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”

  1. I have strawberry plants in a ceramic strawberry Jell-O growing on my deck unfortunately I do not have a garage to overwinter them I don’t really want to take them inside is there anything else I can do with them to keep them alive for the spring

    • Barbara Cramer,
      It depends on your agricultural zone. If you live where it is warm enough, you can get by with doing nothing. If you live in a moderately cold winter zone, you can keep them alive by wrapping them in an insulating material and keeping them close to a house wall. If you live in a very cold winter zone, they’ll likely die regardless. Good luck!

  2. I really want my strawberries to love me. If any one has any tips on what strawberries love, please let me know. Mine are in a terra cotta strawberry pot and I am already worried it is too small, plus they are on a windy balconey, plus it is still mid April in Vermont and does get down below 32 degrees at night some times.

  3. Mrs. Strawberry

    I live in Ohio zone 6a/6b and will be planting strawberries for the first time. I have been reading a lot and love the site. I have a few questions that I couldn’t find answers to. I’m going to plant in a 4’x4′ raised bed. Would it be better to design the bed as a flat square or make vertical tiers in the bed and how many should I plant if I’m going to allow runners to grow? Also I plan to sacrifice the first season and pinch off the flowers and allow runners to grow. Is this okay or does allowing the runners to grow negate the energy saved from not fruiting? Finally if it’s okay to let the runners grow at what point if any, should I cut the daughter from the mother plant? I look forward to you reply. Thanks Nick S.

    • Nick S.,
      You can either have the bed flat or tiered. As long as you have adequate drainage, both will work equally well. A lot of folks prefer the tiered approach or “strawberry pyramid” layout as it segments the growing area, helps keep track of runner plants, and makes reaching the center part easier to reach when picking strawberries. If you are going to let runners root to form a matted row-type bed, the details can be found here. The plant spacing is shown in the diagram if you follow that link. Thanks for visiting the site, and good luck!

    • mike tanguay,
      It depends on your climate. If the temperature in the greenhouse stays reasonably warm in your location, all you may need to do is make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. If the plants are potted (not in-ground), you’ll need to place insulating material around their containers if you are in a very cold location. Good luck!

  4. Thanks for your great page! We were given some strawberry plants from a garden that someone is getting ready to winter. It’s October in East TN, which has weird weather. We will be 65 one day and sleet the next, then days of below freezing with wind then a week of 45. So, I have not only strawberries that I need to transplant, I need to winter them. I do not have a bed prepared because I wasn’t expecting them. I think we will put them in plastic window boxes and mount those in the spring to fencing to keep rabbits out. So, put them in the window boxes, cover them with a towel, put them against an inside wall in the garage (unheated) and water once a month? Thanks again!

    • Cat J,
      Yes, as long as the soil stays slightly moist so the roots don’t dry out, that sounds like an acceptable plan! Good luck!

  5. Hey I have a question. This is my first yr w strawberries (any plants really) and I started w 3 poted plants, and now have well… alot. Lol they just keep giving more plants. I know they yield less fruit this way but I’m ok w that. Hoping next season to get them in a planter box :). Anyway my question is. On one plant it has a couple of RED leaves (fall is here and they are beautiful) so I started looking into wintering them. I thought mulch on top of them. But w more research… oops pots = indoor wintering. Ok. Great. Question when do I bring them in? I am in Sout Carolina. Day time 70s night is prob in the 40s??? I dont want to bring them in too soon but I’m afraid I will keep em out too long and damage them. Help! Again this isy first “garden” I plan to expand next year depending on how these beautiful plants go. Lol thanks in advance for your help.

    • Amanda,
      In South Carolina you don’t really need to bring the pots in for the winter. In fact, you likely don’t have to do any special care for them at all. Unless the temperature is going to drop into the teens for a while, just keeping them outside against a wall of your home will likely keep them cozy enough until the weather warms and spring calls them forth again. Good luck!

  6. Bancroft Ont is in a 3B hardiness zone, winter temps can hover around minus 30 F for weeks. Will potted berries survive if kept in a dark porch next to an outside wall of the basement? Or better to bring into an unheated dark room inside the house? Thanks, Dan

    • An unheated dark room would work, but if you wrap the pots/containers with an insulating material, the radiant heat from the wall of the house may also allow them to survive if it is relatively sheltered. Good luck!

  7. Greetings-

    I’m in Colorado, about 30 miles south of Denver – zone 5b. I have about 70 plants (3:1 mix of Tribute and Ft. Laramie) in twelve 24″ x 12″ x 4″ containers – the type meant to straddle 2×6 deck rails. (The 4″ dimension is soil depth; they extend another 3″ down on either side of the deck rails and have drain holes along the lower edges).

