Overwintering Strawberries

overwintering strawberriesStrawberries are a delightful treat for thousands of home gardeners every year.  The sweet rush of flavor that comes after sampling the distinctive aromatic profile makes for a truly rewarding experience early in the growing season.  Strawberries are one of the first fruits to be harvested in virtually every temperate region of the world, and the life cycle of the strawberry plant is uniquely suited to bearing an early crop.

Usually before spring even arrives, the strawberry plants are coaxed from their long winter’s slumber by rising temperatures and burst forth from dormancy in a fevered rush of vegetative production on their journey to setting a nice harvest of berries for the gardener who lavished care on them.  But, in most areas, winter poses a real threat to the life of the little forbs.

This post will help you successfully overwinter strawberries so that YOU can enjoy that first burst of juicy strawberry fruits each and every spring.

How to Overwinter Strawberry Plants in the Ground

overwintering strawberry plantsStrawberries are relatively small plants, but they have a big productive capability.  Due to their small size and easy adaptability, they make great ground plants and container plants.  How to overwinter strawberries in containers will be discussed in the next section.  Here the basics of overwintering strawberry plants in the ground will be briefly discussed.  Extensive details on caring for strawberry plants can be found on the comprehensive Growing Strawberries reference page.

Overwintering strawberries in the ground is relatively simple.  Strawberries are cold hardy, for the most part, and will survive mildly freezing temperatures without much problems.  So, in areas with mild winters, little to no care may be required.  However, in more northern (or southern for the Southern Hemisphere) regions, extra care will be required.  That care takes the form of mulching.

Strawberry plants must have protection when the temperature drops into the low twenties.  Once that temperature has been reached (usually in December), the plants should be in their dormant stage.  At that point, it is time to overwinter them by mulching.  For most regions, a mulch of straw or pine needles two or three inches thick is sufficient, but in colder regions more insulating mulch should be added.  Again, more specifics about in-ground overwintering strawberries is available on the reference page mentioned above and on this page: How to Mulch Strawberry Plants for the Winter.

How to Overwinter Strawberries in Containers

overwinter strawberriesOverwintering container strawberries takes a bit more effort than overwintering in the ground, but it is still easily accomplished.  Added difficulty comes from the susceptibility of containers to heat transmission.  Terracotta pots and strawberry planters (as well as plastic ones and Topsy Turvy planters) do not have the added protection of extensive amounts of insulating soil surrounding the potting soil and potted strawberry.  Because of this, container strawberries are much more at risk of freezing to death outside and must be further sheltered from the elements during the biting cold of winter.

The easiest way to do this is to simply put the pot or container in an unheated garage near an internal wall.  This will allow the dormant plant the protection it needs to survive.  And, the prolonged darkness in the garage will actually help maintain dormancy.  Covering with a towel or other opaque material can also help in that respect.

When the temperatures start to warm, simply take the containers back outside for the next growing season.  The rising temperatures will revive the plants from dormancy, and production will commence again.

Watering Overwintered Strawberries

Just as with storing bare-root strawberry plants, your overwintered strawberries still have to have appropriate water.  Totally dry soil means dead plants.  Too much moisture can also be fatal.  During the cold temperatures and while the plant is dormant, only minimal water is needed.

For outdoor, in-ground, and mulched overwintering strawberry plants, the natural precipitation should appropriately maintain sufficient soil moisture.  For the container plants, however, water will have to be provided.  The easiest way to provide appropriate water is to collect snow from outside and throw a handful or two on top of the soil.  The slightly warmer temperatures in the garage should slowly melt the snow allowing a more natural seepage into the container soil.  Doing this periodically (about once a month) should sufficiently moisten the soil and allow the plants to thrive again come spring.

Benefits of Overwintering Strawberries

There are numerous benefits to be had by overwintering strawberries.  Here are some of them:

Overwintering Strawberry Plants Is Natural

Strawberry plants have a dormant phase for a reason.  It increases their life span!  Strawberry plants can be kept inside at warmer temperatures all year round, but this essentially causes the plants to never “sleep” and drastically reduces the overall life span of the plant.

Overwintering Strawberries Maximizes Production

Strawberry plants are perennial by nature.  Letting them go dormant during the winter as nature would have it allows for maximal production from each plant.  Since strawberry flowers should be pinched during year one for spring plantings, the second, third, fourth, and even sometimes fifth years are where production really comes on strong.  Protecting dormant plants during the winter yields much more production following.

