How to Grow New Plants from Strawberry Runners
Strawberry runners are prolific right from the beginning and are, therefore, a great way to increase the size of a strawberry patch through very little work. Experts recommend that all but about 2 runners are removed from first year plants. However, leaving the runners can allow for years of vigorous growth from the patch, so leave at least one.
Step 1 - Transplant versus Direct Growth
Direct growth refers to allowing the runners to plant themselves directly into the ground, whereas transplant means that the runners are going to be moved to a completely different location once the plant is established. Before growing anything, identify if the patch should be increased directly through growth, redirection of the runners slightly, or if the runners should be transplanted to move in a completely different direction.
Step 2 - Transplant
Strawberry runners begin to root themselves when the leaf buds touch the soil and feel moisture. Roots will begin to form on the bottom of the leaf buds, and then quickly, the plant will begin to establish a place. Uprooting small strawberry plants once they have begun to establish themselves usually fails, even after only a small amount of time. To transplant strawberry runners, the gardener must catch the leaf buds before they begin to root in the ground. By filling a small pot with potting or starting soil and placing the pot underneath the leaf bud, the roots will begin to establish themselves in the soils of the pot.
Step 3 - Redirection of Runners or Direct Growth
If runners only need to be moved slightly, they can be redirected. Do not worry about overcrowding the plants if the runners only stretch 4 inches from the last plant. Strawberry plants produce well when crowded, and the leaves begin to cover the soils, allowing for moisture to stay around the roots. If the runners haven't rooted, or are only rooted less than a half an inch, lift them gently and re-route them to where the new growth should grow. The runner vines are very sturdy and can be interlaced and twisted around thoroughly. The leaf buds, however, are gentle, so be careful with any roots which have begun or leaves which are growing.
Step 4 - Planting
Whether transplanting or using direct growth, strawberry runners do not like to be buried. Merely set the leaf bud onto the soils or nestle the buds into the soil 1/4 inch or less. Add some water to the soil, and the runner should begin growing. Check back in a day or two to add a bit more water. The soil does not need to be routinely wet, but extremely dry soils will not establish a good root system.
Step 5 - Severing From the Parent Plant
Once the new plants have become 4 inches tall and are thoroughly rooted in the new soil, they can be severed from the parent plant. Use garden shears to snip the original runner cord as close to the parent plant as possible. This is not necessary with direct growth methods, but is often helpful to both plants.