These herbaceous perennials are highly productive and delicious. Catalogs separate strawberries into four groups: June-bearing varieties yield one large crop, ripening in late spring or early summer, depending on the climate. Their all-at-once nature makes June-bearers the preferred choice of those who wish to process the harvest for storage, but less desirable for container gardeners wanting a steady stream of fresh fruits. Everbearing are the most heat-tolerant type, with two crops—one in June and a smaller crop later in summer. Day-neutrals provide multiple flushes of berries from late spring until early autumn. The fruits tend to be smaller than those of June-bearers, but the nearly nonstop harvest extends for months longer. (Some nursery catalogs fail to distinguish between everbearing and day-neutral varieties.) Finally, alpine berries, also called woodland strawberries or fraises des bois, descend from wild strawberries. They are low-maintenance and bear tiny, intensely fragrant fruits from late spring until fall. Alpine strawberries can be tucked among other plants to create a charming window box or hanging basket.
Pot: An 18-inch-wide weatherproof container can accommodate 10 to 12 plants; two can accommodate the 25-plant bunches typically sold. Shallow containers, as little as 10 inches deep, are fine. Pocketed "strawberry pots" can be difficult to keep sufficiently watered, though they do save space.
Soil: Strawberries demand excellent drainage—their crowns rot in wet soil. They also have a very high nutrient demand, however, so give them a rich growing medium, blending 3 parts of a light, friable potting mix with 1 part compost.
Light: Place containers where they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Bright, breezy locations help to thwart fungal diseases.
Water: Because of their shallow roots, strawberries must be watered regularly. Do not allow the plants to become drought-stressed.
Recommended varieties: Select for regional adaptability and taste. Container gardeners should look first to the perpetually fruiting day-neutrals, such as 'Tristar', 'Tribute', or 'Mara des Bois'; or any variety of alpine strawberry. Everbearing varieties 'Ogallala' and 'Ozark Beauty' perform well in hot climates. Because June-bearers yield only one harvest a year, they may not merit the container real estate they demand.
Pruning: Many strawberries put out runners, which divert energy from fruiting to plant production. Unless they are wanted to propagate new plants, remove runners as they appear.
Fertilizer: Apply low-nitrogen fertilizer in early spring, late spring, and midsummer.
Hardiness: Strawberries are suitable for USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 9, depending on variety.
Caveats: Strawberries are the shortest-lived of these three fruits and may stop bearing in as few as 2 or 3 years. Start with fresh soil and new plants when harvests decline.
Related: How To Grow Plump, Juicy Strawberries