Overwinter Strawberries to Save Money

If you overwinter strawberry plants successfully, you don’t have to buy them again the following year.  And, since they’ll live longer, you don’t have to replenish them as often either.  Plus, since overwintered strawberry plants are more productive than plants that are never allowed to go dormant, you get to eat more of your own strawberries; and that means you’ll be saving money by not buying strawberries at the grocery store or farmers market.

It Is Fun to Overwinter Strawberry Plants

And, lastly, it is just plain fun to overwinter strawberries!  They don’t suffer cold injury, and it brings a true green thumb at least a modicum of satisfaction knowing that his plants are kindly looked after.  So, save yourself the work of replanting new plants each year and overwinter strawberries henceforth.

Overwintering Strawberries: Conclusion

overwinter strawberriesHopefully, you are now equipped whether you needed to know how to overwinter strawberries in containers or how to overwinter strawberry plants in the ground.  Following the advice on this page and elsewhere on this site will help keep your plants productive year after year.  So, have fun, save money, and maximize your harvest!  And, if you have any strawberry-related questions, feel free to leave a comment.  Good luck!

227 thoughts on “Overwintering Strawberries”

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  1. you said at one point to water the strawberry at what point do you think i should water the plant and allowing it thrive again as in spring,also would porch do if i cover the plant w/a towel i live in illinois i just want my strawberry to survive the winter i have them in a container

    • pamelal l poehling,
      You need to water your strawberry plants periodically throughout the winter just to make sure they do not die from dehydration while they are dormant. In spring, you can water them regularly as soon as the weather warms and the ground thaws. They can also survive on your porch as long as you insulate them adequately enough. Towels will often work sufficiently. Good luck!

  2. I have container strawberry plants and live in Minnesota. My garage is detached, so there is no internal wall for minimal warmth. Is it better to dig container-sized holes in my small garden and overwinter them in the ground (then dig back out in spring), or to try insulating them somehow in my garage?

  3. I have about 80 beautiful and healthy strawberry plants that I started growing this spring in 5″ deep rectangular plastic containers. The temperatures are starting to dip into the high twenties at night (I live in Durango, CO) and I’ve noticed that the top few inches of the soil freezes and then thaws again in the daytime. Will the freeze-thaw cycle damage the plants? The leaves are still completely green, with no sign that the plants are going into dormancy. Should I bring the containers indoors now, or wait until the leaves turn brown?

    • JEAN RICHARDS,
      Once the temperatures drop into the upper 20’s for several consecutive, your plants will go dormant. When that happens, you should remove the dead/wilted leaves and then protect them from the more extreme temperatures. Good luck!

  4. Hi – I live in Colorado and have fragaria hybrid strawberry plants in containers. This will be my first attempt at overwintering. Should the plants be cut back before moving them to the garage? If so, by how much? Thanks for the info here. Very helpful!

    • Patty,
      Wait until the plants enter dormancy. The vegetative material at the top will wilt and shrivel. Once that occurs, snip it all off or remove it from the top of the soil. Just be careful not to damage or snip into the crown at soil level. cutting each wilted leaf 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the crown will be fine. Good luck!

  5. I have several containers of strawberry plants that I would like to winterover. They are glazed pottery “strawberry” pots, the type with several side pockets. I live in Minnesota, and I’m concerned that the pots will crack with the freeze-thaw cycle if left in the garage full of soil. I’ve had this happen with unglaze terra cotta pots in the past. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • Laurel,
      The soil in your pots should have enough pockets of air and other compactable material to allow the residual water to expand as it freezes without doing damage to your pot. Unless you fill the pot completely with water, or you have hidden pockets of water inside the walls of your pot, it should do fine through the winter without cracking in your garage. The temperature may make the terra cotta more brittle, however, so do take extra care when handling. Good luck!

  6. Do day neutral and/or everbearing strawberries require a period of dormancy? Could I have a couple plants in containers in a sunny place indoors during the winter, and outside in temperate months and still have plants last a few seasons? Thank you.

    • Rocky,
      They do not have to have a period of dormancy, but their lifespans will be shortened without them. They should still last 2-3 years, though. Good luck!

  7. I live in Wisconsin. Zone 5b. If I order plants now I wont get them here and planted until the first of October. Is this too late to plant them outside or should I use some other method? Any help would be appreciated.

    • jessica,
      As long as you get them in the ground right away, they still should survive and have time during the warmer days to establish their roots prior to next spring. Good luck!

