Once you’ve grown your own Alpine strawberries, you’ll find that you want more! An easy way to create more free plants and keep them healthy is to divide your Alpine strawberries every few years. Here’s how to do that!
Alpine strawberries grow in dense clusters, forming thick green mounds. It might come as a surprise, but that’s not just one plant- it’s a whole group! There could be up to 10-15 plants all grouped together right there, innocently fooling passerby into thinking it’s just a single plant.
Because of this growth habit, it’s a good idea to dig up your plants and divide them every 3 years or so. This is very similar to how you’d want to divide flower bulbs such as daffodils and tulips, actually!
Dig up your alpine strawberries to divide them in early spring, before the plants begin to bloom.
Dividing alpine strawberries requires some manual labor. Being careful to start out a good few inches from the plant, use a shovel to start easing the cluster from the ground.
You’ll likely have to go all the way around the plant, working it bit by bit from the ground. Once the whole cluster is loose, remove it from the hole.
Only dig up as many clusters as you feel like dividing in a day. The plants shouldn’t be left out the ground for long.
Shake and knock loose whatever dirt you can from the roots- don’t be surprised if most of it won’t budge! There’s going to be a lot of roots there, and that means they’ll be gripping a lot of dirt.
Look at the cluster. You should be able to see where the bases of the plants show which ones are individuals.
Now, first, it’s a good idea to try getting in there with your hands, and doing your best to pull free and untangle what plants you can. Get as many out this way as you can, setting the freed plants aside.
What’s probably going to end up happening is that you’ll find most of them are solidly stuck. Especially if you have clay soil. And so, we pull out a special tool to help us: the hatchet.
Yes, a hatchet! Being careful of your fingers and body, use the hatchet to chop the clump in half, and then possibly again, into quarters, if required. This helps loosen things up. Get back in there with your hands again, and start pulling plants free- if they’re stuck, use the hatchet to help free them.
You will lose a few plants to the hatchet, as they end up getting accidentally cut, but it’s well worth it just for how much it speeds up the plant division.
While you can tuck the divided plants right back into the ground, that can be a little rough on them. If you want to plant them straight in the garden, see ‘Planting’ down below.
We like to put ours in pots for a bit before we transplant out into the garden. We fill 4″ pots with a rich potting soil (Foxfarm’s Ocean Forest mix is the best we’ve found, and we highly recommend it!), and plant one strawberry plant per pot.
Once potted up, the divided alpine strawberry plants are then thoroughly watered and dosed with fish emulsion. They are then placed in a shady, sheltered location, such as a porch, and left to recover from the division and transplanting.
We leave the plants there for a few weeks, watering regularly- just enough to avoid the soil drying out. Some plants die, which are easily able to be removed and discarded. The healthy plants will green up and put out new growth, and might even flower!
Once the strawberries have recovered from transplanting, and are doing well inside their pots, we then move them to the garden.
Plant alpine strawberries in well-draining soil that’s been well-amended with rich compost. You can add a sprinkle of granular fertilizer if you like as you’re amending. Make sure you’re planting them in full sun. This means the location gets 6+ hours of light.
Space plants 12-18 inches apart from one another. Too close together, and mildew or mold can become a concern in wetter climates.
Make sure to tamp the soil around the base of the plant firmly.
Keep the crown (the place the new strawberry leaves come from) above the ground. It’s also a good idea to lay down a nice, thick layer of mulch- 1-2 inches will do.
Once planted, water the plants thoroughly. We like to give the plants a good dose of fish emulsion or another liquid fertilizer, just to give it a boost against transplant shock.
Now, your Alpine strawberries are ready to grow, produce, and be divided again in a few years, keeping you in a good supply of these delicious fruits you can’t buy in a store!