Most varieties of strawberries in your garden will produce underground runners, also known as stolons. Over time, these runners will produce their own roots, resulting in a clone plant.
Unfortunately, once those roots establish, the runners dry up and shrivel away. Strawberry runners can easily be used for propagation for this reason.
Otherwise, you’ll have to pinch off runners to encourage plants to concentrate their energy on making large fruits.
Instead of wasting the new plants, cut them off as they appear, and pot them. Don’t just toss them!
Planting runners is an excellent way to extend your crop without having to buy more plants.
When to Cut Strawberry Runners
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait until fall or even late summer to cut strawberry runners. This is one time you can choose to do it, ideally before you mulch everything over for the winter.
However, you can also cut runners in the spring or early summer. Basically, any time of the year that the plants are active is totally fine to cut them.
Just make sure the plants have developed adequate root growth.
Each strawberry plant will send out a number of runners. Selecting the ideal ones for cutting shouldn’t bee too challenging.
Start with three or four to get started, being careful as you pull each from the mother plant. Keep the ones that are growing closest to the mother plant for your propagation, as they’ll be strongest. You can try to save the others, but often, you’ll just need to discard them.
How to Plant and Root Brand-New Runners
When you find a well-established runner that hasn’t set up new growth above the soil line yet, put it in some potting soil or compost (still attached to the parent plant), so that its roots can get established.
Choose a pot that is about three to four inches in diameter. Each pot should be filled with moist peat. Put the runner atop the potting medium and anchor it in place with a rock. Water it thoroughly.
In about four to six weeks, the plant should have sent roots into the pot so you can clip it away from the mother plant.
Gently snip the runner from the parent plant, and there you have it, a whole new strawberry plant! It will start sending up new growth above ground shortly thereafter.
Planting Your Rooted Runners
In some cases, you’ll have to move strawberry plants that have already set new roots from their runners for the season. This can prevent overcrowding and will help you develop a brand new strawberry patch!
You’ll have better airflow and your plants will be less crowded, too.
The best time to transplant strawberry runners is in the same year that they were established.
This will help you keep most of the roots intact. Ideally, you should do this in the spring as soon as they come up. During the first year, you might not get much of a crop, but you will in the second and third years.
Some people wait until the end of the summer to transplant to maximize the growing season, but if you’re pressed on space (as you can see in the picture above), that might not be an option. Go ahead and move the strawberries in the spring.
Here’s how to plant runners with well-established roots – either plants that already sent out and set their own roots directly in the ground, or those that you propagated on your own from strawberry runners.
Prepare Your Plants
Try to minimize the stress of replanting as much as you can for your strawberries. They should not be dry or sick looking. A healthy strawberry will have dark green leaves supported by strong stalks. These stalks will be firm but flexible – and well-hydrated!
Don’t transplant when the weather is extremely hot, dry, or windy. Similarly, try to avoid transplanting when the soil is wet, as this can make the soil soggy and the roots hard to work with.
Choose a day that is mild and water lightly in the morning. Wait until the afternoon to transplant so the soil is firm yet moist.
As you’re transplanting, you’ll want to pay attention to the roots. Any damage to the roots risks death, so make sure you follow the steps below to preserve the health of your roots.
Selecting the Right Planting Location
First, start by selecting a good planting location. You should prepare your new planting location first so that you don’t have to spend unnecessary time doing so while your fragile strawberry plants are uprooted.
Ideally, the planting location for your strawberry plants will be sunny, fertile, and well-draining.
The soil should be slightly acidic. I chose to plant my strawberry runners in an established hügelkultur bed that’s filled with compost, manure, and straw/hay. We already have raspberry and blackberry canes growing here, so we know the soil is slightly acidic.
You can plant strawberry runners directly in the ground or in a raised bed. Either way, make sure it’s a location that will hold moisture. Your roots need to hold moisture both during the process of transplanting as well as after the process is over.
Digging Up Strawberry Runners
Select only the strawberry plants you want to transplant. The best plants for transplanting are those that are only a few months old and freshly established. Get rid of any damaged flower buds or discolored leaves before you transplant.
Dig up the strawberry plants you select, either those that you allowed to root in a container or those that have already rooted themselves in the ground.
Try to get as much of the roots as possible from the ground so that they are still attached to the plant. Once they are out of the ground, transplant them immediately. If they aren’t going directly into the bed, wrap them with some wet paper towels.
When you remove your plants, you’re going to need to “cut the cord.” All strawberry plants will be linked together with vine-like stalks. Those should be cut before you remove the plant.
Transplant Strawberry Plants
Finally, transplant the strawberry plants to your new, prepared bed. Try not to dig up the entire strawberry system at once. Just transplant one at a time.
Once it’s in the ground, water it thoroughly before transplanting the next strawberry. This can minimize stress.
Some people wait until they are completely done transplanting to water. I don’t recommend doing this. Water immediately so your plants don’t die.
Implementing Transplanting Plans and Systems
You’ll find that these new strawberries you transplanted will eventually put out new runners of their own, too. Therefore, it’s important to have a good idea of how and where you want to move these runners so that you can stay ahead of all of your plants’ rapid, practically invasive growth!
During the second year of growth, your transplanted strawberries will also produce runners. Strawberries often don’t produce good amounts of fruit until the second year, so your original strawberries should be fruiting while the transplanted strawberries will be sending out runners.
By the time plants are in their third production year, they will lose some of their productivity.
Therefore, you should always have an idea of how and where you want to move your new plants. I recommend starting with a very large planting bed and then just moving your plants around each season. This can help keep things contained and organized.
You do need to watch out for disease, though. By replanting in the same beds, you run the risk of your plants succumbing to strawberry diseases.
Repotting Strawberries to Give to Others
If you want, you can take your strawberry transplants and repot them. You can keep these pots at home (follow all the same steps, but instead of putting your new strawberry plants in a patch, put them in a container) or regift them.
If you’re going to do this, I recommend repotting your strawberries in shallow Tupperware containers instead of pots. You won’t need a lot of soil. Just put enough in so the root ball is completely covered and doesn’t touch the bottom of the container.
Give each plant ab it of water and let it stand overnight to recover. This will save you a pot and will be sturdy enough for transplanting, too.
Strawberry Runner Transplanting Tips
The time when you transplant strawberry plants is also a good time to tend to any basic tasks your strawberry plants require.
For example, you may want to prune away a few of the dead leaves at the bottom of the plant. Go ahead and trim these gently before you replant them.
Try not to fertilize after you have replanted your strawberries. This can be stressful. Your plant needs to spend its energy on adapting to the new location instead of growing. Wait at least a week to fertilize.
One more tip – check the weather forecast before you transplant. Pick a day that is calm, ideally one with nighttime weather that will also be clear and calm. Strawberries are tough plants, but transplanting right before a rain or wind storm is not a great idea.
There you have it! Your guide to growing strawberry plants from runners.
So, next year I’ll let my runners take root, and start a younger patch of strawberry plants to replace my older ones when they aren’t as fruitful anymore.
update 05/22/2020 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.