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Planting, Growing and Maintaining Strawberries

March 24, 2016

Strawberries are well suited for any home garden. They are hardy, easy to grow and produce a good crop with moderate effort. Early spring is one of the best times to plant strawberries in Iowa and knowing when to plant and how to grow and maintain the strawberries is key to producing a successful crop.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists give tips and suggestions on planting, growing and maintaining strawberries in Iowa. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or at

What would be a suitable planting site for strawberries?
When selecting a planting site, choose an area that receives full sun and has a well-drained soil. Planting sites should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Leaf and root diseases are often problems in poorly drained, wet soils. Do not plant in areas that are heavily infested with perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass, are extremely difficult to control in a strawberry planting. Also, avoid sites where strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers have been grown in the last two years to prevent possible root disease problems.

Which strawberry varieties perform well in Iowa?
Suggested June-bearing strawberry cultivars for Iowa include: ‘Earliglow,’ ‘Allstar,’ ‘Honeoye,’ ‘Surecrop,’ ‘Redchief,’ ‘Jewel’ and ‘Kent.’ ‘Fort Laramie’ and ‘Ogallala’ are good everbearing cultivars. ‘Tribute,’ ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’ are the best performing day-neutral cultivars.

What are the differences between the three types of strawberries?
The three types of strawberries differ in growth, flowering and fruiting characteristics.

June-bearing strawberries develop flower buds in late summer and fall as the day length shortens, nights become longer and temperatures cool. The following spring, flowering occurs and the fruit typically ripen in the month of June. The plants are strictly vegetative during the summer months. June-bearing strawberries produce runners during the long days, short nights and high temperatures of summer. June-bearers are the most widely planted type of strawberry.

Everbearing strawberries produce late spring and late summer to early fall crops with little or no flowering and fruiting during the remainder of the year. Everbearers produce few runners and tend to form several crowns.

Day-neutral strawberries are regarded as improved, more productive everbearing-type strawberries. Day-neutral refers to the response of the plants to day length. Day-neutral strawberries are not strongly influenced by day length and may flower and set fruit throughout the summer months. Day-neutral cultivars perform best during the cooler periods of the growing season and are not very productive during hot weather.

When is the best time to plant strawberries?
Early spring (late March to early May) is the best time to plant strawberries in Iowa.

What is the proper way to plant strawberries?
When ready to plant, trim off the older leaves, place the roots of the plants in water for an hour, then plant immediately. Set each plant in the ground so the crown of the plant is even with the soil surface.

The type of strawberry determines plant spacing. June-bearing strawberries should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart in rows spaced four feet apart. Runners will develop and root freely to form a matted row about two feet wide. Everbearing and day-neutral strawberries are typically planted in beds consisting of two or three rows. Space rows one foot apart. Plants are spaced one foot apart within the rows. A 2-foot-wide path should separate the beds. Any runners that develop on everbearing and day-neutral strawberries should be removed and the plants maintained as large, single plants.

Immediately after planting, water the strawberry plants and apply a starter fertilizer solution to aid establishment. A starter fertilizer solution can be prepared by dissolving one or two tablespoons of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in one gallon of water. Apply one to two cups to each plant. A starter fertilizer solution can also be prepared using a water soluble fertilizer. Follow label directions when preparing the solution.

Source: Iowa State University