    I expect nighttime temps to drop into the 20s by mid-November and will overwinter the plants in my unheated garage after they go dormant. My plan is to cobble together some racks out of cinderblocks and 2×6 lumber, to minimize space consumption while making it easy to toss some snow on them once in a while.

    How important is light (or lack thereof) during overwintering? The garage has a couple of large windows on the west wall, plus windows on the roll-up doors. It’s only “dark” in there when it’s dark outside. During the day, especially afternoon, the garage gets quite a bit of natural light.

    Should I drape something over my racks of containers? I’m thinking of a woven landscape mesh that will block most light, that will allow some air circulation, and that I can easily lift off for adding snow.

  8. Mr. Strawberry,
    I have a large container on my patio with strawberry plants in it. This was the 2nd summer for these strawberries. Unfortunately, the plants only put out a handful of strawberries back in early June. I was very disappointed to say the least. I had stopped by a local nursery to pick their brains about the lack of yield I had this summer. The lady there told me that strawberries grown in containers don’t typically produce alot of fruit compared to those growing in the ground. She also asked me if I had fertilized my strawberry plants last fall before winter set in. I had never heard of doing this. Why would you fertilize a plant that is about to die from the coming cold months? If this is true, when do I fertilize? Now, that the plant is still green and alive, or do I wait for it to curl up and die after winter hits? It should be noted that I leave this container outside on my patio uncovered and exposed to the snow and elements all winter long. It survived fine this way last winter and grew back really nice this past spring, so I really didn’t have to baby it at all to keep it alive. It survived! Also, what fertilizer, if any, do I use for this fall fertilization?

  9. I did not “mow” my strawberries when it should have been done. How should I proceed? The plants are still growing well with excellent foliage. We live in Oregon. Should I still trim them back now or let them go and cover if it gets very cold?

    • Bailie,
      At this point, I’d recommend you leave them be until the plants enter dormancy when the weather cools. At that point, gently snip the dead/wilted foliage from the crowns and carefully rake out of the bed prior to mulching. Good luck!

    • Julie,
      Yes, after the plants enter dormancy, all the dead/wilted foliage should be removed. Do take care not to damage the crown at soil level, however. Good luck!

    • Vicky Weibel,
      Not a big one. Your plants should still give you strawberries next year, just not as many as you’d likely have harvested if you’d pinched the flowers. Good luck!

  10. Hello,

    I live in Alaska and I have several strawberry plants that I would like to try and save this winter. They are in rain gutters on a wooden frame (elevated about 2′). We can remove the gutters from the frame. I am not sure the best way to store them over winter. Zone 3-5 temps. It is frequently very windy where I live in the winter, and temps can range from -30F to 30F during the winter, with 0-10F average temp. I have a heated garage (avg temp 55-60F) and an unheated greenhouse. I can also try to dig a ditch and bury the gutters and mulch with hay. What is your advice to store these plants over winter? Thank you!

    • Christine,
      If you purchased a cold-hardy variety, which I am assuming you did, I’d remove the gutters from the frame and store them in the greenhouse, mulched, in a shallow trench, if you can. That will mitigate somewhat both the wind and temperature. Good luck!

  11. We live in zone 6, sometimes it gets down to zub-zero but not often. Strawberries are in a raised bed, aka 10″ tall 1.5′ wide box. How do I keep them safe during the winter?

    • Kimberley,
      The plants may do well without any protection at all if you have a mild winter. If the forecast calls for temps in the teens, you’ll need to provide extra insulation to your raised bed. More clean straw will usually do the trick. Good luck!

  12. I have strawberries in my garden, but they’re spreading into the yard. I was thinking of transplanting these into some big containers (like window-box sized) and wintering them in my unheated mud room, then giving them to friends to transplant in the spring. Or transplanting in pots, or another section of the garden. Do you think this would work?

    • Laura,
      Yes, it will probably work as long as you keep them by a wall of the house and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Good luck!

  13. Hello,
    I live in the far far north and have very cold long winters. I do have a greenhouse that I use in the summer for my tomatoes. Can I use the greenhouse for my strawberries that are in containers for storage during the winter months? If I put them in the greenhouse and cover them with a tarp to keep them dormant, do you think this is sufficient for the strawberries to survive?
    thanlks

    • Jon,
      It might, but the tarp may trap moisture which could facilitate fungal infection and damage or kill your plants. Good luck!

  14. Hi! We live at 7,000+ in western Wyoming in Zone 3. I have Ever-bearing Strawberry plants in my small greenhouse. I would like to winter them over in our unheated garage. But how cold it too cold??? -20? -30? What are your thoughts?

