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Ask Extension: Can I overwinter day-neutral strawberries?

Ripe red strawberries in a field.
Day-neutral strawberries can produce at least 1 pound of fruit per plant in the late summer and fall.

Q: I have been growing day-neutral strawberries for three years now in a small 4 x 8-foot bed. I am quite pleased with growing them as perennials. Is there a good reason that I should grow them as annuals and replace the plants every year rather than as perennials?

A: The conventional recommendation is to grow day-neutral strawberries as annuals, removing the plants after one growing season. There are good reasons for this. But we've also seen some cases where gardeners and farmers have successfully kept them growing for two or more seasons.

The main reason for removing the plants after one season is that day-neutral strawberries are susceptible to diseases like anthracnose and botrytis. They produce fruit in the heat of the summer when anthracnose is highly active. If these diseases occur, they overwinter on the plants and cause a more severe infection the following year.

At the same time, some day-neutral strawberry patches do stay healthy the first year, allowing them to overwinter and produce fruit for a second season. I have visited farms and gardens that had strong yields in Year 2 after getting poor yields in Year 1. In my own garden, rabbits ate the leaves of my strawberry plants two weeks after planting, so I let them recover for a season and then overwintered them so that I could get a crop the next year.

Based only on anecdotes, I'd say that day-neutral strawberries can sometimes be grown for a second season if the plants are healthy going into the winter, especially if yields were poor in the first year. Testing this theory would require new research, so this is not an official recommendation.

Nevertheless, I do not recommend growing the same plants indefinitely. Even June-bearing strawberry plants are only grown for 3 to 5 years, at which point their production drops as the plants decline from old age.

See more about growing strawberries in your home garden.

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension educator, fruit and vegetable production

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