Growing strawberries indoors can be one of the biggest joys of your gardening life. There is nothing more rewarding than putting in a little bit of work and seeing the actual fruits of your labors.
When you are starting to grow strawberries from seedlings, you will learn that the fruit of this project is not going to be available “until next year.” This may not always be the case. Strawberries from seeds can be up to five to eight months away. Getting there is a lot of fun. Use this step-by-step guide to learn how to grow strawberries indoors.
Step 1: Choose Your Seeds and Containers
Growing strawberries from seeds indoors starts with choosing the right strawberry. When you are growing inside, you want to choose a strawberry that is going to stay short. Strawberries go from seeds to large plants that overflow the containers they are in. Choosing your seeds will depend on that and what you want to use the strawberries for.
For strawberries that have a long season, select seeds that are day-neutral seeds. These are seeds that will grow year-round, in any kind of climate. They are excellent producers. Alpine strawberries are an excellent choice as well, and these can also be called wild strawberries. These are good selections because they can grow without sun or in harsher climates.
The containers that you need should be enough for fairly shallow roots. You can grow many strawberry seeds in one container when you are first starting. A pot that is eight inches deep will work, and so will window boxes. You want to keep approximately three or four inches in between your seeds. When you add multiple seeds to one container, you will need to water these plants more than you normally would.
Step 2: Plan Your Strawberry Environment
Knowing what your strawberries will need is critical to ensuring they will survive. Strawberries need a good soil, a lot of light, and in time, fertilizer. For sun, you want to put your strawberries in a location where they will receive up to six hours of sun daily. You can also use LED lights for plants for your strawberries as well. Direct sun or direct light is preferred for your strawberry babies.
If you are using artificial lighting as the light for your strawberries, double the amount of time the seedlings are getting light. So if you have six hours of direct sun, put them under LED for 12 hours every day.
Strawberries need good soil like any other plant. These are not going to be deep roots, but you still want to have a lot of soil. The soil needs to drain well. Good potting soil is not expensive and can usually be purchased for $5 to $10. This will keep your seeds moist and support their root system as well. This soil is also excellent for draining water.
Fertilizers are going to be necessary to maintain the environment for your plants nutrient-rich. You can add this every few weeks to feed your babies and ensure they grow up to become beautiful plants.
Step 3: Prepare Your Seeds
There are a number of ways that you can get your seeds ready for planting. The first is by flash freezing your seeds. What this will do is put your seeds to sleep, and when they wake up to warmth, it will be like they have survived winter and are ready to shoot up into plants. Then, when your seeds warm-up, they spring to life for you. Put your strawberry seeds in the freezer overnight, and the day you are planting, take them out and let them thaw completely. When you plant these seeds, they will be primed to take root and grow into something beautiful.
If you are using seeds from an actual strawberry, you will need to dry them out before you plant them. You do not freeze strawberry seeds that have been selected from a live fruit. Pick them with a toothpick or tweezers from the strawberry when they look like they are ready to pop right off of the strawberry.
Be gentle! Put your seeds on a paper towel, and then soak them in water for about one hour. Next, put them back on the paper towel and store the seeds overnight in a dry location, rotating them frequently until they are completely dry. If you find them hard to the touch, the seeds are ready to plant. It is time to start planting now!
Step 4: Plant Your Seedlings
It’s time to start planting the strawberries. If you really love gardening, you’ll be worried at every turn here. The seeds are small, the pots are big, so many questions, are you doing it all right? You probably are. You just need to follow the basic steps of planting, and you will be okay.
The key when planting strawberry seeds is to not plant them too deep. After you take them out of the freezer or have dried them overnight, get the pots and soil ready. Add your potting soil to your containers and pots. Water the soil.
When you add the seeds, make sure they are spread around throughout the pot so that they are at least three inches apart. This can be difficult because the seeds are small, and they may just fall into the pot. Sometimes you can’t help that. You can move the plants around once they get bigger if that happens and is a problem. Don’t overwhelm yourself with this little detail. Your strawberries will help you by telling you what they need in time.
Put the strawberries on top of the soil, and do not bury them deep into the pot like you are putting them deep into the ground. You won’t see them for a while if you do. Chances are, they will still grow. But for seedlings, you just want a thin layer of soil on top of them. Covering them with soil is enough, and approximately one-quarter or one-sixth of an inch is enough soil to cover seedlings.
