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 live in Sacramento, CA, and used straw bales for strawberry plants last summer. They stayed in the bales overwinter. Though the bales have somewhat collapsed the plants have multiplied and are very green but no flowers. I would like to leave them in place for the coming summer. What do I need to do to keep them healthy and productive this summer?

    • Jim D.,
      I’d start here! Also, with the straw bale method of growing strawberries, you might want to fertilize, if you haven’t yet. As the hay decomposes, the plants can sometimes become nutrient deficient and produce smaller or fewer strawberries. Good luck!

  2. I use the square foot gardening method and live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have raised beds that sit counter top height off the ground. I planted an 4′ x8′ box last year with strawberries. They did great last year and produced tons of runners. We did not let them fruit. When they went dormant I covered the box with straw. I took the straw off when it started to warm up a few weeks ago. Plants are showing no signs of life. It’s now late April still nothing and it has been nice and warm. I am afraid I lost them. They should be growing by now correct? The boxes are 2×6 wood around the sides. I may try again and insulate the boxes on the bottom and sides, and straw in heavier. Can you use black plastic over the top or will this be to hot on sunny days? I could also use clear plastic and create a green house effect as well. Any thoughts?

    • Terry,
      If you had cold enough weather this winter, it is likely that they died. Beds that are raised off the ground are similar to potted plants (or other containers). This might help. Also, this coming winter, it would be good to insulate all around the plants if they will still be raised. If possible, you can lower the raised bed to the ground and cover with straw, allowing the ground to provide some of the bottom insulation. Good luck!

    • Robert Tatro,
      Usually you remove it once the night-time temperatures are going to stay in the high twenties or higher. However, the temperatures have been erratic this year more than usual. It is likely that things will cool off again before warmer temperatures arrive and stick around for good. So, I’d leave them mulched for the time being. Good luck!

  3. I grow my strawberries hydroponically. How should I prepare and store the plants when the temps finally drop below freezing in Texas? Remove them from the system and cover with mulch? I have considered leaving the system running with a tank warmer and small hoop tunnel.

    • David Hill,
      If you can keep the plants warm in a hoop tunnel and with a tank warmer, they will likely survive better than trying to remove them, pot them/mulch them, etc. I’d try the option you suggested first. Good luck!

  4. I was going to winterize my strawberry plants but it’s the end of December and today the temps are in the 70’s. I looked at the plants but most ask the leaves are still lush and green, should I go ahead and winterize them out wait a little longer? I live in northern central Kentucky. The winter here is very unpredictable from year to year. Should I wait another few weeks, fit I’m sure we’ll have colder weather still and some on late spring this year?

    • DeForrest,
      If the leaves are still lush and green, you should wait prior to winterizing/mulching them. Give them a few weeks more, and they will go dormant. Winterize then! Good luck!

  5. It’s me again. I have the upcycled BBQ. We got a cold snap. Snow today I was out looking at my strawberry plants and have more then 8 plants in this BBQ. Is winter a safe time to transplant ever bearing strawberries? I would like to transplant to hanging containers and get rid of the BBQ as the birds like to try to tip it over. They have tipped it once already.

  6. I’m in Zone 5b and my strawberry plant has been acting weird; it JUST occurred to me that it may be trying to go dormant as the daylight shortens (my strawberry plant and I are from Florida). My question is this: I just watered it, soaked the soil like I usually do, so should I wait to put it in the garage until the soil has dried out a bit? I don’t want the roots to rot.

    • Sarah,
      Yes, once you move a potted plant to the garage, you need to make sure that the soil stays just moist and never waterlogged. Good luck!

  7. I read that it’s best to thin strawberries. Mine are all together with no space between. How do I know which ones to pull since the plants spread but are still connected.
    Thanks!

    • Diann,
      If your plants are young, thin them to about 3 plants per square foot. If they are old (3-4 years), try to selectively remove the older plants as they will start to decline in vigor soon. Good luck!

  8. I am in zone 6a. I have strawberry plants near the house on the west side. Last year I covered them with burlap because I was afraid the nearby deer and rabbits would eat them over the winter. Do I need to do that to protect them from the cold or is there an easier way?
    Thank you!

