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Your Indoor Small Garden: Grow Strawberries in Containers

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The Rewards of Indoor Vertical Gardening

Enjoy Pesticide-Free Fruits

Credit: Pixabay, Braxmeie & Steinberger

The strawberry is a favorite home-grown fruit in the U.S.  It is grown in all of the 50 states.  This perennial is also grown all over the world.  Its global footprint is due largely to the plant’s ability to tolerate a wide range of temperatures. This perennial is relatively easy to grow.  You can grow strawberries indoors and outdoors.  You can grow them in large spaces, small spaces and in containers.  It is a suitable plant for an indoor small garden.

People prefer to grow their strawberries indoors for a variety of reasons.  They can control the growing conditions to obtain optimal performance from the berries.  Some people grow them to make sure that their favorite fruit is not contaminated with pesticides and unhealthy chemicals.  Some use it as an edible ornamental plant that adds beauty and character to the interior of their houses.  Although this perennial is easy to grow, you can achieve the best results by using optimum conditions for growing it in your indoor small garden.

Planter Systems for the Small Garden

Proper planting systems are important for obtaining a good yield of sweet and juicy fruits (a good performance) in your little garden.   When thinking of gardening in a small space some people still think of crowding many plants in a small space as was done a few years ago with the square foot garden.   This view of small space gardening is not true today because small space gardening has markedly evolved with the advent of vertical gardening systems which enable you  to optimize the performance of your plants in a small garden.  With indoor vertical gardening you use the space between the floor and the ceiling for planting your fruits and vegetables.  The containers used for vertical gardening, vertical planters, make it easy for   gardeners to realize bountiful harvests from small spaces.  Strawberry plants are suitable for various vertical planters, and they perform very well in the indoor  little gardens.  

Potting Soil

Strawberries can grow in an average potting soil, but you will get the best performance from your plants if you grow them in a soil that is optimal for growing strawberry plants.  Ideally, the best soil for this perennial should contain 30 per cent clay, 30 percent organic material and 40 percent sand. This soil has the structure that supports good drainage, good aeration and good water-holding capacity.  This soil will be ready to power an effective growth of the strawberry plant when it is fortified with adequate plant nutrients and maintained at a pH of 6.0 to 6.8, the ideal pH range for growing this perennial.  It should be noted that this plant can grow in a wide range of pH values, ranging from 5.5 to 7.0, but the performance would not be optimal at pH values outside the optimal range.    

It is important to pay attention to the quality of the soil that you use in the containers for the plants in your little garden, because the soil is one of the primary determinants of the yield you will get from your garden.  In this regard, having a soil with good structure and adequate plant nutrients is not enough.  You should also make sure that your soil is not contaminated with pests that can do harm to your strawberry plants.  Therefore, you should make sure that you obtain your potting soil from a reliable source. 

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Choosing the Variety of Strawberry for the Small Garden 

You should choose a plant that is suitable for growing in small spaces. Ideally, you want a strawberry plant that grows upright instead of one that would send out vines all over the floor. Plants from three varieties are generally chosen for growing indoors:

  •  June bearing – bears fruits ones a year, in June. Some strawberry plants that belong to this group include Honeyoye,  Allstar, Éclair and Chandler.

  • Eeverbearing – bears fruits two times a year, in June and in autumn. The strawberries that belong to this group  include  Fort Larame, Quilnault and Ozak Beauty.

  • Day neutral – bears fruit from late spring to autumn. The strawberries that belong to this group include Fern, Seascape and Eversweet.  

 Planting the Strawberries   

You can start your plants from seeds; from plants that are growing in a pot, or from “bare roots” .  Growing strawberries from “bare roots” is the most popular and most cost-effective way for starting your plants.  Bare root strawberries are dormant plants whose roots are alive but most of the leaves are dead. If you start your plants from bare roots (or from plants that are growing), then make sure that you obtain the plant from a reputable source to improve the chances that your plants are pest-free.

When you get your package of bare root plants, separate them into individual plants and soak them in warm water for 1 to 2 hours to rehydrate them.  Next, plant them in the containers.  Make sure that when you cover the roots with soil  that the crown stays above the soil.  If the crown is buried in the soil your plant may rot. After planting, water the plants and they should start growing in a few days. 

Healthy Plants from Optimal Growing Conditions

Optimal Growing Conditions for Quality Fruits

Strawberry Flowers
Credit: Ray, Krishnendu, Wikipedia Commons

Light for the Indoor Plants

The strawberry plant needs adequate amounts of sunlight to grow and perform well.  This sun-loving perennial needs a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day.  The optimal requirement is 12 to 16 hours of sunlight each day.  The south-facing windows are the best source of natural light (sun light) for your indoor plants.

If you cannot get enough sun light, then it may be necessary to supplement the light with plant grow light.  You may also use only the grow light if you do not want your little garden to be located by the south-facing window or by any window. There are several types of grow lights from which you can choose:

  • Incandescent
  • Light Emitting Diode (L.E.D.)  
  • High Intensity Discharge  (H.I.D.)
  • Fluorescent  - particularly, compact fluorescent  bulb

Compact fluorescent light is the newest type of plant grow light, and it has some advantages over some of the other types.  It is an efficient bulb and it costs very little to operate. It generates very little heat, so you can place it very close to your plants without damaging them.  Placing the light closer to your plants will markedly increase the amount of light energy that you can get from the light.  This would further lower the operating cost because you can use bulbs of lower wattage.  Note that L.E.D. bulbs are more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than the compact fluorescent bulbs, but they do not have the compact feature of the compact fluorescent bulb.  In addition, the start-up cost for the L.E.D. system is more expensive. Therefore, the compact fluorescent light is the best choice for the little garden.

