My kids love strawberries. If I ever came home with some from the farmers market, they would be gone in the first 5 minutes. We decided that we needed a better supply to feed our insatiable desire. But would they grow where we live in the wet tropics?
Strawberries do grow in the humid tropics like Hawaii and Florida. They require slightly cooler weather, a cover from too much rain and protection from pests. They are ready for harvest in the winter and spring rather than the summer like in cooler climates.
Want to know how to cultivate strawberries in the tropics? We have compiled the best varieties and times to plant, how to prepare the soil, and common pests and diseases to be aware of.
To fresh homegrown strawberries in the tropics!!
Best varieties for tropical climates
Like most things, there are a wide variety of choices when it comes to growing strawberries.
You want to pick a variety that grows best in Hawaii, Florida, or other tropical places.
Here are our recommendations:
- Camarosa. Common strawberry variety with big yields and large berries.
- Chandler. Smaller fruit matures faster and is known for its delicious sweet flavor.
- Festival. Developed in Florida with tropical climates in mind, the berries are similar to Camarosa.
- Oso Grande. A popular variety with high-yielding plants.
- Sequioa. Hardy plant that produces firm strawberries that hold up during transport.
Runners vs. Pot-Grown
You’ll also need to choose how you’ll buy your strawberries. Most often, you’ll choose between runners or pot-grown.
Pot-grown plants have well-developed roots and are generally available throughout the year.
Runners have more varieties and are cheaper but need to be kept cool and planted immediately.
Check in with local growers to see if they may be able to source for you some proven varieties that have worked well for them.
Best Time To Plant Strawberries In The Tropics
The best time to plant strawberries is in the fall, but you may be able to grow them year-round, depending on your location and preparation.
The most important thing to remember is strawberries like cool to mildly warm weather. For Hawaii, that would put you in the 800ʻ to 4000ʻ elevation on the east side of the islands or into parts of central to northern Florida.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Strawberries like temperatures between 60 to 80 degrees.
- Strawberries take 4-5 months to mature.
- Strawberries cannot withstand sustained heat above 85 degrees.
- Strawberries cannot survive sustained freezing temperatures.
- A few frost nights will not kill your strawberries.
- Strawberries need less than 14 hours of sunlight a day.
Different Seasons to Plant Strawberries in the Tropics: Benefits and Risks
Late Summer and Fall
Best Time to Plant.
In hot summer climates, late summer can be the best time to plant your strawberries. They’ll mature in early January and will have a good start when the soil is still warm, but the days are beginning to cool off.
Late summer planting can expand into the fall in Florida and Hawaii, with most strawberries being planted between September and early November.
You can also plant your strawberries in the wintertime if the soil isn’t too cool. Check for maturation times for the variety of strawberries you’re growing.
If it’s late winter, you preferably don’t want them to start flowering when the temperatures begin to heat up again. If you time planting for a spring harvest, you’ll have the best bet.
Worst Time to Plant.
Depending on the heat of summer where you live, you might want to avoid spring planting altogether. If you’re confident that the strawberries will mature and flower at a temperature below 80 degrees, then go ahead.
Otherwise, you’ll need to plan to protect your flowering strawberries to ensure you get a good harvest. Plant your strawberries in a container that can be brought inside during hot weather. Or plant in an area that can be shaded in the summer.
Plant your strawberries in the shade, away from direct sunlight.
Container growing is an excellent solution when you want to grow your strawberries during the heat of summer.
Simply bring your plants inside when the days get too blistering hot and set them out in the shade on a sunny day. Make sure the container is at least 12-16” deep to accommodate the roots of the strawberry.
How To Shade Your Strawberries In Hot Weather
Ok, we know you want delicious strawberries year-round, so here’s how to prevent the fruits of your labor from getting burnt.
- Keep strawberries uniformly watered. Water the strawberries every few days. If the leaves start turning light green, they’re being overwatered.
- Surround the plants with straw to shelter them from the sun’s rays and conserve moisture in the soil.