    • Diann,
      In zone 6a, a generous covering of clean straw should do the trick just fine. They will go dormant over the next few weeks (if they haven’t already) and the vegetation will die back to the crown. Since the leaves die back, the wildlife will usually leave them alone (moles/voles and chipmunks can damage the roots and squirrels will sometimes dig at them). Good luck!

  9. I was stupid and upcycled an old BBQ. I started with 5 plants and now have 8 but its november and I am still getting fruit. How and when do i overwinter them? I am in zone 8B. Should i just leave them along or what?

    • JONI,
      In zone 8b, I would let the plants continue to produce as long as they will and enjoy the fruits of labor! Also, unless you have a very significant cold snap, you can likely go the winter without mulching. Just remove the dead/shriveled leaves once the plants go dormant. Good luck!

  10. Hello!
    I just received 50 bare root Tribute strawberry plants from Starkbros. I live in a 5a zone in South Dakota.
    I was going to plant these in a half whisky barrel just for the winter and then separate them this coming spring. I was going leave this outside for the winter since we don’t have room in the garage. So, I thought maybe I could wrap burlap around the barrel with space to stuff hay around and on top of the barrels. Do you think this will help keep my plants shielded from the cold?

    Thank you

    • Des,
      It is possible. You will definitely need a bit of extra insulation with an above-ground planter, but if you insulate it enough and place it so that it can benefit at least a little bit from the ambient heat of your home (put it adjacent to a wall), they could do fine. Good luck!

  11. Two years ago I ordered organic strawberry (8 plants) on-line. I planted them and they spread everywhere. I have no rows but just plants in a small section in my garden. The second year I had lots of great berries (I planted 4 June and 4 Ever bearing). Now that the berries have not produced in July, Aug., and Sept I have tons of tall clover-looking plants taking over my strawberry patch. The weeds are so close to the strawberry plant that I have a hard time hand-pulling the weeds. I have done some pulling but the clover looking tall weeds have taken over. Will they die over the winter? Is there an organic weed killer to use? (My strawberries will be affected since they two are so close together). Help!

    • Diane,
      Unfortunately, weeds are the bane of strawberry plants. Mulching helps to keep them down, but the weeds simply have to be removed one way or another. I know of no organic herbicide, unfortunately. If they die over the winter, they will likely come back next year. The best option is to spend the time pulling them up now and then applying a mulch to help prevent their return, or being vigilant next spring and nipping them in the bud. Good luck!

    • Lindsey,
      You should bring them in once they go dormant. Usually, that will occur when the night temperatures have been in the mid-to-high twenties for a few days in a row. Good luck!

  12. I’d like to know if I can overwinter my hanging strawberry plant in an indoor closet on an outside wall? As well, do I have to cut it back before overwintering?

    • Marie,
      If by “indoor” you mean inside your house, no, that won’t work well. You don’t need to cut the plant back before overwintering. Simply wait until the temperature drops, then remove the dead leaves once the plant enters dormancy. Good luck!

  13. Dear Mr. Strawberry,

    I have plastic window boxes on my outside deck as my containers. I also have some Mr. Stacky containers. I am trying to figure out how to winterize them, since I live in Boston and I don’t have a garage or unheated basement. The basement has the furnace and boiler room in it, so it stays warm all winter. I don’t have the land to dig holes for winterizing in the ground. What do you recommend? They containers are all on a deck above ground, so I’m guessing they would be too exposed during the winter.

    Thank you!

    • Boston Planter,
      You might want to try getting the plants/containers as close as possible to the sheltered side of your house as possible. Then, you can use some hardware cloth (or even fencing with larger holes, if cheaper) to create a cage around the plants/planters. Fill the cage with clean straw so that the plants are completely covered (once they go dormant), and just make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out completely over the winter months. That is probably one of your best options. Good luck!

  14. This is my first year growing strawberries. I do have an unheated garage, but the wall against my house is completely covered with junk, so I can’t put it there. Can I just leave it in my garage and not against the wall? I’ll cover it with a towel or two. Thanks!!! ????

    • Jessica,
      Yes, if the plants are properly insulated, they will do fine in the garage. Just make sure that you keep the soil from drying out. Otherwise, they will certainly die. Good luck!

