How to Winterize Strawberry Plants so They Survive the Chill

Keep the winter frost from taking a bite out of your summer strawberry harvest with these winterizing tips.

Updated February 19, 2024
strawberry plants in heavy frost

It can be hard to look towards the future when the world is wintering, but if you have your eyes on baskets of juicy, ripe strawberries in the summer, that's exactly what you want to do. Taking the time now to learn how to take care of strawberry plants outdoors in the wintertime will make that vision come true. With these tips in your garden apron, you'll be humming a certain strawberry field song all winter long. 

Helping Outdoor Strawberries to Winter Successfully

Thinning runners and older strawberry plants are good places to start if you want your strawberries to stay clear of frostbite. The only one who should be taking a bite out of those strawberries? You! Following these essential tips will help to give your strawberry plants the best chance of overwintering unscathed.

Space Between Plants

Strawberries grow best when there is enough space between the plants so they can stretch out and thrive. Strive for approximately five plants per square foot  — with more space given to plants that produce vigorous and plentiful runners. The best way to do this is to examine the strawberry beds in the fall and decide which plants you can move or remove entirely based on those that have vigorous growth near the crown or center of the plant.

Take the Time for Removal and Transplanting

Any plants exhibiting crown rot, poor growth habits, or poor crown development should be removed. Transplant healthy plants to extend the existing strawberry bed or create new beds or moveable containers in the garden. You can also give some plants away to friends and fellow gardeners in your life. You're sure to find takers for healthy strawberry plants!

Quick Tip

Strawberry plants, their trailing runners, white blooms, and scarlet berries are unique additions to container gardens, window boxes, and ornamental displays. If you're cold, those strawberries are cold, so bring them inside and enjoy them from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Watering Before Dormancy

Strawberries, like many fruit trees and plants, determine the quantity of fruit they will produce based on the prior year's fall weather. Abundant fall rainfall is essential to vigorous fruit production.

If your area doesn't receive at least one inch of rainwater per week starting in late September or early October, you can help your berries along by supplementing the rain yourself. As weather varies greatly from southern to northern zones, gardeners in the northern part of the United States may want to begin watering earlier.

Mulching Against Weather

Consider adding straw, leaves, or salt marsh hay over the beds if winter temperatures can reach below about 20°F (-7°F). Strawberries, especially those with tender new growth and crowns, can sustain frost damage during prolonged cold spells or unusual cold snaps.

@bbygarden overwintering strawberries  #ProblemSolved #fallaesthetic #plantbased #plantsoftiktok #imjealous  Kouen - Lo-Fi Beats

Regions Above Zone 7

For regions above Zone 7, winter care for strawberry plants should include mulching. Apply the covering — around a 2-3 inch layer — after the first significant frost. Many natural mulches, including pine needles, wood chips, straw, and leaves, are the best choices. Avoid manure and hay in colder temperatures. Manure will "burn" plants, and hay will yield a flourishing crop of weeds in the spring!

Frost Is Needed Before Mulching

Be sure to wait until the ground has received a heavy frost before mulching the beds. The ground should be frozen with sustained cold daytime temperatures that are at or near freezing. Covering strawberry plants too soon may result in rot. After that first frost, you can put your plants to bed and cover the strawberries before deep freezes, snow, or ice.

Row Covers for Strawberry Plants

Some gardeners like to use row covers, a plastic fabric draped over the frames, rather than mulch to protect strawberry plants. You'll want to use row covers made from a clear material for sunlight to filter through to the plants. Be sure to place a row cover over the plants when the weather turns cold and remove the fabric in early spring.

Left on for too long, synthetic covers can cause the plants to acclimate to the warmer microclimate underneath the cover, leading to weather shock. If temperatures begin to warm prematurely, or the sun is heating the covered beds, plants can suffer from an increased possibility of burn, shock, or even fungal disease.

Pruning the Beds

Winterizing strawberry plants includes selective pruning. However, to encourage regular yields from the plants, you must replant the beds or cull the old berries. The pruning you need to do depends on the type of plants you have.


If you are growing an everbearer, dig out or mow the original plants to create new beds of purchased berries or to allow the rooted runners — the offshoot or new plants that grow from long, side-growing stems — to flourish.

Everbearer types produce the best fruit during the first few years. Monitor the yields to decide when the plants should be removed. Small, yellowing, or weakened plants with reduced fruiting are ready for replacement.

Related: When Is It Too Late to Plant Strawberries?

June Fruiting

June strawberries can yield berries for several more years. Trim the plants by pruning off the old leaves and the top levels of growth in the fall. Generally, trim off the first ½ inch or more if the plant grows vigorously. If you have large areas of flat beds and not raised beds, adjust your mower to the highest setting and mow over the beds. This is done after berry production around late August and early September. Pruning encourages the strawberry to produce more fruit, and it helps to mitigate disease.

Fertilizing Strawberries for Winter

Strawberries are rugged plants, but they enjoy some extra nutrition to stay healthy and produce heavier crops of berries. Fertilize the plants in the spring and the fall using a general 10-10-10 fertilizer. For best results, follow the manufacturer's directions for application on berries. How much fertilizer you need will depend on your soil as well as any other products you use in your garden, such as water-soluble fertilizers and mulches. 

Organic fertilizers are widely available for gardeners. You can augment purchased supplements with compost, lime, crushed stone, and other degraded manures such as cow, earthworm, chicken, horse, or rabbit.

If you notice the strawberry plants are not producing well or are revealing yellowing of their leaves, it may be time to add a fertilizer product. If these symptoms are exhibited by older plants, cull the aging bed and replace the rows with new strawberries. Before planting the replacements, add loam or compost to enrich the soil then mulch the new plants with straw or marsh hay.

Wintering Strawberries Is Easy

Luckily, strawberries are actually quite hardy plants and can survive the winter very well. With this strawberry winterizing guide in your gardening wheelhouse, your plants will emerge in the spring ready to flower and fruit! You'll be the envy of all the gardeners on the block. Our last tip? Make sure you have some recipes for all those strawberries. 

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How to Winterize Strawberry Plants so They Survive the Chill