How To Deal With Strawberry Runners

Propagating Strawberries

Strawberry Plant

Towards the middle of summer, many strawberries will be ready for harvest and the plants will begin to send out runners – shoots from the main plant that will become new plants. Strawberry plants are great for frugal and money-conscious gardeners because if you buy one plant one year you can often have three, four or even more the next. There is always a trade off between getting lots of berries this year and getting new plants but if you remove runners that emerge while the harvest is in full flow and then allow runners to grow when the harvest begins to come to an end then you can get the best of both worlds.

Strawberry Patch

What to do with strawberry runners?

It is perfectly acceptable to simply allow your strawberry patch to become a wild and tangled mess, though productivity is likely to go down within a few years. The problem is that you will not be able to tell which are the older plants and which are younger. A better alternative is to remove the strawberry runners and move them to a new growing position, so you can keep full control and will be able to tell which plants are older and will become less productive and which are still young and vital.

Strawberry Runners

When to remove strawberry runners?

So, when should you cut strawberry runners from the mother plant? When you see runners developing roots, rather than allowing those to take root in the soil and become new plants wherever they want to, you can make sure that your runners take root in pots. Do not immediately disconnect runners from their parent plant. Instead, it is best practise to allow them to remain attached and moving the pots to them. You can use pegs or bent sticks to secure the runner and make sure that the roots of the new plant stay in contact with the soil.

Strawberry Runner

How to take runners off strawberry plants

By allowing the runners to stay attached to the parent strawberry plant, you are ensuring that the new plants get the best start possible. Only when the runners have had a chance to develop a strong root system should you cut the runners and allow the 'baby' strawberry plants to be moved to their new location. You can place them somewhere else in your garden or keep them in a covered space such as a greenhouse, conservatory or polytunnel for an earlier crop of strawberries next summer.

How to plant strawberry runners

Start by selecting a healthy looking runner from the parent plant that has produced at least a leaf or two. Remove stems shooting off the new leaves, but be careful to keep it attached to the parent plant. Place the runner on some nice moist compost, pressing it in to the surface very slightly. You could use a bent bit of wire to hold it in place, or you could place a heavy twig on top (carefully, you don't want to damage it), just to hold it down and keep it in contact with the soil. Keep the soil lightly damp at all times. Once the runner has developed its own roots, you can cut the stem connecting it to the parent. You now have a wonderful, independent strawberry plant grown from a runner! You can plant it in to a pot or into a veg box or fruit patch.

How to propagate strawberry plants in water?

This is a similar process to rooting strawberry plants in soil, except you're using a container with water instead of a pot with soil. Find a waterproof container (preferably with fairly low sides as it makes it easier to lay the strawberry runner over the side), add a few pebbles/stones to the bottom and half-fill with water. Place the strawberry runner into the container, not submerged into the water but just hanging above it. You can put a lid on the container to prevent evaporation, or you can be diligent in ensuring there is always enough water in the container. Put the container (and attached parent plant!) in a nice warm spot and you should see small roots developing off the runner within a week or two.

Make sure that you continue to harvest any remaining strawberries on your parent plants and make sure you provide both parent plants and runners with enough water to keep them happy and healthy and next year, you could have even more delicious strawberries to eat. If you run out of space, keep the runners and give the small plants away to family or friends who might appreciate them.