Transplanting Strawberries

Why Should You Transplant Strawberry Plants?

Most strawberry plants will produce many runners over the course of its life.  For the home gardener, this is great!  You get to buy (or otherwise obtain) a few strawberry plants and watch them multiply themselves exponentially.  However, the little fellas don’t know when to stop producing runners when the maximum productive capacity of a confined strawberry bed is reached.

So, a gardener who desires lots of high quality strawberries will have to remedy this overcrowding.  It can be done either by thinning the plants or transplanting the plants to a new area.  Also, if the soil isn’t particularly well-suited for growing strawberries, transplanting strawberry plants to a rich, sandy loam with good drainage can make all the difference in the world.

Transplanting the unneeded strawberry plants to new beds can also help develop new strawberry patches and initiate a strawberry bed rotation system that maximizes strawberry production.  Additionally, thinning an existing bed by removing and transplanting strawberry plants elsewhere increases air flow which can help reduce many of the fungal diseases (see the Strawberry Plant page for more details).

Transplanting Strawberry Runners

In general, the established plants are going to produce the most and biggest strawberries.  It takes some time for a strawberry plant to root well and produce maximally, so a gardener should count on year 2 and year 3 being the years where a strawberry plant is most productive.  Some strawberry plants will still produce exceptionally well in year 4, but most will start to lose a bit of their youthful vitality after year 3.

To leave the roots of the most established strawberry plants intact (so that they will continue to produce strawberries at their highest possible level), it is usually best to transplant strawberry runners that were sent off and rooted that year.  To make transplanting strawberry runners easier, see the post on Strawberry Plant Propagation.  Whether you let the strawberry runners establish at will or guide them so that they establish into moveable pots or containers, the next section will deal with what to do next.

When to Transplant Strawberry Plants

So, when should you transplant strawberry plants?  If you purchase strawberry plants on the internet (see our directory of companies who offer Strawberry Plants for Sale Online or Buy Strawberry Plants by variety if you know which ones you want), you will likely be mailed the plants in the spring according to the recommended planting time for your hardiness zone.  If you get them in the spring, put them in the ground as soon as possible.

As it takes a while for the plants to establish themselves, foregoing the smaller crop during the subsequent growing season after planting will provide much larger harvests in following years (see the Growing Strawberries page for more details on removing flowers and runners).

If you already have an established bed, you should generally transplant strawberry runners that have already established themselves.  Carefully digging up the younger plants should be done in the fall.  Typically, late August is the best time to transplant for most of the zones in the United States.  However, in the warmer zones of the south, transplanting can be done later.  In the much cooler climates, transplanting strawberry runner plants can be done earlier.

By transplanting strawberry runner plants at this time (in late August), the yields obtained during the following growing season will be maximized.  Remember, however, that strawberry plant transplants can grow successfully at just about any time during the growing season as long as they are well-watered and have a hospitable growing location, but transplanting them during the hot summer months takes its toll on the plant.

How to Transplant Strawberry Plants

It is important to know how to transplant strawberry plants correctly so that they aren’t unnecessarily damaged and the stress to the transplant plants is minimized.

To transplant:

1.  Prepare your new location first.  Make sure it is hospitable, sunny, rich, sandy loam, well-drained with slightly acidic soil, generally well-suited for strawberry plants, and historically acceptable (see the Growing Strawberries page linked above for more on the best growing conditions and soil-history concerns).

2.  Select the strawberry plants you will be transplanting.  Generally, it is best to transplant established, young runner plants that are only a few months old.  Choose only strawberry plants that look healthy, and remove any flower buds, damaged or discolored leaves, and runners prior to transplanting.

3.  Obtain a substance or material that will hold moisture.  Sphagnum or peat moss is probably best, but something as simple as wet paper towels is usually sufficient.  It is very important to keep the roots of your transplant strawberries moist during the transplanting process.

4.  Dig up your selected and prepared runner plants (or other strawberry plants).  Take care to remove as much of the strawberry plant’s roots as possible from the ground (so that most of the roots are attached to the plant).  Once free of the ground, cover or wrap the roots with your moistened peat moss (or other selected moistener).

5.  Transplant strawberries to your new, prepared strawberry bed.  Do not dig up all the selected strawberry plants at one time and then try to plant them all at one time.  Transplant one strawberry plant at a time.  After each plant is in the ground at its new location, water it thoroughly before transplanting the next selected strawberry plant.  This minimizes stress and increases the probability of success.  Waiting until all the plants are transplanted before watering all the transplants simultaneously with a sprinkler or other apparatus may cause unnecessary plant loss.

