Horticulture Magazine

How To Grow New Strawberry Plants From Runners

a strawberry runner above soil

There is nothing more delicious than eating homegrown strawberries.

They taste so much better than shop-bought, can crop for weeks and are incredibly easy to grow.

Strawberries, or ‘Fragaria x Ananassa’ as they are botanically named, are perennial plants that usually crop well for 3 or 4 years – after which fruiting diminishes and the plants need replacing.

Instead of buying new plants every few years, new plants can be propagated from the old plants by taking runners.

An illustration of strawberry plant growth stages
Strawberry plant growth stages

Propagation can seem rather complicated and daunting, but don’t let this put you off.

In this guide we’ll show you how to use runners to grow new plants for free.

Growing Strawberries

strawberries growing in a large rectangular tub

There are several different types of strawberries that you can grow here in the UK.

The most common strawberries grown at home, which we’ll focus on, are summer fruiting varieties, that can fruit in either early, mid or late season.

If you have room for a mixture of all three then you could be picking strawberries for weeks on end over the summer!

ripe and unripened strawberry fruits on the plant

Other varieties include everbearers or perpetual strawberries – which produce fruits on and off intermittently during the summer until the first frosts – and alpine strawberries, which crop tiny but delicious fruits from spring until autumn.

Summer fruiting varieties are a great and easy plant to grow in the garden.

They grow well in either containers or direct in the ground, and are a great plant to get children interested in growing.

Early varieties will crop from late May, mid-season from mid-June and late varieties from early July.

Propagating Strawberry Plants

runners extending out of large strawberry patch

Strawberry plants can be propagated, either from seed or from runners.

Growing from seed is relatively tricky with cold treatment often being required prior to sowing and new plants not coming true from hybrid parent plants.

Strawberry plants or runners can often be bought cheaply from garden centres or community sales and are readily available, making it the preferred option for most gardeners.

When To Propagate Runners

Runners, or ‘stolons’ as they are also called, are the long leafless stems that the plants produce.

a strawberry plant with runners

Runners are often produced from year one, but these should be cut off in the first two years and only used for propagation from year three.

These runners produce baby plants or plantlets at their ends and it is these that will produce new plants.

The best time to use these runners for new plants is after the plant has finished fruiting, however, anytime from late summer until autumn will suffice.

How To Grow New Strawberry Plants From Runners

Before making new plants from runners, it is important to make sure that the parent plant is a healthy specimen and free of disease.

1) Ensure Soil Contact

magnified view of a child strawberry plant establishing itself via a runner

The plantlets need contact with the soil to root and grow.

Some plantlets may already have roots forming underneath, which need to be buried just below the soil surface.

To enable this soil contact, u-shaped pieces of wire or wire pegs can be used to pin the stem and plantlet directly into the ground or pots already filled with soil.

It is important not to cut off the stem from the parent plant at this stage, but to wait for the new plant to produce new leaves before doing so, usually after 4 – 6 weeks.

a pot grown runner being held in a woman's hand

You can either grow in the ground, or force the runner to establish itself in a separate pot.

We recommend cutting any additional runners extending from the one which you are propagating.

using scissors to cut off a runner that is not needed

This will allow the new plant to divert all its energy into developing new roots.

2) Cut The New Plant From The Parent

cutting a child strawberry plant from its parent plant using orange secateurs

Once new leaves have appeared and the new plant has been separated from the parent plant, it can then be transplanted to a new site, left where it is to grow or be potted up.

These new plants will need watering until established, especially if planted in pots, which tend to dry out more quickly.

3) Plant In A Suitable Spot

three newly propagated strawberry plants laid on weed barrier material

After only 4-6 weeks, the roots of the plant shouldn’t be too well established, meaning you should be able to dig around them and transplant your strawberry plant to a new, suitable location.

With newly propagated plants planted out in spring, it is advisable to remove the flowers during the first season, in order to encourage root growth.

A strawberry plant can send out multiple runners during the growing season, however it is recommended to only use 3 – 4 of them for propagation each year.

many new strawberry plants in a basket being planted out

If you are unable to wait until year three to take runners for propagation, then runners can easily be bought online from reputable suppliers in late summer or early spring.

For the best chance of success, it is best to avoid planting them out during the winter months when the soil is wet and cold.

Propagation need not be intimidating, so why not have a go at growing some free strawberry plants this summer.

Let’s be honest, is it ever possible to have too many strawberries?

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