  8. I have some pineberry plants in a planter that I want to overwinter. I have the perfect location for them when I need to bring them in but I’m curious when I should actually bring them in. Should I let the first frost hit them and bring them in when the temperatures remain close to freezing at night?

    • Sarah,
      Yes, the strawberry plants should be dormant. In other words, the temperatures should be in the upper 20s at night for a few nights in a row. That will typically induce dormancy. Then, you can overwinter them as discussed above. Good luck!

  9. I live in Alaska and would like to try and over winter my strawberry plants. Do I need to leave them out until the first frost? Our trees are turning and the first frost should be soon. I have a room that is not heated in our basement that I can store the plants in.

    Thank you for all the information that I have gleaned from your site!
    Vicky

    • Vicky,
      You just want to make sure the plants are dormant. Usually, it takes temperatures in the 20s to induce dormancy, so if you get a mild frost in the lower 30s, I’d wait until it gets just a tad bit cooler. Good luck!

  10. I ordered ornamental “toscana” potted strawberries that will ship mid sept. Surely young plants. I planned to put them in containers. In zone 5a. I could put them by the foundation on the south side (or any side really) of the house over winter. I could try putting the containers inside larger ones with added insulation. Or I have a basement, but it stays fairly warm with my house. Will either work, should I have to bury the containers in the ground?

    • Rocky,
      Each of those methods might work, but if you try them, be sure to monitor the temperature and provide extra protection if it is going to get too cold. Good luck!

  11. I have many strawberry plants, the garden needs to be thinned out. I would like to save the plants that I have thinned out and replant them or give them to friends next spring. When I bought them from the store, they came from in a hole filled plastic bag filled with sawdust. Can I store them like that over the winter?

    • Shelly,
      You can store them that way, but it is more difficult to keep them healthy/mold-free. Storing bare-root plants is not as easy or as good for your plants as keeping them in soil throughout their dormancy during the winter months. Good luck!

  12. Runners? They make new plants! I have a container plant in Minnesota. It has lots of vines. I want to winter it in the garage. Do I start new plants now and will the babies survive the garage process>

    • Mila Minnesota,
      Yes, if you root the daughter plants now, they should survive the winter with appropriate care. Good luck!

  13. I have plants in a strawberry Topsy turvy planter. If I bring them in for the winter how often should I water and how much water each time? Or could I wrap it with a towel or blanket outside.

    • Sheila,
      Depending on your climate, you might need to do both. If it doesn’t get too cold, just bringing them inside a garage near a house wall will be enough. As to water, water them just enough to keep the soil from drying out completely. Wrapping with a towel or blanket will provide an extra measure of insulation. Good luck!

  14. I was considering the guttered strawberries for commercial purposes. I have one question, maybe Mr. Strawberry knows the answer to this. If you removed the gutters from there raised position and in the winter time placed the gutters on the ground and hoed up soil on both sides of the gutters would the added soil give the roots the protection/insulation it needs if the whole gutter was underground or at the dirt was at least level with the plant?

    • Ryan G.
      Yes, if you piled enough soil on the sides to simulate them being underground, that would provide insulation. However, you would also need to cover the tops with a generous amount of some sort of mulch as well. Clean straw works well. Good luck!

  15. I live in Colorado and overwintered my strawberries in containers in the garage. I…forgot to water them and only watered them once. BUT, it looks like there’s a little bit of life in them in the very center. I took them outside and watered them well and put them in the sun ,and cut off all the dead branches. What would a plant that’s still alive look like? It just looks like there’s a tiny little bit of green in the very middle that feels soft instead of crunchy. Is there hope for my plants? How soon will I know?

    • Sarah,
      You’ve done everything you can at this point. If they will revive, they should begin to do so soon. However, it is likely that their conditions over the winter months have stressed them to the point where it would probably be best to start with new plants. The stressed plants are unlikely to achieve their old level of vigor, even if they do manage to survive. Either way, good luck!

  16. I’m interested in planting my strawberries in rain gutters this time but I’m not sure what to do with them in the winter months. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada where the winters are very cold. What do you suggest? Thank you very much.

    • Karen Barnes,
      During the winter months, you’ll need to use extra insulation to keep them alive if you plant in gutters. Without the natural insulation of the soil, the roots/crowns have a tendency to freeze. So, one tact that you can take is to keep the plants in their gutters in a garage near a wall. Second, you’ll need to completely wrap the gutters with a towel or other insulating material. This can be tedious, however, as the insulation will need to be removed periodically so that the soil can be watered. If the soil dries completely out during winter, the plants will die just as surely as if they succumbed to the cold. Good luck!