Transplanting Strawberries: Systems

To maintain the vigor and production of your strawberry plants, you may want to utilize a strawberry transplanting system.  By transplanting strawberry plants to new strawberry beds each year, you can maintain three (or more) vigorous, well-producing beds.  The steps below can be modified to allow the strawberry plants to fruit for additional years or fewer years as desired.  By not transplanting each year, you can maintain the cycle with fewer strawberry beds.

Year 1: Transplant Strawberry Plants from Established Bed

If you ordered strawberry plants online or bought them from a local nursery and planted them in the spring, the strawberry bed likely won’t be established and into “Fruiting Year 1” until the following spring.  At the end of the first fruiting year (the first year of the strawberry transplanting cycle), transplant several of the healthy, well-established strawberry runner plants to a new bed (bed 2) in the fall.  Take care of your beds and winterize them as described on the Growing Strawberries page (link above).

transplant strawberries

Year 2: Two Fruiting Strawberry Beds, Another Fall Transplant

In year two of the system, the transplant strawberries in bed 2 will produce runners during their first fruiting year.  The strawberry plants in bed 1should produce a good crop as the strawberry plants will be in their second fruiting year.  You may need to thin the runner strawberry plants in bed 1 if they become too thick.  In the fall, transplant strawberry runner plants from bed 2 to a new bed (bed 3).  Overwinter all beds again.

strawberry transplanting

Year 3: Three Producing Beds, Another Transplanting Strawberries Session

Bed 1 is now in its third production year.  It is likely that these old plants will begin losing their productive capability soon.  Beds 2 and 3 should also provide ample harvests.  In the fall, transplanting strawberries occurs again.  Following the same pattern, runner plants from bed 3 are transplanted into bed 4 in the fall.  Also in the fall of year 3 after the strawberry plants in bed 1 have completely finished producing strawberries, they should all be removed.  After removing, the renewal process should begin and continue into year 4.

transplanting strawberries

Year 4: Renew the Bed Before Transplanting Strawberry Plants Again

The strawberry plants in bed 1 should have been removed after they were completely done producing fruit in year 3.  As soon as that occurred, bed renewal should begin.  Rich organic compost, aged manure, or other soil enhancers should be generously added and tilled in.  Either organic or non-organic fertilizers can be added as well.  Add rich organic matter 2-3 more times over the course of the spring and summer months of year 4.  In year 4, beds 2, 3, and 4 will produce a harvest while bed 1 is being renewed.  In the fall of year 4, transplant healthy runner plants from bed 4 back to bed 1.

As long as your plants remain disease-free, this system should provide ample harvests from three beds from strawberry plants in their prime production years.  By re-planting in the same beds, you do have an increased risk of your strawberry plants succumbing to one of the various strawberry plant diseases (reference the Strawberry Plant page at the link above for more details).

Once the transplant runner plants are in bed 1 again, the cycle restarts.  Barring disease and assuming sufficient nutrients are re-introduced and combined with the soil to properly nourish growing strawberry plants, this system should theoretically sustain a 3-bed berry harvest indefinitely.  The size of the beds are limited only by the gardener’s ability to maintain them!

transplanting strawberry plants

Transplanting Strawberry Plants: Conclusion

Hopefully this guide to strawberry plant transplanting has helped you.  You should now know why you should transplant strawberry plants, when you should transplant strawberry plants, how you should transplant strawberry plants, and that it is usually best to transplant strawberry runner plants that are young and healthy.  If you need extra help remembering which plants are old and which are runners within a bed, you can always use the cheap white plastic label stakes or Popsicle sticks to mark individual strawberry plants.

Hopefully, the strawberry transplanting system described will help accomplish your strawberry producing goals as well.  Good luck, and happy transplanting!

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131 comments to Transplanting Strawberries

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Steve,
    If it is just for a few days, I’d recommend just digging them up and leaving plenty of soil around the roots, wrapping them around the roots in moistened paper towels or moistened newspapers, and then placing them in a bin or tub (protected from the wind to prevent drying out) until you finish the bed. Then, re-plant them as soon as possible! Good luck!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Mike,
    Hello! You can take them with you, but you’ll have to overwinter them. Good luck!

  • Mr. Strawberry

    mike,
    It sounds like you have an interesting plan. I’ve not heard of anyone trying exactly that before, so be sure to let us know if it works. Good luck!

