If you’re wondering can you plant a whole strawberry, give it the right soil fertilizers, and harvest fresh berries in a few months, the answer is no.
You can grow strawberry plants from a single strawberry if you first dry it out and expose the pieces to a cold treatment before planting them.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about growing strawberries and harvesting a fantastic crop of luscious fruit. You’ll also learn how to use the seeds on the outside of a strawberry to start new plants.
How to Plant a Strawberry and Grow a New Plant
If you’ve eaten a strawberry, you probably know those little speckles on the outside are seeds. Looking at the seeds might make you wonder if you can plant a whole, fresh strawberry in the ground and grow a new plant.
If you plant a whole strawberry it won’t grow because it will rot or get eaten by insects, birds, or other critters before the seeds sprout.
But, you can slice the strawberry, dry it out in a warm room, and then plant the seeds after putting them in the freezer for three to four weeks.
Importance of Cold Treatment for Strawberry Seeds
A crucial step for germination of strawberry seeds is called cold stratification. You do this by putting the seeds in the freezer for three or four weeks before planting them.
Taking this step mimics what a strawberry seed goes through when sprouting in nature. The seeds on the fresh fruit fall to the ground in autumn, chill through the winter, then grow as temperatures warm in the spring.
This required chill period ensures the seeds don’t spout before conditions are best for growing.
How to Cold Treat Strawberry Seeds
Most varieties of strawberry seed need a cold-stratification treatment before planting.
To cold treat strawberry seeds, follow these steps:
- Put the seeds in a plastic bag or a jar with a lid.
- Put the container in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.
- Remove the seeds from the freezer and let them thaw out.
- Plant the seeds approximately ¼ inch deep in potting soil in a pot or directly in the garden.
- Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
If you want to try starting strawberry plants from fresh fruit, take these steps:
- Use ripe, heirloom, or alpine strawberries – alpine are small fruits you find growing wild.
- Slice the fruit and dry the pieces in a single layer at room temperature.
- Cold-treat the slices in the freezer for a month.
- Plant the pieces under approximately ¼ inch of potting soil in a pot or tray and water daily.
- Place the container in the sun during the day.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Transplant sprouted seedlings into garden soil amended with high-quality soil fertilizers.
Additionally, treating your garden soil with a natural soil activator before planting provides growing plants with higher amounts of available nutrients and improves soil texture.
If you want to grow strawberries from the seeds of fresh fruit, keep in mind that the strawberries you buy at grocery stores are usually hybrid varieties. Hybrids varieties do not grow out the same as the parent plant.
So, even if you take the above steps with strawberries you buy, and the seeds sprout, the resulting plant might not be what you want.
Starting strawberry plants in the same way as nature is tricky. A more reliable way is to buy bare-root strawberry seedlings or runners from a plant nursery. You can also start new plants from seeds you buy from a seed company.
Buying and Planting Strawberry Seeds
If you want to grow strawberries from seed, the most reliable method is to buy the seeds from a seed company.
The seeds sold by seed companies are the varieties that grow best when planted from seeds. The strawberry seeds available from seed companies have a guaranteed germination rate, giving you the highest chances for the seeds sprouting.
If you love eating unusual and tasty heirloom varieties of strawberry, starting plants from seed is the way to go. You won’t find most of these unique varieties when you purchase bare-root plants or runners at most plant nurseries.
Choose Seeds for Your Growing Region
When you buy strawberry seeds, start by looking for a strawberry variety suited to your growing region. Use a USDA growing zone map to find your grow zone number, and then look for strawberry cultivars to match your zone.
For example, if you live where summers are hot and dry, you want a heat-tolerant variety. If you live in an area with summer rains, you need a cultivar that thrives in a wetter environment.
Strawberries that most easily grow from seed are heirloom varieties and the wild, alpine types. Some seed companies also sell a few hybrid F1 cultivars that will germinate and grow from seed.
Varieties of Strawberry Plants
There are three basic varietal types of strawberry plants with different growth and fruiting characteristics.
June-bearing strawberries are what you most often find in grocery stores. The fruits are large and juicy, but the crop ripens only for about three weeks in mid-summer. After that, you won’t have many berries.
Ever-bearing strawberries have smaller fruit than June-bearing varieties, and they produce a smaller total harvest. However, this type produces fruit over a more extended time.
Day-neutral strawberries produce a crop over the most extended period during the year, but the overall yield is considerably lower than the other two types. Day-neutral strawberries do well when grown hydroponically.
Growing Strawberries by Propagation
A trusted method for starting a patch of strawberry plants is using runners from other plants or buying bare-root plants. You can buy these at a plant nursery, or you can harvest them from someone else’s plants.
People who grow strawberries usually trim off the runners to focus the plant’s energy on making berries. If you know someone who grows strawberries, they may be happy to give you some runners when they clean-up their plants.
Amend your garden soil with a soil product such as compost or decomposed manure before planting runners or bare-root plants.
You can also grow strawberry plants in containers. The shallow root system of strawberries makes this plant ideal for planting in ceramic pots, raised beds, and hanging pots. Harvesting is also easy with container growing methods because you don’t have to bend over to pick ripe fruits or tend the plants.
Tips for Growing Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants are perennials, meaning they keep growing from one year to the next. Once you get the plants started, you can harvest berries for many years from the same plants.
Strawberry plants grow in many types of soil and growing conditions. The critical point is to pick a variety suited to your growing region using a USDA grow zone map.
Before planting strawberries:
- Choose a site with well-drained soil and a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun.
- Amended the planting area with soil fertilizers like compost, decomposed manure, or commercial fertilizers.
- Bolstered the ground with a natural soil activator to maximize soil nutrient availability.
While strawberries are growing:
- Water the plants regularly.
- Place mulch around plants to reduce weeds and retain soil moisture.
- Trim-off dead and yellowing leaves.
- Fertilize early and late in the season.
- Remove first flowers early in the season to stimulate robust vegetative growth and improve harvest.
At the end of the growing season, trim back the plants and fertilize to give them a good start the next season.
If you start your strawberry patch from seedlings or runners, you can expect a harvest in about 60 to 70 days. If you start from seeds, the plants need a full year of growth before producing a bountiful crop.
Fertilizing Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants need high-nitrogen fertilizers such as blood meal, fish meal, or alfalfa meal for vigorous growth and fruit production. Aged manure, compost, and NPK fertilizer products also work well for fertilizing strawberry plants.
Do not use raw poultry, sheep, or pig manure on your strawberry plants because the nitrogen levels are too high and can do significant damage to the plants.
What is a Soil Activator?
Soil activators come from naturally sourced soil products containing humic acid and humates. These substances are the end product when organic matter breaks-down completely and stabilizes. Soil activators feed microbes and earthworms, enriching the soil and benefiting plant growth.
You can apply soil activators in liquid or granular form to a compost pile or directly to the soil before planting. The advantages are:
- Improved soil texture
- Increased levels of available soil nutrients
- Extended-release of soil fertilizers
- Stronger root systems
- Stimulation of soil microbial activity
A soil activator for lawn care reduces lawn thatch buildup, producing a lusher, greener lawn.
How to Use a Soil Activator to Grow Strawberries
Soil activators come in liquid and granular forms. When growing strawberries, you can apply a granular soil activator of 35 percent humic acid at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Apply the soil activator at the time of planting or in the fall before planting the next spring.
You can buy liquid soil activators in pre-mixed and concentrated solutions. Read the product label and follow the directions for how much to use.
Growing strawberries is easy, fun, and delicious. For best results, don’t plant a whole strawberry. Instead, start your plants from commercially sourced seeds, runners, or bare-root seedling stock.