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How to Get Strawberry Seeds to Germinate

A collage of growing strawberries using their seeds.

Getting strawberry seeds to germinate can seem like an arduous task, but the task is all in the waiting. And it is worth the wait and can be an exciting project if you have never done it before. Getting strawberry seeds to germinate is easier than you think.

Strawberry seeds only need a few things to thrive. They need darkness, warmth, and water to feed off so they can sprout into tiny little things. Those tiny little things will germinate into beautiful plants that you can transplant to harvest and enjoy. Learn more about how to get strawberry seeds to germinate here.

Timing is Everything

Strawberry seedlings growing on the soil.

The key to getting strawberry seeds to germinate is to understand there is a timing cycle to this perennial plant. A perennial is a plant that can come back year after year. With strawberries that means that your strawberry plant, and harvest, can come back every single year. Like most perennials, that means you don’t have to worry about timing too much, but the first year you germinate strawberries from seeds will be important.

If you have never germinated strawberries before, the first thing you need to learn about them is that the first year you have strawberries will require the most patience. You won’t get strawberry fruits the first year you are germinating seeds. The first year will be all about germinating the seeds and then nurturing the plants as they grow.

Once you get past this first year, you will have strawberry plants to harvest and enjoy. If you enjoy germinating strawberries from seeds, you can start a new batch every year and have new strawberries from year to year. There is some patience required when planting strawberries from seeds, but you will find it to be an exciting part of gardening when you start this process.

The Importance of Cold Stratification With Strawberries

Strawberry seedlings incased on the cloth.

Before you begin to germinate strawberry seeds, you must understand their life cycle. It is helpful for any strawberry plant to undergo a cold stratification process before it begins its harvest cycle. That cold stratification process is not critical to their survival, but it does help them to reboot back to life after every winter.

Whether you are germinating seeds, or transplanting strawberry plants, or maintaining a strawberry bed, the cold stratification process can help. For strawberry plants already in the ground, the season of winter provides the cold stratification process these plants need. For seeds that you want to germinate, putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer will help them to undergo the cold stratification process that strawberries like.

Before a seed can germinate, it is considered dormant. When the seed is put in the right climate to receive the warmth it needs to grow and thrive, that dormancy period is important. The seed goes from a cold snap into a warm environment and wants to wake up and do something with the world.

That is the first phase of a strawberry seed’s life. The second is, germination. The germination phase is about the seed waking up. When it does, cell division occurs and the seed can’t help but do what it is supposed to do and begin burrowing into something or somewhere.

If it doesn’t have soil to burrow into, it will just begin growing. There are ways to germinate strawberries with and without soil. You can start your seedlings any way you want if you give it the right conditions.

To keep your seeds dormant before you are ready to germinate them, you want them to have at least two weeks of cold stratification. After that, you will gently wake them up. Start with your seeds in your freezer for at least two weeks. Then, when you are ready to plant them, take them out of the freezer and keep them at room temperature for approximately 24 hours.

The Steps of Strawberry Germination

Strawberry seedlings on a plastic container.

The first thing you need to know here is the timing. A strawberry seed can take as long as 21 days to germinate. The plant cycle is also lengthy. This is not a plant you are going to be enjoying in a few weeks. You will enjoy the first signs of strawberry life, and it will be a very exciting moment for you. There will be a waiting period here, though.

To germinate strawberry seeds the conventional way, you can plant them in soil, water them, and cover them for some darkness to start. These are the only three things that a strawberry seed needs to begin to become something. Place the seeds in a pot, and sprinkle them very lightly with soil.

You don’t want to put too much soil on top or the seeds will have a harder time looking for that air to sprout into. The seeds need that air to survive. The seeds also need to have a warm climate, but you don’t have to do a lot of work here.

The most ideal temperature for your strawberry seeds is a climate that can sustain a temperature of 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit consistently. Inside any room will do, and even warmer temperatures will work here.

As far as timing and scheduling is concerned with strawberry germination, you can start this plan anytime in the winter. The more time you put into your seedlings now, the more you will be able to enjoy them as perennials. Keep the seeds dark for a few days, and then slowly introduce them to light.

Once they become a plant or a little sprout above the soil, they are going to want as much sun as possible. Introduce that light slowly. You will know your strawberry seed will become a plant when it has at least three sets of leaves on it. Then you can add as much light as you think the strawberry can take.

Paper Towels and Seed Germination

Strawberry seedlings grown in the tissue.

You may have heard of an old school method of germinating seeds that involves using paper and the seeds. Today that method is performed using paper towels. It is easier than you think. Remember that to germinate, all a seed needs to survive is darkness, moisture, and warmth.

You can give that to the seed with a paper towel.  A key benefit here is space conservation. You also have the added benefit of seeing exactly how many of your strawberry seeds will germinate, and for many gardeners, the primary benefit to germinating with a paper towel. It can be very easy to get a bad batch of seeds, and laying them in a paper towel to germinate can be helpful in determining if you have good seeds to work with.

You would still perform this step after cold stratification. In this method, you use dye and chemical free paper towels.  You’ll soak the towels first and then lay the seeds on top of them. Warm water works well but not necessary.

Fold wet paper towels over the seeds, Fold up the towels to fit into a plastic sandwich bag or Ziplock bag. You can then leave the Ziplocks somewhere on the counter or in a quiet and warm place at room temperature for approximately one week. Make sure that the Ziplock is labeled with the date that you put the seeds in there and what kind of seeds they are.

You may want to attempt germination on a number of different days. So, you may want to have one Ziplock of strawberry seeds every day for three days, all started on different days, for a total of three Ziplocks.

You want them to sprout just enough for planting. You can leave them for a few days or check them daily to see what you are working with. You can do this with almost any kind of seed, and it is fun to experiment with.

Strawberry seedlings covered with plastic.

The best tip for paper towel seedlings is to put more in than you think you will get. That way, you will get something out of this batch, even if all of the seeds don’t sprout. When you have some signs of growth or sprouting, it’s time to give these babies some soil to grow in.

If you have seedlings in a paper towel, you want to plant them within a few days of the first sprouting. Three to five days is ideal. Keep any other seedlings in the original soil that you have germinated them in. You don’t want seedlings to get too long in paper towels, because they will get tangled with each other.

This can be impossible to resist. Although hearty plants, these stems are very, very delicate and will break with the slightest touch of hand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Strawberry Germination

Q: How much sun do strawberry seedlings need?

A: Strawberries need almost a full day of the sun when they are growing, regardless of what stage they are in. You will want yours to have at least six to eight hours of the sun after they have sprouted through the soil and have at least two full leaves on them. You want to avoid full sun all day long, as these are plants that can get burned very easily.

Q: Should I water my strawberries?

A: Yes, they need to be watered, but a normal watering cycle will do. Strawberries are a plant that have a very difficult time getting too much water. They have a solid root system and runners in the making.

There is a lot more to the strawberry plant than meets the eye. You only need to water them once daily and should water them a little bit more when the humidity rises, and they have grown into bigger plants. You don’t need to water them anymore

Q: Are the runners daughter plants?

A person cutting strawberry runners.

A: Yes, the runners of strawberries are the daughter plants. They will be the last thing to grow and the last thing to prune from the plant. You can then plant them or put them in compost. That is the beautiful thing about strawberries. You have the opportunity to grow a lot of plants from a very small initial investment.