  • Steve

    I have been growing strawberries in my garden for about 7 years now with great success. We would like to raise the area they are in for better weed control and easier weeding and picking access. It will take about 3 days to build the new raised planting area and get it filled with dirt and ready for the plants. What’s the best way to hold the plants until the raised bed is ready?
    Thx – Steve

  • Mike

    Hello Mr. Strawberry,
    We’re moving and want to take our strawberries with us. It’s late October and were in Wisconsin. We won’t have a garden set up in the new house until spring. Can we dig up the strawberries and keep them in pots through the winter (outside under straw) and then plant in the spring? Or should we just pick a temporary spot to plant them this fall and move them again next spring? Thanks!

  • mike

    Now here’s a question…
    I’m in the UK – South West (usually wet and mild).
    I have some very good local June/early July cropping strawberries in a fruit cage (local variety but no idea of the name) and have tried late fruiting varieties but they simply don’t taste as good.
    I plan to refridgerate a number of suckers (potted up next month in horse manure – its what they like!) and keep them there until about March and then plant them out with the hope that they will develop later than the others and give me the same fruit – a month later!
    I’d appreciate your thoughts on this and suggestions on timings and anything else to give the best chance of success. Thanks.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    dianne,
    You can move them. See this link for more information on transplanting strawberries. Good luck!

  • dianne

    it is October here in Saskatchewan and my garden is being moved to new location next year there is good moisture can I move my strawberries to save them

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Jeannie,
    It sounds like you have a good plan in place! Different areas have different climates, so I would go ahead and transplant if that is what your local agricultural extension agent recommended. Good luck!

  • Jeannie

    First of all, thank you for the wonderful information I’ve read in previous posts. I moved to a new place last year and started a new garden. The first thing I planted were strawberries. They did not do well at all. So I am moving them to a sunnier location in a raised garden. I am using Ecoscraps natural and organic potting soil that Target started selling this year. It is really wonderful. It contains processed pine bark, perlite and compost(yard trimmings and food scraps). Do you think I need to add anything else to it? I am also glad that I read this article because my local extension said to transplant in early August. Now I will wait.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    al,
    You can let some of them grow in to form a matted row, essentially filling up your whole bed. If you transplant enough to fill the bed, or if your strawberry bed is already optimally filled with plants, just snip off new runners. Good luck!

  • al

    hi
    in year 2 you say transplant runners from bed 2.
    what you don’t say is what to do with runners from bed 1.
    same for subsequent years.
    thanks.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Rosie,
    Strawberries do much better when transplanted in September. You might want to review the information on the Growing Strawberries page to see if there is anything else that can be remedied to help your strawberry plants do better. Good luck, and I’m sorry to hear about the lost plants!

  • Rosie

    Dear Mr Strawberry, I have had a strawberry bed for 3 yrs. I need a raised bed because of health reasons now. Our summer temps have been very mild this yr. So I decided to transplant half of them during the first part of June. The weather here in Illinois has been very cool for June. I mixed top soil with sand and made sure they had plenty of water. The bed is about 4 to 6 inches deep with the soil. Unfortunately I have lost all the plants but maybe 8. Did I transplant at the wrong time or do something wrong? Please help. Very disappointed.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Gail,
    Yes. Oftentimes, the outer roots will appear a bit woody. Sometimes, runner remains and old stems can also appear that way and be mistaken for roots. Good luck!

  • Gail

    I am transplanting strawberries and the roots look very woody – is this usual?

  • Roy

    WE live in the south of Italy have strawberries for three months each year. Italians love their coffee and we have lots of coffee grounds. Thanks for the tip.
    Best wishes Roy

  • Mr. Strawberry

    chiru,
    You can order them from this page. Good luck!

  • chiru

    sir, i want straberry plants. tel me details of that.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Kerri,
    I’m glad the gardening “bug” has bitten! If you bought potted strawberries and the label on the strawberry plants you purchased from Wal-Mart said “fruit year 1,” that means that they were initially potted last year sometime. New plants or bare-root plants need a full winter before they are ready to produce maximally. If yours were planted last year, they are good to go! Just let them produce fruit! If you have planted them already this year, you should wait until the fall to re-transplant them. Toward the end of September, carefully dig them up and move them to your desired location. Good luck!

