Aside from providing strawberry plants with the very best growing conditions, knowing exactly when to transplant strawberries can mean healthier plants and better yields overall. Whether you swear by June-bearing varieties, ever-bearing strawberries, alpine types, or a mix of cultivars, it doesn’t take much extra work to get more out of the berry patch. By understanding how strawberry plants reproduce, you can use their natural tendencies to expand or refresh your strawberry garden. And with a bit of routine maintenance, you can ensure ‘parent’ plants focus their energy most productively. Keep reading for our expert advice on when to transplant strawberries.
What is transplanting?
When you transplant strawberries, you’re separating and moving new plants produced by your original strawberry parent plants. Sometimes, you might also choose to divide and relocate some of the parent plants themselves. The goal? Keeping each of your strawberry plants healthy enough to put out loads of high quality fruit.
Why is it important to know when to transplant strawberries?
It’s important to know when to transplant strawberries so that your prized patch remains as productive as possible. If you fail to transplant your strawberries and they’re growing in a limited amount of space, you could be left with a tangled mass of spent parent plants and too many offspring plants. Each of these plants are competing for light, moisture, and nutrients. Under these circumstances, fruit production can suffer.
Signs that strawberries need to be transplanted
No matter which cultivars you grow, there isn’t much variation in the signs indicating when to transplant strawberries. Nearly all varieties produce what botanists call “stolons.” These are the horizontal stems or runners healthy strawberry plants grow in order to generate new strawberry plants. When your plants start putting out runners—and when the new plants which grow along the length of these runners develop leaves and multiple root nodes—it’s time to transplant.
When to transplant strawberries: The 2 best times
As for when to transplant strawberries? Springtime and fall are best. Depending on the success of your parent plants, you might have runners from late spring throughout the summer. But transplanting these—or dividing and moving parent plants—during hot weather isn’t ideal. As a result, you might decide to transplant some runners in spring and additional runners in early fall.
Option 1: Early spring for moving strawberry plants
Early spring is a good time to relocate established runners or install new parents. For instance, let’s say you mail-ordered some June-bearing strawberries from a greenhouse or nursery. Plant these as soon as possible in spring and keep any competing weeds down as the season progresses.
Now, although you’ll likely get strawberries from your new plants or plugs during their first year, if you’re willing to forgo initial fruits, you’ll have a more robust, prolific harvest the following spring. (By pinching off first-year blooms and removing runners, you enable these new plants to put all of their energy into establishing really healthy roots and fruiting buds during their first season.)
Option 2: Transplanting strawberries in the fall
You can also move runners or divided parent plants when summer’s temperatures finally cool. Carefully dig and lift overcrowded strawberry plants and move them to their new bed. In early September, give plants a boost of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other essential nutrients. For best results, use all-natural fertilizers, since they’ll also improve the quality of your soil. Alternatively, you can amend your soil with well-rotted compost.
Finally, if November and December are particularly cold months where you live, be sure to mulch strawberry plants for overwintering. This provides frost protection for the delicate new buds your plants develop during their dormant period. (And these buds produce future fruits!)
What to do with strawberry runners
Deciding when to transplant strawberries is only half of the equation. You also need to determine where those bonus plants will flourish. Choices to try include:
- New (or repurposed) garden beds—If you have lots of runners, try relocating them to an entirely new strawberry patch. Planting beds should get six hours of sunlight, have rich, loamy soil, and provide good drainage. If you intend to reuse an existing garden for this new purpose, be sure that it didn’t recently contain plants from the Solanaceae family. That includes crops like eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers. (Their soil and plant residues can harbor harmful fungal diseases.)
- Pots—Want to share extra plants with friends? Or maybe you haven’t decided where to put your strawberry runners yet? Transplanting strawberries into pots can buy you extra time if needed. Just place small, soil-filled pots near the parent plant and position one healthy-looking runner plant per pot. Your potting soil should be slightly damp, and the runner plant’s root nodes should make good contact at the soil line. In a week or two, you’ll have the start of healthy roots. After the potted transplants have become established, snip their respective runners and move the pots as you like.
- A matted row system—If you have enough space between individual strawberry plants and rows, you can train runners to grow into nearby, mulched rows. With this “matted row” method, parent plants are spaced about 18 inches apart, and rows of parent plants are grown three to four feet apart. The empty space between rows contains straw or other mulch. Runners grow into these mulched, empty areas. Once established, their stolons are cut.
Should you divide the plants when you transplant them?
So, you’ve figured out when to transplant strawberries via runners and where it’s best to put them, but what about dividing the parent plants, too? If you have really robust parent plants, these can be split via crown division. You might divide crowns if you want to provide individual parent plants with extra room. You might also crown-divide plants if you’re growing a cultivar which doesn’t put out many runners.
To divide parent plants, first water them well. Next, carefully dig them up—crowns, roots, and all. Use a sharp garden knife to divide crowns evenly so each section is supported by several strong roots. Transplant all new divisions immediately and water once again.
How deeply to plant strawberry transplants
When to transplant strawberries aside, your strawberries’ planting depth is another important factor. New leaves and runners grow directly out of strawberry plants’ crowns. As such, if you plant crowns too deeply—especially in overly soggy soil—the plants may succumb to root rot. And if planted too shallowly? Crowns and roots can lose much-needed moisture. Ideally, you should position each plant’s crown so that it is level with the soil line.
Want to learn more about when to transplant strawberries for healthy plants and large yields? Check out this video:
Plant spacing when transplanting strawberries
Space individual strawberry plants 18 inches apart and allow about two or three feet between rows. Giving your plants extra space helps to improve the airflow around them. This, in turn, helps to reduce problems with fungal disease. It will also give you room to inspect your plants for damage caused by spider mites and other insect pests. For serious infestations, control these with an insecticidal soap.
Slugs and birds are other common troublemakers you may have to watch for. For them, try Captain Jack’s Slug Magic and Bird-X Protective Netting, respectively.
How often do you need to transplant strawberries?
How often you’ll transplant your strawberries partly depends on the health, age, and variety of your plants. Some parent plants can keep producing strawberries for three or four years. Others may show reduced production sooner.
To ensure you have plenty of berries each season:
- Grow a mix of June bearers like Sparkle and everbearing strawberries such as Fort Laramie.
- Cut back unwanted runners to help parent plants conserve energy.
- Select and transplant your healthiest runners annually, as these will become future parent plants.
An overview of when to transplant strawberries
With a clearer sense of when to transplant strawberries—and how to do the job—it’s possible to grow bigger, better berries and to keep those berries coming year after year. It really comes down to managing your strawberry parent plants’ runners—either by snipping and discarding them or by rooting and transplanting. These activities help parent plants direct and conserve their energy. Now one of the only issues you’ll have left to tackle will be what to do with your bumper crop. (Will it be endless strawberry smoothies? Strawberry rhubarb pie? Or maybe jams, jellies, or preserves?…)
For more information on growing fruits and berries in a home garden, check out these articles:
- Growing strawberries in raised beds
- Alpine strawberries: An easy to grow garden treat
- Growing strawberries in pots and planters
- Yellow raspberries: An easy and delicious crop to grow
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