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 Is the Best Time 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!

211 thoughts on “Transplanting Strawberries”

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  1. please send me materials like photos and video clips to explain how i can produce a huge number of strawberry plants in trays.
    thanks a lot

    Reply
  2. When is it too late in the fall to transplant established plants? I understand you recommend late August to bypass most of the fruiting season and still allow time for the roots to establish in a new location, right? I planted a raised bed in 2 varieties (Ozark Beauty and Loran) this spring and I need to move the Lorans to a space where they won’t be totally overrun by the Ozark Beauty runners. It’s mid September now and we have had some frosts strong enough to kill off the squash and tomatoes but the strawberries are still happily fruiting like crazy. We’re in between zones 4 and 5 here. Do you think they’d have enough time to recover before winter if I transplanted them now or should I wait until spring? I’d be sick to lose these prolific established 1st year plants. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Heather,
      If you transplant enough roots intact, they should do fine if you go ahead and transplant. But, if you want to be safe, you can overwinter them where they are. Good luck!

      Reply
  3. I moved into a home a few years ago with a patch of “wild” strawberries. They have pink flowers, maybe a hybrid? anyway, I finally had time to get outside this year and plant and replant trees/shrubs. I am considering moving the strawberry plants because they are getting overrun with other groundcover that the previous owners planted and is taking over the garden.I noticed that the flowers dried on the plants and did not form a berry. Are these a type of ornamental that don’t produce fruit? or is there no pollinator? I did have a two week period last month when my sprinkler system did not work, and the area did not get watered, but the plants look great. Can you help? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Larry,
      There are no wild-type strawberry varieties with pink flowers. The pink-flowered varieties (there are a few of them) are primarily ornamental, although they can produce a few strawberries. If you are looking for varieties that will produce more edible fruits, you can find a host of them in the Buy Strawberry Plants directory. Find out which varieties will grow best in your area here: Recommended Strawberry Varieties by State. Good luck!

      Reply
    • Barbara,
      WHERE you cut the runners doesn’t matter nearly as much as WHEN you cut the runners. You can cut the runner tissue anywhere along the way from the mother plant to the cloned daughter plant. However, you must make sure that the root system of the new daughter plant has established prior to cutting the runner. If you cut it before the new plant can fully support itself, it will die. The best indicator of when to cut the runner is when it has started drying and becoming brittle. That is nature’s way of telling you the daughter plant no longer needs any support from the mother plant. Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Hi, I live in Northern NY State. I bought this house 2 yrs agoa and last year I bought 15 strawberry plants and planted them. However, where I planted them(which was a former small garden spot) does not get a lot of sun.

    Last week I rented a rototiller and a friend rototilled(my larger garden) and a new spot for the strawberries which will get more sun, if I transplant them there.

    The problem is this.. IF it is a problem. The spot that was rototilled is very wet. The rototiller would not even do a good job because of how wet it is right now. Also, the solil is mostly clay.

    Will the wet soil be a problem? Later in the summer it should dry out better, as long as it will just stop raining long enough! I do have a couple bags of sand I plan to put on the spot.. although I doubt it will be enough sand and plus, the spot will need rototilling again if I decide to use it for the strawberries. Otherwise, perhaps I will use it for an asparagus patch.

    TIA!

    PJ

    Reply
    • PJ,
      Both the clay and the excessive wetness could very well pose a problem for your strawberry plants. I would recommend selecting a spot according to the criteria discussed on the Growing Strawberries reference page. Good luck!

      Reply
  5. I have just planted 12 plants in a strawberry planter and was wondering what do I do with them after the summer. Will they keep for next year and if so how do I do it?

    Reply
  6. I live in northern Indiana and I ve been given 40 to 50 well established plants from someone that is moving. Half or more have flowers already due to the early warm wheather we had here the first two weeks of April. I would like to move all of them but I dont know if I should at this time. They will be putting there house on the market soon and I dont want to miss out. How deep do I need to go when digging them up and how far apart should I be placing them when transplanting them?

    Beginner.

    Reply
    • Steve,
      Congratulations on the acquisition of free strawberry plants! Fortunately for you, strawberries have relatively shallow root systems. If you dig down 6 inches, you will get the majority of the roots. It will still cause some stress and root loss to the plants, but they should survive easily and do quite well for you. Good luck!

      Reply
  7. I have had a large raised strawberry box for the last 9 years. This last winter it became over run with buttercups and dandalions. I had to remove all the plants and start over. what do you suggest I do to the soil and can I add something to help keep the buttercups out. Last year was my best year for nice size berries.Is there anything I can do to make them sweeter?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Sherry,
      I don’t know of any natural herbicide that will kill only the buttercups. They do make some herbicides that target the buttercups, but I wouldn’t recommend using them in your strawberry bed as strawberries tend to absorb chemicals (and you don’t want to eat the herbicides!). As for making them sweeter, sugar content generally parallels Vitamin C production (see here). There are also some differences with sugar content depending on the variety you choose. Anyway, good luck!

