How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries

A major advantage to growing strawberries hydroponically is having fresh strawberries that you can harvest throughout the year. And if your strawberry plant should yield more strawberries than you can eat, you can always freeze or preserve any excess production.

Below you’ll find information on how to grow hydroponic Strawberries. Learn about lighting, nutrients, pollinating, and caring for your strawberry Plants.

Growing Hydroponic Strawberries

Quick Facts

  • pH range 5.5-6.0 for optimal results, up to 6.5 acceptable
  • Strawberries prefer low humidity
  • Good airflow is essential for plant vigor.
  • Strawberries are prone to powdery mildew in high humidity.
  • 65-75 degrees F is best for fruiting
  • 12-16 hours of light daily optimal – but a bare minimum of 6 hrs.
  • Annual yield: up to 3 lbs fruit per plant
  • Harvest 12 months/year is possible – Shorter Plant Life expectancy

What Strawberries Grow Best Hydroponically?

I suggest avoiding June bearers as they won’t bear past summer, they are suited for one heavy crop only. Day-neutral or Ever Bearing varieties are best for Hydroponic growers who want an extended season.

Some varieties that have shown to do well in hydroponics are:

  • Red Gauntlet
  • Brighton {Higher Yields – some sacrifice of flavor.}
  • Chandler – reasonable yields and flavor
  • Douglas
  • Tuft {Lower yields, sweeter berry}
  • Tioga {Lower yields, sweeter berry}

Related: How to Preserve Strawberries

Growing Strawberries from seed will take 2 – 3 years to attain maturity, which is not good for hydroponic growers. Cold-stored certified virus tested runners are best. Runners are the off-shoots of a mature strawberry plant that has been cut off and re-rooted.

Runners on strawberry plants should be cut back

Ideally, the runners you choose should be in flower or at least have buds. Planting chilled cuttings to your Hydroponic garden at staggered intervals will help to ensure a supply of fresh strawberries year-round. 

See: Strawberry Varieties

Presoak all media {LCA, Rockwool, vermiculite…}  in a pH balanced water for at about 45 minutes before using it. Dry media will soak up moisture from the plants roots.

Nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous are the three primary nutrients required by strawberries.

Substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, are also needed, as well as the hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen they will naturally get through the air and water.

Related: Hydroponic Blueberry Planting Guide

Strawberries also need trace amounts of certain elements in order to thrive. These elements are copper, manganese, molybdenum, iron, cobalt, chlorine and zinc.

Strawberry Nutrient Solutions  are available ready mixed from many online sellers.

Yellowing or browning leaves, brown spots, strangely-colored plants, or poorly developed berries, are all signs that your strawberry plants aren’t getting all the nutrients that they need.

Properly cared for Hydroponic strawberry plants will produce up to 25 percent faster than if grown conventionally.

See: Hydroponic Nutrients

Containers

The container[s] you choose will depend on the hydroponic system you decide to use.

A very basic and inexpensive system is the Bucket System. It is easily made using 5-gallon buckets, mesh pots, assorted fittings and a little ingenuity.

A diagram of a hydroponic bucket system.

Obtain a 5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket[s]. If not already present, drill drainage holes in the bottom. You should avoid containers that contained chemicals such as paints and other coatings – use Food Grade containers only. Thoroughly clean and dry your container.

Fill the container about 2/3 full with your pre-soaked growth media – vermiculite is best for strawberries, but other media will also suffice.

You will also need net pots, they look somewhat like miniature laundry baskets, they will be holding the actual plant that will sit in either the media or solution.

See Also :Hydroponic Growth Mediums

Planting Hydroponic Strawberries

Fill a second bucket with cool water.

If you are transplanting strawberries from soil, gently remove the strawberry plant from its container and remove attached soil from the roots with a mild shaking. You should also lightly tap any dirt clinging to the roots with your fingers, try to avoid damaging the root systems, even the finest of roots contribute to the plants overall health and production.

Soak the entire root system in the cool water bucket.

After 10 – 15 minutes remove the roots from the bucket and rinse them gently under cool running water to ensure that any remaining soil is removed.

Before placing the strawberry plants in the net pot remove any dry, discolored or dead leaves.

Place the plants in the [net] pot by holding the crown and evenly splaying the roots above the vermiculite, or chosen growing media.

Add enough media to cover the roots, but not the crown. The crown should be exposed to light and air. Make sure all plants receive adequate light, for optimal results 12 – 16 hours daily is best. If you do not have grow lights place them near a sunny window.

A diagram explaining crown placement of hydroponic strawberries.

Mix your Hydroponic nutrients according to the package directions, and thoroughly water your plants with the nutrient solution.  The water should be checked daily and water added as needed in order to keep the roots constantly moist.

Caring for Hydroponic Strawberries

Premature flower blooms may appear before the plant reaches 10″-12″ round , these should be removed and not allowed to re-grow until the plant is able to support the weight of the berries {10-12″ round} without being anchored in soil.

Runners that may appear should also be cut back, even after the plant has reached full size. Runners use up the plant’s energy that otherwise would be put into fruiting. You may want to save the runners to grow more plants.

Temperature levels are vital. Too hot, and your strawberries will slow down , cease  flowering and sometimes stop producing fruit.

Too cold, they simply won’t grow. 65-75 degrees F is best for fruiting.

Strawberry plants actually do benefit from chilling during the winter months, some varieties tolerate more cold than others. In all likelihood, your plants would benefit from over-wintering in an unheated location. 

You can also simulate a winter season for new seedlings. Dip the roots in a microbial solution, carefully and loosely wrap them in clear plastic and refrigerate them for up to three months.

If your strawberries are grown indoors they will not be pollinated by the birds and the Bees, artificial insemination is needed – You’ll have to hand pollinate them. Hand Pollination is simple and not tediously time consuming.

See: Indoor Pollination


Relative Humidity and Airflow for Hydroponic Strawberries

I like bacon, I could eat it all day but it’s really bad for me and I’d be dead by now if I ate as much I’d like to.

The same can be said of strawberries, not that they like bacon – their forte’ is moisture, but high humidity levels can kill them via diseases such as powdery mildew and assorted rots and fungi.

Moisture also attracts pests, some of which like strawberries as much as I like bacon.

An increase in relative humidity can increase vegetative growth, but not neccesarily berry production. In some cases berry size is increased under persistent [excess] moisture, which is outweighed by not only disease susceptibility but by its effect on berry firmness, a soft mushy berry is almost as bad as eating raw bacon.

You need to find a happy medium so far as humidity goes. There will be times of course when the plant can be wet that’s fine and healthy, but persistent moisture is a death sentence.  

Misting strawberries is a good idea. Strawberries do better with lower humidity and good air circulation to ward off mildews. Some growers even using fogging devices when growing in higher temperatures but the plants can never be constantly wet/moist. 

The best way to control constant exposure to excess humidity in a greenhouse or indoor hydroponic setup is with proper airflow/venting. Open doors, vents, are methods of increasing airflow.

Anything that causes the air to circulate. If you run a fan in a closed room the air needs someplace to escape to, and fresh air needs to drawn in – two open doors, an open window, and so forth.

If starting off runners or young plants, a humidity propagator or a clear plastic bag will help until the roots are established.

Young plants and runners do not fare well in drier hot conditions and require higher humidity levels than established plants.