If you use the compact fluorescent bulb, it is better to use the bulb with full spectrum for the strawberry plants.  The full spectrum bulb has a combination of light waves that supports the growth of the leaves and ones that support fruit growth.  Some compact fluorescent bulbs have light wave lengths that support either leaf growth or fruit development, but not both. Over-all, the full spectrum bulbs emit light that is similar to the sun light.  

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Caring for the Plants 

Indoor gardening makes it easier for you to optimize the care of your plants so that you can be reasonably sure of good growth and remarkable harvest.  Best care is given by taking actions that enhance the plant’s performance.  These actions include:

  • Proper watering
  • Maintaining adequate temperature
  • Keeping proper humidity
  • Maintaining adequate exposure to sunlight
  • Keeping adequate nutrients in the soil
  • Maintaining a pest-free  environment


Water the plant as needed to make sure that the soil is moist but not soggy. There are numerous variables that determine how quickly it takes for the soil to dry, and they include:

  • The type of soil
  • The room temperature
  • Humidity
  • The size of  the plants in the container
  • Whether or not the  plant is at the fruiting stage

The problem with over-watering is that the soil could become soggy if you  have  too much clay in the soil. This would lead to root rot and your plants may die.  On the other hand, the plants could also die if the soil becomes too dry. 

One thing you might do to keep the soil from drying to fast is to keep the humidity at an optimum level for the strawberry plant.   The optimum humidity is achieved when the relative humidity has a value of 65 to 75 per cent. 


Strawberry - the Unique Fruit

The Only Fruit with Seeds on the Outside

:     The Perfect Strawberry
Credit: : Flickr.com

 Maintaining Proper Temperature 

The optimal temperature for growing strawberries is 60 to 80 degrees fahrenheit (degrees F).  This plant can survive extreme low temperatures, temperatures as low as 10 degrees F.  Temperature plays a pivotal role in the fruit bearing by this perennial.  There are also notable differences in the way the different varieties respond to changes in the temperature. The optimal temperatures for fruit bearing by the June-bearing variety and the everbearing variety are a condition where the day temperature is between 70 and 80 degrees F and the night temperature is between 60 and 65 degrees F. The Day Neutral variety is more tolerant of temperature changes, and it can produce fruits when the temperature is between 35 to 85 degrees F.  

Fertilizing the Plants

The strawberry plant is a heavy user of plant nutrients.  If your plant is fertilized and properly maintained, it will remain productive for about 3 years. You should replace the plant at the end of three years because its performance will go down with or without  the fertilizer.

Liquid fertilizer is the best choice for the strawberry plant in a small space. A balanced fertilizer is the best choice of fertilizer for the strawberry plant. A balanced fertilizer is a fertilizer which has the same value for the macro-nutrients, nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K).   The levels of the macro-nutrients (N-P-K) are designated by numbers such as (5-5-5); (10-10-10), and (5-20-10).  

If you cannot find a balanced fertilizer, the optimal choice, then you can buy a fertilizer that shows the lowest value for N.   The problem with having a very high nitrogen (N) level is that your plant will grow a lot of leaves and a few fruits.  Additionally, the fruits have a tendency to rot.

 Controlling the Pests

About 200 different pests have been identified for the strawberry.  By growing your berries indoors, you take a major step for avoiding these pest problems. By using bare root strawberries from reputable sources, you take another measure to avoid the pest problem.   In spite of these measures, you can still run into pest problems.  The most likely pest that would attack your berries is the aphid, the sap sucker.  Your task then, is to control or get rid of them without using harmful pesticides and toxic chemicals.

The aphid has a piercing and sucking mouth that it uses to suck the sap from your plants.  In clusters, aphids will suck the sap from young shoots and leaves. This will damage your plants and impair their performance.  You can get rid of them using non-toxic home-make solutions that are acceptable pest control measures for organic fruit and vegetable plants:

  • Mix 2 teaspoons of dish soap with a bottle (12 oz) of warm water.  Spray the pest to remove the waxy covering on their bodies. These soft-bodied pests will then dehydrate and die. You may have to repeat this treatment several times.
  • Mix 3 oz of vegetable oil with 9 oz of water and 2 to 5 drops of dish soap.  Spray the pests. The oil will clog the respiratory system (respiratory spiracles) of the aphids and kill them.

Benefits of a Bountiful Harvest

Different Ways of Enjoying the Strawberries

:     Strawberry Cake
Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The harvest time is the time to reap the fruits of your labor. You can pick the berries at the peak of ripeness and eat them. You may experience the thrill of eating a pesticide-free, home-grown fruits.  If you have a bountiful harvest, you may find different ways to consume the berries:  

  • Add strawberry flavor to your smoothie
  • Improve the nutrient profile of your dry cereal
  • Enjoy a fresh  strawberry cake  
  • Make a delicious strawberry pie
  • Make a fresh strawberry drink
  • Give some to friends and neighbors
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Plaster, E. J. Soil Science and Management. 3rd ed.. Albany: Delmar Publishers, 1996.

Tisdale, S. L. and W. L. Nelson. Soil Fertility and Fertilizers. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1975.




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