      Reply
  8. dear Mr. Strawberry,

    I have many strawberry plants in my garden, in two different locations, one of the locations has many runners, and i am planning on moving them into a new location, but the others in the other location have this disease (Mycosphaerella fragariae on strawberry, I have found the name on wikipedia). Can you please tell me how to treat them, so they will be healthy once again. I am afraid to mix the plants of two locations together because the healthy once might get infected too. Please help me solve my problem.

    All the best,
    Vigan

    Reply
    • Vigan,
      To address Mycosphaerella fragariae infection (more commonly knows as strawberry leaf spot, which is a fungal infection), there are two things you can do. You can treat with a fungicide or control the environment to minimize inoculation. To minimize the likelihood of contamination, be sure to plant your strawberries in light, well-drained soil. Start with a strawberry variety that is resistant to infection, and ensure the plants have good air circulation all around and good exposure. Maintain good circulation by eliminating weeds and spacing the runners in a matted row system. Only use nitrogen fertilizers during Strawberry Renovation to minimize the more easily infected succulent tissue on new emerging leaves. Remove older leaves, any dead plant matter, and burn any debris after harvest when renovating. Additionally, since the fungus is spread by rain or splashing caused by water falling from above, avoiding chronic watering by sprinklers or other overhead methods can also reduce infection. Hopefully that helps! Good luck.

      Reply
  9. I moved into a rental house last summer with an abandoned garden. In the garden are tons of strawberries. I would like to transplant them to strawberry container planters I have for the deck. How/when is the best time to do this? And what type of soil should I use to fill them with? I lived in zone 6b in Washington state. Thanks if you can help!

    Reply
    • Cassandra,
      You can move them. If you aren’t in a hurry, I would recommend transplanting them this fall. That will let them produce optimally this year without the added stress of moving them. For a discussion of soil types that strawberries prefer, see this page: Growing Strawberries. Good luck!

      Reply
  10. We have had an exceptionally warm winter in Alabama this year and I was out looking at my strawberries and noticed that they have spread into other planters. It is now the end of Feb and we are experiencing typical Alabama weather 70 one day 40 two days later. Is it impractical to move the new runners so my other beds can be used for my veggy garden?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  11. Hi,
    Brillant site on strawberries.
    Planting some runners this spring and will remove all flowers this year to better establish for others years. Two questions, please.
    1.Do i prune this runners in autumn/fall or leave them on plants over the winter?
    2.Can I propagate runners from these in September or will that weaken them in their 1st year.
    Many thanks,
    P.J. in Ireland

    Reply
    • P.J.,
      Thank you! Unless you are trying to fill in a matted row or multiply your strawberry beds, it is ok to prune the strawberry runners. The will do fine the following year. In fact, it is really better to do plantings of Fall Strawberry Plants than spring ones in order to maximize time and production.

      Reply
  12. I live in WV. I really need to thin out my strawberries, and didn’t get a chance to do this in the fall. Can I thin them now, in mid-December? They are in a high tunnel so it is not quite as cold. Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Novice Gardener,
      Yes, you can thin them now. Just be careful not to damage the plants you wish to keep. The plants you thin out will probably not be able to establish themselves elsewhere at this juncture, so as long as you are ok with losing the plants you thin, it should be ok to do now.

      Reply
  13. Hi! I wish I had run across this site this past spring! I live in Colorado, and it’s getting ready to snow here… again. I live in a rented townhouse, and I have (well, had) a container garden on the patio. Most of my plants either died in the last snowstorm, or have been brought inside, but my strawberries are still outside, where they surprisingly lived through the last cold spell where they’re planted in the top of my topsy-turvy tomato planter. I can’t exactly bring the tomato planter inside like my other plants, but I’m afraid the strawberry plant won’t survive many more snowstorms, if any. I was going to transplant it into a different container that I can bring indoors, and continue to grow them in the house, but I don’t know whether that would goof up their annual growing cycle or damage the roots enough to kill the plant. Then I found this site where you recommend mulching the plants after they’ve gone dormant for the winter, but I’m not sure if that would still work with just a flimsy container, without the insulation of the earth to the sides and beneath the plant it would have in the ground?? What’s the best way for me to save my plant?

    Reply
    • Kathleen,
      Most varieties of strawberries are surprisingly resilient to mild cold snaps. It is the prolonged or deeply cold temperatures that really do them in. See this post on Cold Injury for more on that. One option, if you don’t want to bring the strawberries inside is to put them in your garage near an internal wall. Usually, that will provide enough shelter and keep the most extreme and damaging cold temperatures at bay. Since the plants are probably dormant by now, you won’t mess up their life cycle. Be sure not to let the plants dry out completely, though, or they’ll die that way instead of from the temperatures. However, it is always best to leave the roots undisturbed, if possible. Mulching would be difficult in Colorado in a Topsy Turvy strawberry planter. For more information that might help in your situation, see this post on Storing Bare-Root Strawberry Plants. Good luck!

