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Container Gardening: Pots Galore!: Strawberry Pots

Lobelia in a strawberry pot; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Daryl Mitchell
Lobelia in a strawberry pot; photo courtesy of Flickr cc/Daryl Mitchell
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Strawberry pots add instant artistry to any garden. They come in all shapes and sizes, from elegant, tall, skinny pots with a modern slant to classic, potbelly containers that are reminiscent of a classic french potager or vegetable garden.

These pots typically have pockets around the body of the container and a wide opening at the top. Traditionally they were planted with strawberries. The idea was to place the mother plants on top and have the daughter plants move down the pot on their runner and colonize the open pockets.

Today strawberry pots can be filled with of a variety of plants ranging from drought-tolerant, creeping sedums and hens & chicks (Sempervivum) to a multitude of herbs and colorful annuals. However, these containers don't always provide optimal conditions for plants. It can be a challenge to get water to all areas of the container. The good news is that garden centers abound with sun-loving annuals that adapt well to these challenging conditions. Popular are verbena, lantana, million bells (Calibrachoa), Joseph's coat (Alternanthera) and more. Of course strawberries will always do; they can handle being crammed in small spaces. Place individual plants in every pocket for an instant result.    

Sempervivum (hens and chicks) grow well in strawberry pots; photo by Ivo Vermeulen
Sempervivum (hens and chicks) grow well in strawberry pots; photo by Ivo Vermeulen

Planting the Pots

As mentioned above, one of the challenges of these containers is the even distribution of water. Here are a few helpful suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.

  • Cut an old garden hose 2 inches shorter than the height of the pot.
  • Make holes down the length of the hose using your pruners. Try to stagger the perforations evenly.
  • Close the bottom end of the hose with a cork.
  • Place the hose in the center of the pot and start filling with potting mix.
  • Fill up to an inch below the first opening.
  • Place the first plant in position by slightly squeezing the root ball and sliding it through the opening.
  • Continue planting in this way until you reach several inches from the top.
  • Plant the top of the container so that the surface is 2 inches below the top of the container. The top of the hose should remain slightly above the soil surface level.
  • Fill the hose with water as this will not only help distribute the water evenly, but it will also act as a mini reservoir that contains water.
  • If you don't feel like using an old hose, take a 2-inch PVC pile and drill holes (1/8th-inch diameter) on alternate sides down the length of the pipe approximately 1 inch apart.

Here is another suggestion:

  • Take the cardboard tube of a paper towel roll and place it in the center of the strawberry pot. The tube will probably not be long enough so you will have to tape 1½ to 2 tubes together with duct tape (or any heavy duty tape).
  • Mix pea gravel  with a handful of horticultural charcoal. You can find horticultural charcoal at the garden center (it is what you find in orchid mixes and not to be confused with the charcoal that you place on your grill.) You can also use straight pea gravel.
  • Add some of the pea gravel mixture around the base of the tube to give it support and then fill the tube with the remainder of the mixture.
  • Fill the pot with potting soil up to an inch from the first pocket and plant according to the directions above.
  • When you are finished planting, tap the pot gently to settle the soil.
  • Pull out the cardboard tube and the column of pea gravel will stay in place. You have created a funnel that aids drainage and helps distribute water evenly.

The strawberry pots can survive without these watering channels, but the containers are easier to water and your yield (whether strawberries, annuals or herbs) will be much more productive with them.

Lantana camara 'Bandana Cherry'; photo by Ivo Vermeulen
Lantana camara 'Bandana Cherry'; photo by Ivo Vermeulen

Suggested Plants

 BOTANICAL NAME COMMON NAME
Alternanthera   Joseph's coat
Bidens bidens
Calibrachoa Million Bells Series  or Superbells Series calibrachoa
Sedum 'Angelina', 'John Creech', 'Golden Carpet', Weihenstephaner Gold',
'Blue Spruce', 'Fuldaglut',  'Ruby Mantle' 
creeping sedums
Sanvitalia creeping zinnia 
Cuphea Mexican heather
Echeveria echeveria 
Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia 
Sempervivum hens and chicks 
Thymus, Origanum, O. majorana, Salvia officinalis, Lavendula herbs (thyme,oregano, marjoram, sage, lavender)
Lantana 'Bandana', Lucky Series and Patriot Series are all good lantana 

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Noteworthy Books on Strawberry Pots and Growing in Containers