Now you need to water your seeds. Make sure the soil is very wet, but you don’t want to overload it either. Watering every two days or so will be just enough for them. Put them in direct sunlight and let nature do its job now. Now you wait, the hardest part about growing strawberries from seeds. It should take about one week to start to see something, but if you don’t, don’t fret. Strawberries can take up to two weeks, and you will still see some sprout up even after that. Just let nature do its job now.
Step 5: Watch Your Babies Grow
Watching strawberries grow can be painstaking but also extremely rewarding. In the photo above, these plants started from seeds likely started a few months ago. This wait is the hardest part of growing strawberries and will show you why some experts say you may not have strawberries to eat until next year. Stay patient, when you plant seeds, you get plants. That’s the rule of nature. It won’t feel that way at first when you are planting strawberries.
Within a few weeks, you will begin to see a tiny green sprout. This will have two leaves at the top of it that are very small and are in one straight line. In time, this sprout of a seedling will have some friends in the container. Let the soil dry now and go to dry before you water. In time, your plants will flower, and this is proof that one day you will have strawberries to eat.
Step 6: Pollinate the Strawberries
Pollinating strawberries helps them to bear fruit, and if you are growing them from seeds, you will have to do so. This is not a difficult task. Use a paintbrush to pollinate your strawberry flowers, but a cotton swab will also do the trick. Here, you just have to put some pollen from the outer corner of the flower center on the tip of the swab or brush. Paint this or brush this onto the inner portion of the flower.
If you aren’t sure that you are doing this right, you can also rub two flowers together to pollinate them. This will transfer the pollen onto the different flower parts so that your flowers pollinate and you get beautiful strawberries in a few months of time.
At this point, the only thing you can do with your strawberries is watch and wait for them to grow into something beautiful. Caring for your seedlings now is going to be just as important as how you seed them. You should not expect to see strawberry fruit for at least six months, but it could be even shorter in the right climate and under the right conditions.
Preparing these seedlings with the expectation that you will not see fruit until next season is the most realistic, but it is not unreasonable to suspect that you could get some within half a year. Once you start to see blossoms on your plants, you should know that fruit is on its way within about one month or six weeks. These blossoms will become your fruit.
Step 7: Caring for Indoor Strawberry Plants
As your plants are growing, you may notice what are called strawberry runners. You won’t see these for a few months if you are planting seeds. These are long branches that run horizontal and will overflow your containers. These runners will run above ground and ultimately produce new plants. For now, though, they are going to get in your strawberries’ ways. You can trim these safely and even replant them to create more strawberries elsewhere.
Alpine strawberries typically do not produce many runners, but you may get some straggling out of the container in time. They are supposed to be there but will stifle fruit production for indoor strawberry plants.
Watering is easy and should happen every other day. You want to have very nice and moist soil for your strawberries. Good deep watering is ideal, but you don’t want the water to be soggy every single day. You should see water draining into the plate or dish your container or pot is sitting in every time that you water. And you don’t want the plants sitting in that for too long.
What you want to happen is to let the soil get what it needs from the water and decide for itself how much it needs. It’s okay to let the soil dry out a little bit, over one or two days even. Empty this excess water every day after you have watered the plants. You don’t want the seeds sitting in a bath of water before they have even sprouted.
Fertilizing is next. Add fertilizer to your strawberries every few weeks. When you are planting from seeds, add the fertilizer as soon as you start to see the green pop up from the soil. Every month or every few weeks is ideal.
If your strawberries have flowers growing, you can fertilize them a little more frequently. The kind of fertilizer you choose will be a personal preference. Liquid fertilizer or fertilizer pellets in the soil will work just as well, either way. Every 10 days for fertilizer, once your seedlings have blossomed, is okay.
Rotate the plants in the sun every few days or so to ensure there is even warmth when they are in direct sunlight. When you are watering your strawberries, do so in the morning and with warm water to keep the soil and the plants nice and warm.
Harvesting your strawberries is fun, and you should harvest them as soon as they look like they are ready to eat. This makes the plant produce more by providing room for more fruit to arrive. If you do not, the strawberries could rot, and this could compromise the entire plant.
When you are harvesting, be sure to pick the fruit as early in the morning as possible. Strawberries, like most plants, have a daily schedule like we do. They function best under as much sunlight as possible, all of the time. They like their morning sun. When you harvest your strawberries first thing in the morning, you give the plant the rest of the day to perform its magic and produce more blossoms and fruit for you.
The hardest part now is the waiting, but you will get there.