  • Kerri

    Hello. I am really knew to all this planting business. As a child my parents planted all types of things (mainly my dad) – plants, gardens, etc. and I use to laugh and tell my dad I would help but I wont enjoy it lol. Well I’m either old or it’s just hit me to enjoy it lol. Anyway, I rent a house so I’m trying to be careful of where I plant so I’m not told something like “not that area.” I did ask about planting but we really didn’t talk too much about guidelines. So my question is I just planted some strawberry plants – I’m not sure if they are june-bearing or ever-bearing. I bought them at Walmart and yes, I forget that fast! Anyway, that is really not my question *yet* but it might be next year. First question is I’m not totally sure what “fruit year 1″ means – is this actually a year after they were planted and have begun to produce strawberries or is this the actual first year they were planted and on their way to produce strawberries (hope this makes sense). Second, after seeing some plants tonight I decided I had made a mistake where I planted them and should in fact plant them somewhere else. I was glad to see this article said it’s actually good and beneficial to transplant strawberries but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand how soon is too soon and when they actually can be transplanted. For example, if I just planted them this year, can I transplant them next year? I don’t know how they all start but I can tell you (since I cannot remember which type they are) that it actually looked like a very small bulb with roots on both sides (*if* this helps).

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Debora,
    Great! Strawberries everywhere is a great problem to have! This should help you with the care of your strawberry plants: Growing Strawberries. Good luck!

  • Debora

    I left out the fact that this is the 3rd year since we had the original 3 plants. The first year we had no berries. The second year, with sixteen plants, we had a about 2 cereal bowls full of strawberries. This year there are strawberries everywhere.

  • Debora

    HI,
    I have an overcrowded raised garden bed that was left unattended last fall. We could not do anything with so we threw leaves and a net over it and left it alone until spring. We uncovered it about 3 weeks ago and 16 plants grew into about……alot. Because of rainy weather and illness, we could not get back to the bed until yesterday. It has flowered and green berries are everywhere. The leaves are tall and green. What do we do with it now? What should we be concerned about? Do we try to transplant? or Do we cut back leaves? and get more sun….we are clueless. Any help will be very appreciated.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Duncan,
    It isn’t foolproof as some plants grow more quickly than others, but looking at the crown can give a general idea of which plants are oldest. The plants with the largest crowns are generally older than plants with smaller crowns. Good luck getting everything sorted out with your strawberry patch!

  • Duncan

    I have a strawberry bed at least four years old with many layers of plants. Is there some easy way to differentiate the oldest from the youngest? I obviously need to transplant the youngest dispose of the oldest and give this bed a complete overhaul.I do get many early berries as is, but production ends fairly early in the year.

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Joelle Graham,
    Yes, you can just dig up the plants and transplant them, if you’d like to do so. Just be careful that you keep as many of the roots intact as possible and water right after moving/replanting them. More of the details on what should be done can be found on the growing strawberries page. For companion planting, see here: companion planting strawberries. Good luck!

  • Joelle Graham

    I have a round bed about 4ft in diameter of strawberry plants that was started a couple of years ago. Can’t remember exactly when. I have done nothing with it and now it is a crazy crowded mess of plants. I have no idea which plants are new or which are old. I want to do a couple of things. One – I want to put some flowers in the bed because it is in the Center of my front yard and I want a little more color. The strawberries went there when I was being lazy and bc with south exposure it was the absolute sunniest spot in my yard. Second I want to expand my strawberry production into beds. I am not a lot less lazy but now have a helper and have many new beds which cld use strawberries as ground cover.

    QN – can I just dig up big chunks and transplant them to my other beds?
    QN – are there any flowers perennial or annual that you wld most recommend I put in the round bed?
    QN – are there flowers which can’t go with the strawberries?

  • Mr. Strawberry

    Jody,
    If the plants are still dormant AND you are very careful, you can still get a good yield this year. And, strawberry plants are pretty resilient, so even if they are stressed during the move, they will still probably produce some fruit for you. You do need to move them as soon as possible, however! Good luck!

  • Jody

    Hi! I have strawberry plants from last summer in a bed that may be plowed over by a local farmer and so I need to move them. I live in Lancaster, PA near Philly….it’s April 1st and has been super cold until today, spring is starting remarkably late this year….flowering trees are weeks behind. Is it safe to transplant the strawberries into a newly prepared bed and still get a yield this season?

  • Straw Berry

    Akash,
    Adding coffee grounds to your strawberry bed or around the plants in pots can increase acidity. That is a fairly easy way for most, as most people drink coffee. Also, you can see here for more. Good luck!

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