  15. Hi! This is my first year of real gardening. B/C of a serious mole problem, I’ve done container gardening that’s worked well for most things.
    Strawberries have done really well, although I’m just learning. I do also have a 6 x 8 “portable” greenhouse . You told another person that to winter their plants in the greenhouse, just make sure they don’t get totally dried out. But don’t we have to cover them? Doesn’t being dormant mean they also are kept in darkness?
    I plan to grow vegetables in my greenhouse over the winter, so there will be sunlight and heat. Insulating GH for good growing environment. ( I will use heater on the coldest of nights.) Doesn’t all this pose a problem for the strawberries?
    Also, I’m concerned about all the runners the plants have sent off. I’ve tucked them back into the pots to grow roots, but will I have to transplant the entire containers of plants into bigger pots before wintering them? OMG…there is so much to know just for one type of plant!
    Thanks in advance for any advice you have to share. I will continue to research the site.

    • Madeline Crabb,
      To best overwinter strawberry plants in greenhouses, they should be unheated. If you are going to grow other vegetables in the greenhouse, then the strawberries won’t enter dormancy as it won’t get cold enough to induce them to go dormant. If you live in Zone 7 or below, you likely won’t even have to protect them at all if they are outside without any protection at all (as long as there isn’t a low cold snap). The dormant plants don’t require darkness, just cold temperatures, to remain dormant. You don’t have to transplant the rooted runners into new pots prior to winter, but it is best to transplant them in the fall for best success rates. Good luck!

  16. Can I not just bring my strawberries inside where it is warm, keep them near a well lit window? Or do they need the dormancy? Thanks 🙂

    • Jo Jacobs,
      They do better with a dormant period. Keeping them active all year round diminishes both life span and yield. Good luck!

  17. I made a “strawberry tree” as seen on Bonnieplants.com, the plants are in wire baskets with coconut liners and hang from hooks on a pole…what’s the best way to overwinter these? Thanks in advance!

    • Penni Jones,
      If you have an unheated garage, storing them there against the side of the house that is heated is best if you live in colder climates. Just be sure to water them occasionally so that the soil doesn’t dry out completely. Good luck!

  18. Hi,

    I have my strawberry plants growing in beds with landscaping fabric. They are starting to get their runners and I am wondering the best way to save the runners. I know I could cut holes in the fabric but would prefer not too. If I put plastic pots out alongside the plants and placed the runners in them, while still attached to the mother plant so they can take root, do you think that would work fine?

    I was thinking that I could just wait to clip them for when I am ready to bring the pots inside to overwinter them. Thanks!!

  19. I have planted strawberries in a three tiered pyramid. Do I heavily mulch them. with straw, in the winter to protect the plants. Our winters her in Mi. get quite a lot of snow and very cold, below temps! Thank you for your help!

    • Janice Winchel,
      Yes, you will need to mulch them heavily with clean straw to keep them from suffering cold injury with the frigid winter temperatures there. Good luck!

  20. I live in yellowknife, where winter gets to -40 each year. I lack a garage, and i have my plants in containers. What would be the best way to overwinter them?

    • Jake,
      You will need to heavily mulch them. If you have a root cellar, you can try storing them there, just don’t forget to water them. If you don’t have a tremendous amount of them, you may want to dig a hole to place the pots in and then mulch heavily. With temperatures dropping to -40, it will be much more difficult to keep potted plants alive than in more moderate climes. Good luck!

  21. I live in Minnesota I have strawberries in planter boxes on a wall. The boxes are 4 ft long a foot wide at top. How do I over winter them?

    • Kevin,
      If the planter boxes are attached to your home’s wall, there is a good chance that the radiant heat that leaks through from inside will keep them warm enough to avoid cold injury. If they aren’t, you’ll likely need to wrap the planters with an insulating material that will still allow for rain/other water to keep the soil from drying out. Good luck!

  22. I live in WV, I have my strawberries in big containers. How would you suggest I overwinter my strawberries? I have no garage or greenhouse,I have no place in my house. Please and Thanks!

    • Amanda Gallaher,
      You can leave them in the pots and place the pots on the leeward side (protected) of your house right by the wall. Then, you can dig a pot-sized hole in the ground and place them in the hole until spring comes next year. Go ahead and mulch over the pot as if they were in a strawberry bed in the ground. If you can’t do that, you can mound dirt around the pot by the wall. If you can’t go that, you can wrap an insulating material around the pot instead. In West Virginia, that should be sufficient to keep them alive until next spring. Good luck!

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