Sweet, juicy, vibrant strawberries are perennial plants grown in gardens the world over, popular for their bountiful harvest and versatile fruit.
The good news is that they’re extremely easy to grow, both in gardens and containers, making them ideal plants for beginners and expert gardeners alike.
All they require is decent soil and full sun, and a little bit of insight into how they fare during the different seasons of the year.
These beautiful plants are hardy, even during the winter months, and will only require special attention once temperatures drop into the lower twenties (below zero Celsius).
In this post, I’ll be discussing how much cold weather and frost strawberries can tolerate, and how to overwinter them.
How Much Cold Can Strawberry Plants Tolerate?
Though strawberry plants thrive in a 60-80 degree Fahrenheit area (15-26 degrees Celsius), they can tolerate up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius) with adequate frost protection. Once they drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, they become distressed. 10 degrees Fahrenheit and below, survival chances are slim.
Strawberry Plants And Their Cold Tolerance
Strawberries are at their best in temperatures of 60 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (15 – 26 degrees Celsius) but can tolerate cold as low as 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius) provided they are protected from frost.
If the temperature drops past 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius), they may become distressed and measures will need to be taken to protect them.
Below 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius), they have a very slim chance of surviving and will likely succumb to cold injury.
In winter, their cellular processes start to slow, and they begin the process of ‘hibernating’.
Thus, as the days get shorter and temperatures start to fall, they may take on a wilted look, which indicates that they are heading for dormancy.
Dormancy does not signify that they have stopped growing, however, but only that they are redirecting their energy to build up buds and stolons for the coming season.
Although strawberries can do very well in the winter, frost, in particular, poses a real threat to them.
When the danger of icy conditions is looming, I have found there are a few steps I can take to ensure their best chance of survival.
How to keep potted strawberries safe from the cold
Potted strawberries require a bit more attention, as they tend to suffer more easily from cold damage than their counterparts in the ground.
One option is to dig holes for my potted plants in my garden, as ground soil freezes at a slower rate than potted soil.
I then place them in the holes with firmly compacted soil surrounding them, and mulch as I would my ground-growers.
Alternatively, my garage makes a good winterizing zone for my potted plants.
Garages build up ambient heat against their inner walls, and this goes a long way in protecting my strawberries from extreme cold.
How to keep ground-planted strawberries safe from the cold
Mulching is a tried and tested way to keep strawberries warm for the winter, especially when they are planted in the ground.
I simply clear the area beneath my plants of debris such as fallen leaves, and then compactly pack a layer of quality mulch across their bases.
Indeed, I always make sure that I have selected a mulch with good drainage, so as not to smother my plants or invite fungi and disease.
Straw and pine needles, free from seeds and weeds, both make for good mulch.
On strawberries and frost
Though strawberries can survive the cold, frost can cause significant harm to strawberry plants, both in winter and in early spring.
They are particularly at risk when they reach temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius), which can be checked with a soil thermometer.
Strawberries start to produce crops early, rejuvenating from the cold quickly and bursting forth with renewed energy after their dormant phases.
For this reason, spring frost can be even more damaging than winter frost, as it harms the plants during their delicate blooming phase.
As I’ve mentioned, mulch is a good way to protect your strawberries from too much cold damage.
Some gardeners incorporate overhead watering, on the principle that liquid releases heat as it turns to ice.
I would also recommend covering strawberry plants with a row cover, burlap, or plastic, which envelops the plants completely and is rigidly attached to the ground.
This should be kept in place until there’s no more threat of spring frost.
How to know if my strawberries are dormant
Like all perennial plants, strawberries begin to undergo an adaptation phase towards the end of fall. This is to prepare them for the cold months to come.
In appearance, I have noted that they start to take on a stunted look.
Their leaves become wilted or dead-looking, and their growth slows significantly.
I also see a hesitation in the active formation of new buds and leaves. Naturally, this impacts their fruit-bearing ability.
At this stage, it’s time to take measures to protect them from the cold, as improper care in the fall can determine if plants will make it through the winter.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Much Cold Can Strawberry Plants Tolerate
Should I prune back my strawberries in the fall?
I would not advise cutting strawberries back in the fall. Cut them back after their harvest, in the summer. Removing their foliage in the fall takes away the valuable protection it provides against cold and frost.
When should I fertilize my strawberries?
The best time to fertilize strawberries is after their harvest. Fertilizing them in spring could damage the plants and bring forth overly soft fruit.
How do I check my strawberries for frost damage?
Strawberries can be checked for frost damage through careful inspection of the plant’s crown. I have found the easiest way to do this is to select a plant, remove it from the ground, and gently slice open the crown. The complexion should be creamy and white, but if it has taken on a discolored, brown appearance, it is likely that my plants are suffering from mild to severe cold damage.
Overwintering your strawberries is an important factor in ensuring a lovely harvest in the summer.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the key thing to remember is that they are, at the heart of it, tough plants that can survive and thrive in every season.
Although they can endure a fair amount of cold, a little bit of love and attention will only benefit them.
As is always the rule, simply keep an eye on your plants and be mindful of how much cold and frost is expected, and then take the necessary measures to protect them.
Taking care of houseplants and gardening are my greatest passions. I am transforming my apartment into an urban jungle and am growing veggies in my indoor and outdoor garden year-round.