    The plants are doing well in hanging pots but I feel they need more room and should possibly be transplanted. Should I do this before wintering over or next spring? Plus, there are many runners that need to be planted. Should I plant these runners now? And if so, what are the very best type of containers for strawberries? I know they are more “shallow rooted” and do not need deep pots but what are the best dimensions for containers that you have found in your experience? Thanks for the help!!

    • Catherine,
      -20 to -30 degrees would very likely cause damage to your plants, especially if they are in pots. They *might* survive if you plant them in the ground and then mulch very heavily/thickly. They would definitely be able to expand more if transplanted into the ground. The major issue with containers is space. Strawberry plants like to spread out so they run out of room fairly quickly in pots. Another issue with pots is insulation. Especially with hanging baskets, there is very little protection from the elements, so the roots can freeze through and kill the plants. Biggest and deep is best as far as containers go. The deepness is important for insulation more than anything else. You specific plants might survive in the garage if they are by a wall that bleeds some heat from the interior of the home. Transplantation should be done be now for zone 3, with the end of September being the latest you should attempt it. Good luck!

  15. I have my strawberries in a raised bed that is 32 inches tall inside a green house that is maintained no lower than 60’F during the winter because I raise tomatoes during the winter.

    Keeping them at this temperature does not allow them to go into dormancy does it?

    Would you recommend moving them outside the greenhouse. I live in South Texas (Zone 9)

    Thanks in advance

    • Kim F,
      It is unlikely that they would go into dormancy if the temperature stays at 60 degrees. Moving them outside should do the trick. Good luck!

  16. Similar to Billy, I have 2 (well, maybe four if I set all the runners :-)) large hanging baskets (18″ wire baskets with coir lining). We planted the baskets a few months ago – one with 3 Albion plants, and one with 3 Seascape (I think that was the name) plants. In the center of each basket we put dolomite and a slow-release fertilizer (same stuff used in Earthboxes) which resulted in some pretty healthy plants. Didn’t know we were supposed to pinch off the flowers first year, so got a fairly decent crop anyway 🙂

    Now… winterizing. I don’t have ground to bury the baskets (or just the plants) in — we’re in a townhouse. No garage, but a covered carport. We’re in a zone 7 area (Burnaby/Coquitlam, outside of Vancouver).

    What do you think my best option is?
    – remove plants from baskets around November and plant them in containers and leave outside on the deck
    – leave them in their baskets, and put the baskets against the front wall of the house (under the carport)
    – build a cabinet under the carport, large enough to hold the baskets on shelves (so, say 4’High x 2’Deep x 2′-4′ wide), and close the cabinet (so no light gets in)
    – something else?

    If you got all the way through that, great 🙂 Any pointers you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Jay

    • Jay,
      If you are in Zone 7, you can probably get by with keeping your plants on the deck up against a house wall. If the temperatures are expected to drop into the teens, you can wrap old towels around them to provide a bit more insulation. But, there is likely going to be enough heat seepage/protection at the house wall to keep them alive and well until next spring. Good luck!

    • billy,
      You can wrap them and keep them outside or put them in an unheated garage. Just don’t forget to water periodically if you put them in the garage. Good luck!

  17. We have an unusual situation, I think. We live in zone 4, high altitude in the mountains of Colorado. We have everbearing strawberries in our greenhouse. We have a heated garage (around 50 degrees) and hope to overwinter there. Will that temperature keep our strawberries dormant?

    • Jan,
      In the absence of light, it might be. However, with light coming through windows, they would likely not stay dormant. I’m sorry!

  18. Hello, I have an allotment and have strawberry plants in the polytunnel, I am going to grow the runners on in some guttering, will they be ok in the polytunnel over winter or will they need additional protection?
    Lorraine Watson Yorkshire England

    • Lorraine Watson,
      It depends on the coldest temperatures. If the temps drop down into the teens, you’d need to wrap the gutters with extra protection to prevent cold injury. Good luck!

  19. I live in Portugal’s sunny south. Snow and freezing temperatures are unknown here. Do I water my potted strawberries in winter? Thanks for any advice you can give me.

    • Bernard,
      If they are outdoors, you shouldn’t need to water them as precipitation will provide enough moisture. If they are sheltered, you will need to water them. Good luck!

  20. Mr. Strawberry
    This is my 1st year with my potted strawberries but am concerned about Michigan winters. We don’t have a garage and live in an apt. Really would like to winter them if possible. Would they be okay on a patio?

    • Charlotte,
      They might be. You’ll need to apply some extra protection around the pot and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out during the winter months. Placing the pot directly against house wall can help as well. Good luck!

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