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How to Grow and Reproduce Strawberry plants in Containers by Runner Propagation - A quick gardening guide

Strawberry Runners or Stolons

It's not uncommon to obtain 30 to 50 daughter plants from a single mother plant !

It's not uncommon to obtain 30 to 50 daughter plants from a single mother plant !

Reproducing strawberries by runner propagation is extremely easy even when you are doing in containers or pots, but new gardeners usually have a lot of questions the first time they do it. This hub will help you clear them out and give you some tips.

What are runners or stolons?

It’s the easiest way to propagate your strawberry plants.

Runners or “stolons” are long stems coming out of a “mother plant”. They look similar to the flower stems but they grow longer and when these stems touch ground they will root and a new strawberry plant will grow.

If your strawberry plant is set in the ground, runners may root where you didn’t want or expect them to do. Keep them checked. You can use twigs, stones or other objects to make them root where you want them.

This is how they look!

Set a pot with fertile soil close to the mother plant and the stolon will grow roots when it touches the ground there.

Set a pot with fertile soil close to the mother plant and the stolon will grow roots when it touches the ground there.

About strawberry runner propagation

Strawberries stolons propagate so fast that if strawberries didn’t taste so great we would likely consider them an invasive plant and would struggle to get rid of it.

But this also means that you can use strawberries to cover ground areas instead of lawn, they fit especially nice around trees. Keep in mind that once they start propagating, you will have more trouble trying to keep them within boundaries, that growing new plants.

If you keep your strawberries in pots, you can set other containers with fertile earth close, and once they find them they will grow roots and you will have new strawberry plants that you can move to other areas in a couple of weeks.

You can also use small, temporal containers (like yogurth disposable cups) that you can place within the mother plant’s pot and once the runners had set their roots and have a few leaves you can cut them and transplant them to their final destination.

Note that if they don´t find fertile soil soon and they get in contact with a hot floor they will burn and dry out.

Strawberry runner that has just reached the soil

When the stolon touches ground, a new set of roots will grow down, and leafs will grow up.

When the stolon touches ground, a new set of roots will grow down, and leafs will grow up.

The Runner or Stolon Stems

Strawberry plants produce leafs that grow in sets of three and other leafless stems where the flowers and fruit grow.

Runner stems look a lot like the flower /fruit stems, but they can be long or short and they can bend and climb in their search for soil.

They are long intermodal stems that end in a Spanish fan-like leaf formation. Once they reach the ground leafs will start to grow up and roots will grow down, both very fast.

This growing is very demanding on the plant. Don't forget to water them often and provide plenty of sun.

One week later

Leaves have grown up, roots have grown down. We could cut this one now.

Leaves have grown up, roots have grown down. We could cut this one now.

To cut or not to cut

When the runners have grown roots and they have several sets of leaves it is safe to cut the runners.

If you don’t cut them, as the plant matures, they will dry out and detach themselves. However, if you are container gardening it’s unpractical to wait for the plant to do it herself.

When my strawberry shot its first runner I had just bought a larger pot because she had outgrown hers. I had been waiting for this runner for a long time so I decided to wait before transplanting. I set other pots nearby and the runners started settling down.

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A lot of runners later, the mother plant’s stems hadn’t dried out and she really was very tight in there, so I decided to transplant her, with runners and everything (I still was afraid to kill the few new plants that I had managed so far). I carefully removed the plant without cutting any runners and set her in the new pot, I removed some older leaves and watered and hope that she would be okay. It turns out neither the mother plant nor the runners were affected in any way. She didn’t lose flowers or fruit as I thought it would happen. It was as if the transplanting never occurred.

After the children’s grandchildren had started their own runners, it was getting ridiculous, I could not walk through the area anymore without skipping pots and I had to assume strange positions worthy of a yoga master to water the plants, so I decided to cut all runners that had grown roots and have at least two sets of leaves (regardless of size) and rearrange the pots in a more manageable disposition.

Planting Strawberry Runners in Little Pots

Substituting Plants each year – Growth Cycle of Strawberries

Although strawberries perennials, the fruit bearing capacity in some strawberry species dwindles after the second year. So, the easiest way to keep your strawberries producing plenty of fruit is to start new plants each year to substitute the plants that will yield less and less fruit eventually.

The first year your priority will be to grow a healthy plant. When the new plant starts flowering, pinch the flowers so the plant can focus in producing a good root system and plenty of leaves. Producing fruit consumes a lot of energy and resources.

When strawberry plants are propagating by runners, they will not produce much or any fruit at all. If you rather have fruit than runners, you can cut them out right away.

Take into account that a happy strawberry will chose to propagate through runners instead of seeds (thus fruit). Why would the plant do otherwise? If it has the water and nutrients it needs, the mother plant would want its progeny to grow in the same area.

So, if you are not getting plenty of fruit you can go for a reduction in fertilizer and you can also stop watering for a couple of days (but be careful, remember that strawberries are thirsty plants). This will trick the mother plant to think it’s better to produce seeds (fruit) that can be carried away by birds to another place.

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You can also use a hanging basket!

Final Comments and Recommendations

Runners can be difficult to keep in order if you have your strawberries planted in the ground. However, in container gardening they are piece of cake.

You have to decide how many strawberry plants you can and want to keep, get the containers set in place with fertile soil and keep only the strongest plants. Don't try to keep all of them unless you have a lot of space!

You'll have to water every container and move them in strange formations so runners can grow roots in the best spots and this can really add up, you will find it difficult to move around if you keep all the plants your strawberry produces.

I've found that in most cases the runners that stem from the mother plant are stronger than runners that come out from a grandchild or grand grandchild (but sometimes it is not that way!)

You can cut the runner from the mother plant, when the second runner has runners of their own that have set in the ground already. Then you can move them to a better spot.

Don't forget to water every day. Producing runners make strawberries very thirsty!

I stopped at fifteen plants. I couldn't manage more plants.

Good luck and happy planting!

Runner Propagation - 1st Phase

Strawberry runners in action. 1st Phase.

Strawberry runners in action. 1st Phase.

© 2013 Gabriela Hdez


Gabriela Hdez (author) from Valencia, Spain on August 31, 2013:

You bet it is! It's harder to keep them under control than reproducing them.

Thanks for the comment.

Candy Tale

someone on August 27, 2013:

i have done this before and it works magically well. it's much easier and faster than starting strawberry plants from from seed

Wiqar Ali Shah from Peshawar Pakistan on April 25, 2013:

tnks CandyTale for your coppration

Gabriela Hdez (author) from Valencia, Spain on April 24, 2013:

You're welcome wiqaralishah

Wiqar Ali Shah from Peshawar Pakistan on April 23, 2013:

Wonderful important khowlege tnks for sharing

Gabriela Hdez (author) from Valencia, Spain on April 22, 2013:

Thank you Kathryn.

It works very well with strawberries. There are other plants, like blackberries that expand underground, so its difficult to do with containers. With strawberries is very easy. Just put a pot next to the mother plant!

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on April 22, 2013:

That is great! I have heard of doing something similar with other plants, but I didn't know you could do it with strawberry plants. I also like that it works okay in containers. I'm going to share this!

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