago

oh boy…ok 🙂 have to replant some soon.
thanks again,

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  matt
3 years ago

You’re welcome! Let us know how it goes.

Ale (@guest_8712)
4 years ago

This was a great guide to planting strawberries. I know that most vegetables shouldn’t be washed until ready to eat, but I didn’t realize that went for strawberries too.

Laura Ojeda Melchor
Laura Ojeda Melchor(@lauramelchor)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Ale
3 years ago

Yes! It helps keep them dry and fresh for longer. Washing them before you are ready to eat them can speed up the mold/rotting process.