Growing strawberries indoors is a great way to get succulent, juicy berries in plentiful supply—all without the many worries accommodating growing the fruit outdoors. When growing strawberries indoors, you’ll eliminate the risk of those pesky critters ruining your crop while also providing yourself better control over their growing environment. Although strawberries aren’t always easy to grow, they are very much worth the effort, and with just a bit of effort, can be grown to perfection. This article will look at all aspects of growing strawberries indoors and guide you to growing your own delicious fruit.
Types Of Strawberry Plants
To start, many people don’t realize but there is a huge variety of different strawberry plants. In fact, there are 103 different varieties, that’s a lot of options!
Fortunately, most common varieties will have similar care instructions, so the rest of this article will likely apply to you. The one major difference you might notice is how often your plant bears fruits. Some varieties only produce a single yield, while others might produce 2 or more. Check the variety you have to see how much fruit you should expect over a growing season.
Choosing Your Pot
There are a variety of pots and containers that are great for growing strawberries indoors. Traditional ground containers work, but many gardeners choose to use hanging baskets to grow their berries. Strawberries have a slight vine-like behavior, so hanging baskets are a natural choice. The key is to ensure that the pot is large enough to give your strawberry plant room to grow.
For size, container-grown strawberries don’t need that large of a container. Choose one that is around 8″ for a single plant, or 12-14″ for growing 2-3 different plants. This should give your plant enough room to grow and produce fruits. Using too small of a container can stunt the growth of the plant which will lead to less fruits.
Planting Your Strawberries
Like most plants, you have the option of growing from seeds or starting with a seedling. Starting with a seedling is by far the easier choice, but starting with seeds is always a fun challenge.
Seedlings can be bought in the spring at most hardware stores or nurseries. You’ll want to transplant them to their permanent home once you get them as their original container is usually too small to promote long-term growth. You can use a high quality potting soil, or speciality fruit soil. In general, look for fruits to be ready to harvest in roughly 4-6 weeks when growing in proper conditions.
Staring from seeds is a bit more challenging, but is cheaper in the long-term. One unique thing about strawberry seeds is many gardeners will recommend freezing them for a week or two before planting. This simulates the winter, and will “trick” them into thinking it’s spring when you plant them. Specific care instructions should be listed on the seed packet.
After freezing, keep the soil warm and moist, and the seeds will start to germinate after a few weeks. Going the seed route, it can take up to a year before the plant begins to bear fruit, but it’s well worth the effort. On average though, it will be a bit quicker at around 6 months.
For proper growth of strawberries at least six hours of sunlight is needed each day, although getting eight is recommended. Strawberries can be placed anywhere inside the home as long as they have proper amounts of sunlight and aren’t exposed to cold temperatures.
Natural sunlight is best, however, indoor growing lights are available for those unable to attain the lighting naturally. When growing with lights, look to get nearly 12 hours to offset the absence of natural light.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of strawberry growth and thus is one of the major causes of failed plants. Lack of sunlight will lead to a sickly looking plant, possibly one that will not bear fruits. If you’re having trouble growing strawberries, it’s more often than not due to a lack of light.
Watering & Feeding Strawberry Plants
Strawberry plants should be lightly watered every 2-3 days. Keep the soil moist, with a container that allows the water to easily drain. The key is to maintain a slightly moist soil while not overwatering.
You’ll want a few days between waterings to give the soil a chance to dry out. Strawberries like water, but don’t want to sit in water-logged soil. As mentioned, make sure you provide proper drainage to prevent over-watering, as this can kill a plant quickly.
For fertilizing, it’s generally recommended to do so roughly once a month with a water soluble fertilizer. This helps keep the soil rich in nutrients so your berries grow optimally. If possible, it’s best to go with an organic fertilizer. You can also use delayed-release fertilizers which can last several months. There are specific varieties of fertilizers made for fruits, these can be a good option because they take a lot of the guesswork out.
Hand Pollinating Strawberries
One unique aspect of growing strawberries indoors is the need to hand pollinate them. When outside, the wind or animals will do this, but indoors you will usually need to fill this role.
Fortunately, this is very easy. Wait until the plant flowers, then take a soft cloth, or even your finger, and gently move the pollen at the edges of the flower to the very center. You can also gently rub two flowers together. This will simulate being outside in nature, and will ensure that your plant pollinates and produces fruit.
Once the strawberries are a bright red color they are ready to harvest! This will generally be about 4-6 weeks after the flower has blossomed.
To harvest, simply snip the fruit off the vine. You want to snip them rather than pull, as pulling can damage the plant. Depending on your plant variety, this harvesting period will last for around 3 weeks before picking up again.
Tips for Growing Strawberries Indoors
Berries are more flavorful when they are a rich red, so leave it on the plant an extra day to ensure that you have the most flavorful piece of fruit possible.
Purchasing disease-resistant plants is a good idea to reduce the risks that come along with growing berries. This is especially important if you plan to move them outdoors during the warmer seasons.
A soil pH of 5.5 – 7.0 is best for strawberries.
Loam is the best soil type for growing strawberries.
Third and second-generation plants typically yield higher growth rates than first generation.
Do not pull the berries; cut them by their stem.