      Reply
  14. I have a strawberry plant in an 8 inch pot. It has many runners that arent in dirt. I would like to plant each runner in their own pot, but I am not sure where I need to cut them off. Also, when fertalizing my strawberry plants, will any time release mixture work? Or is there a special one for strawberries?

    Reply
    • Liz,
      Put a small pot/cup with dirt in it under each node where a runner plant is forming. The root of the runner plant will grow down into the dirt once it is in contact with the soil. After the roots of the the runner plant have been established, you can cut the runner and transplant the newly liberated clone plant wherever you wish. See the Growing Strawberries page for more information on fertilizing strawberries.

      Reply
    • Dave,

      It is best to transplant in August as mentioned above. But, if you take proper care and ensure appropriate water is provided, transplanted strawberry plant can survive even if moved in July.

      Reply
  15. Many thanks Bro.

    I have an amazing gluttony of berries most are ripe and sweet (mainly Elsanta so they’re huge). They are all growing as they please so it’s a natural bed. My only problem now is the snails and slugs haha. Having said that, I do leave out some steawberries for the lil critters as I believe they need to eat too.

    This is an amazing site!

    Especial respects from sunny London (UK)

    Reply
  16. I have a good bed of strawberries, they are bearing a touting of fruit and are starting to ripe, however many berries are shaded by the plants’ leaves and are not catching the sun. Is it possible to trim out some of the foliage without causing damage,

    Reply
    • zYn,
      You can trim some of the leaves if you want to (more will grow up from the crown). However, there is no need to do that, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Exposure to sunlight will cause strawberries to ripen more rapidly (the underside of strawberries are often white while the exposed part will be already red). However, the entire strawberries will ripen just fine if they are left alone. Cutting the leaves decreases the productive capacity of the plant, and exposed strawberries are more likely to be snarfed by hungry birds/critters.

      Reply
  17. Hi, I have 4 strawberry pots (I bought roots lat year and put them all in one big pot and I bought some plants and put about 3 in each pot), I’ve decided (even thought I rent) to make a corner raised garden bed for the strawberries. They didnt produce much last year but, right now they’ve been in the green house and have somewhere around 150+ strawberries/ flowers on them. I live in Lane county oregon (close to the coast) would it be alright to transplant them now? Or will I lose all my flowers/berries? I’m willing to leave them in pots until fall. Although I did buy this GREAT organic soil and by the time fall rolls around a lot of the nutrients will be gone because of the spring rain but, thats alright. As long as I will get to eat all these yummy berries.

    Reply
    • Michelle,
      Strawberry plants are resilient. You can likely transplant them successfully at any time as long as they are watered appropriately and the roots have an opportunity to establish themselves. If you want to maximize the berry haul, however, I’d wait. Transplanting strawberries causes stress to the plants, and the more stress a plant experiences, the fewer the strawberries/lower the quality of strawberries. If you are looking for a big harvest, it is best to wait until after the season.

      Reply
  18. I am weeding an thining my strawberries this week. My daughter recently moved to a new place and is in the process of readying a garden spot and wants some strawberry starts. She may not be ready to plant them for a week or two. How can I continue my work now but preserve some starts for her? Can they be kept in the refigerator?

    Reply
    • Diana,
      No need to put them in the refrigerator. Simply take a trowel and dig up enough soil around the plants you wish to give her so that the roots remain intact. If you are digging up newly-rooted runner plants, you can probably just keep them in some plastic cups for a week or two (be gentle with the newly rooted runners, however). When she is ready to plant them, just give her the cups. She can then transplant them directly from the cups into the ground with ease. Be sure to keep the waiting strawberry plants appropriately watered also.

      Reply
  19. Mr. Strawberry,
    What is the optimum pH for a bountiful harvest? My bed is on the East side of the house, is 50% sunlight enough? Also, the CEC of the soil is around 25-30 (pretty heavy), should I dig it out and replace with a good sandy loam (CEC of 10)? I am not making very large berries. Weed control is an issue, but before that, still no berries larger than the average marble.

    Thanks, Tom

    Reply
  20. I will be moving during the winter and want to take my strawberry plants with me. Can I dig them up before the first frost and store them for the winter?

    Reply
    • Tricia,
      Yes, you can take them with you. I’d recommend digging around the plants and putting them in those really cheap and flimsy plastic pots for the move, leaving as many roots intact as possible. Once you get where you are going, replant them (now is actually a great time to replant strawberries) in their new home and pick up their care for the winter months as discussed here: Growing Strawberries. I don’t recommend trying to store them in any dug-up condition over the winter. Most, if not all, will die. Hope that helps!

      Reply
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