  17. Darn! With this one second year strawberry plant should I just let it produce flowers and berries as it wants or should I worry about trimming things back as you do with first year plants?

    • Rachel,
      If there is room to expand or you want to save the runner plants for next year, just let it be. You may want to make them easier to move later by helping the runners establish themselves in little pots of some sort. Once they are established, you can snip the runners and move them anywhere you’d like. If you don’t want to have more plants and are only looking to get as many berries as possible, snip all the runners. As the plant is a second-year plant, don’t cut the flowers. Those will be your strawberries! Good luck!

  18. How long does it usually take winterized pot grown strawberry plants to bounce back to life after spending the winter in the dark basement? Trying o figure out if most of mine are goners or if I should give them a little more time. One is sending out leaves but the other three are still brown and crunchy after being outside for about 2 weeks. Thoughts?

    • Rachel,
      If the three don’t start putting out leaflets in the next week, I’d replace them. More than likely, they are dead. Sorry!

  19. I am ready to bring my strawberries back outside from overwintering. I am not sure what to do with the dried leaves that ate still hanging on from last summer. Should I leave them be or prune them off? They are pretty crunchy and I don’t know if they will interfere with new growth. Please advise. Thanks!

  20. I am thinking of growing strawberries in a pyramid raised bed in Minnesota. What is the best way to winter them or should I consider a different method in such a cold region?

  21. I planted 30 crowns this year, spread to over 100, pinched off all the flowers. I hadn’t mulched yet, some nights temps have gotten to mid-high 20’s but we’ve had days in 40’s and 50’s. The deer munched all the leaves off my plants (and uprooted some) last night! I mulched with straw this morning, is there hope for berries (or even live plants) next year?

    • Shelly,
      Absolutely! Except for the plants the deer destroyed, it sounds like you are doing things right. I’d expect a bountiful harvest this spring! Good luck!

  22. I have both container strawberries, as well as a ground plot in a 10″ high 3 ft x 8 ft frame. It;s late October and the ground ones are still producing, but also covering every square inch inside the frame (which is covered with chicken wire to deter birds). How much do the plants need to be cut back before winter, and then straw mulching? It seems there are runners everywhere. It’s a great sea of green now, but I want them to be healthy in the spring. Thanks.

  23. Hi,
    I have some strawberries in containers I just bought from Burpee, (2 purple wonder, 1 sweet charlie, and 1 jewel) they are still very young and the frost should be coming soon (zone 7, northern Nevada). The winter’s here are pretty unpredictable, we didn’t get snow till spring and it snowed in June. However, the temperature’s during the winter were freezing (like 16 degrees fahrenheit in the early morning) I moved to a town house and we don’t have a garage to put the strawberry plants in, I was wondering how I could overwinter my plants without a garage? I do have access to some pine mulch, and I’ve been looking for some straw to buy, but so far I haven’t been able to find any. Any help/suggestions? Thanks!

    • Chelsea,
      If you are going to plant them in the ground next year (or ever), go ahead and do it now. Then, you can mulch them to protect them through the winter. If you plan on leaving them in the pots, you can simulate an over-wintering environment for them by digging a pot-sized hole in the ground and lowering the plant (pot and all) into the hole. Then, mulch around and on top of the pot for the winter. See here for more: Mulching Strawberry Plants for Winter. Good luck!

  24. good day,
    I have an elevated bed with strawberry plants that have produced fruit all summer ( 2012 ). last week, end of September, I decided to transplant them to another bed. I have 2 questions?

    1) most of the leaves are chewed – what should I do ? what should I do to stop this mottling ?

    2)some of the roots are very long 3 to 4 inches and I decided to cut some of them in half leaving one or two inches of roots. What should be the proper way to handle this procedure ?

    Thank you very much for your reply and your help 🙂
    Janet
    PS: we leave in Nova Scotia Canada

    • Janet Thiebaut,
      You likely can’t stop the mottling if it is the normal dying off of old leaves or the transition into dormancy. Just remove the dead growth to minimize the risk of fungal infection or other diseases. I would also leave the roots alone. The more roots, the more nutrients will be absorbed and the quicker the plant will be established in its new location. See also: Transplanting Strawberries. Good luck!

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