- Cover the strawberry bed with a portable 65% shade cloth.
- Shade the strawberry plants with other crops. Plant them near tall vegetables, trees, or fences that will shade them from the sun.
How and Where to Plant Strawberries
Before setting off to plant your strawberries, make sure that you have the right soil for the berries. You’ll want well-draining dirt. Plan to cover with mulch or straw to keep high moisture retention.
How to Plant Strawberries in the Tropics Step by Step
Raised Bed or Normal Garden Bed*
*Use this method if you are in an area that is Rat Lungworm Free.
- Fill your raised bed with soil and add plenty of compost.
- Using a mechanized tiller or pitchfork, till the planting site to a depth of 8 to 12 inches.
- Create rows for your strawberries 38” to 48” apart.
- Plant the strawberries in each row 12” apart from each other.
- Check the variety of strawberries you’re planting. Some might be able to grow closer together. Others might need to be farther apart.
- Cover the area around the strawberry plants with black polyethylene mulch to prevent weeds and keep moisture retention.
- Water plants with a slow soaking hose until the soil is moist.
- See Fertilizer and pest section for details during growing.
- Harvest the strawberries when they are red and firm, not mushy. They will continue to ripen slightly once picked, so picking them even before they are 100% ripened is a good choice so they will last longer.
- Fall-planted plants will produce strawberries in February and March.
Growing strawberries hydroponically means you can enjoy fresh strawberries year-round and don’t need to worry about fluctuating temperatures and common diseases and pests, including Rat Lungworm.
We grew our strawberries hydroponically for a few years before we abandoned the system. We used 3” pipe with cutouts for the strawberries to act as our hydroponic system.
It produced a pretty good amount of strawberries, but the upkeep was too much work. It is worth a try though if you like strawberries.
- Starting with plants, gently rinse off the soil from the roots of the strawberries and plant them in your hydroponic system.
- Keep the temperature of your area between 65 to 80 degrees, and give your strawberries 8 to 12 hours of sunlight a day.
- Water your strawberries with filtered water with a pH between 5.8 to 6.2. Because your strawberries are growing directly in water, do spend time making sure you’re using the right water.
- Use liquid fertilizer to keep your strawberries growing strong. You’ll need a mix of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
- Hydroponic strawberries produce fruit year-round. As the plants get older, their yield will go down.
Fertilizing and Feeding Strawberries
For those of you planting your strawberries in the dirt, you’ll want to fertilize the fruit as well.
Before planting your strawberries add compost to well-balanced soil.
You may want to fertilize your strawberries when they begin to flower as well. High potassium, low nitrogen fertilizer each week will help your plants produce new green growth, more flowers, and fruit and boost the overall health of your soil.
I like to use a 3-4-2 blend of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.
Tropical Pests and Diseases That Love Strawberries
Fungus and mildew are common strawberry diseases that affect the leaves, flowers, and/or fruits. Keep an eye on your plant, remove infected leaves, and spray with fungicides approved for home garden use.
Pests that love strawberries are numerous and appear at different points of the growing period. Keep an eye out for Slugs, Thrips, Spider mites, Nematodes, and Aphids.
The best defense against pests and diseases is to not plant your strawberries in the same place every year.
Ways to Avoid Strawberry Pests and Diseases
- Buy your plants from healthy nurseries and growing centers.
- Don’t plant strawberries in the same spot each year.
- Don’t plant strawberries where you’ve recently grown tomatoes or eggplants.
Quick Tips For Ultimate Tropical Strawberries
We know there is a lot of information in this article, so let’s get to the main takeaways.
- Strawberries need rich, well-draining soil or to be grown hydroponically.
- It’s best to plant strawberries in the fall in the tropics. Expect an early winter harvest.
- Cover your strawberry bed with straw to help retain moisture and protect against heat.
- Shade your strawberries in especially hot sun.
- Fertilize your flowering strawberry plant for the best crop.
- Rotate where you plant your strawberries every year to avoid pests.
Happy tropical strawberry growing!