We ship strawberry plants nearly year-round. Right now it’s cold outside. We have not been above freezing for a couple of weeks. Yes, I’m talking about the daytime high not being above freezing. It’s rough out here on the frozen tundra of Delaware.
Despite the cold, I have been shipping Quick Starts. I dig them out from under the straw that covers them and break them loose from their trays. Most times they have fine roots that have penetrated through the ground cover and these roots are broken off when I’m pulling the orders.
Many of the leave are still green though frozen solid. Some leaves are yellow or dead. I don’t clean off the yellow and dead leaves under these conditions. I have found that doing so can break off the whole stem. Instead, I wrap them in newspaper and send them off, most times still frozen.
They will likely thaw out on the way depending on where they are being shipped to. My advice to those receiving them is to allow the plants to gradually adjust to their new surroundings. I would suggest no warmer than the 40’s at first. If you’re lucky enough to live where it doesn’t get that low, then your lowest temperature or coolest area.
I think it’s best to just put the plants outdoors with protection. They were covered with straw here. If you have straw, put them outdoors in a spot where the straw won’t blow away or use fencing or something to keep the straw in place. Cover them with 3-5″ of loose straw. Use the courser straw, not fine straw which can smother them. In the absence of straw, do not use wood mulch. Use pine needles instead. I don’t recommend leaves as they will pack down and smother the plants.
If you feel that you need them inside for whatever reason, put them in the coolest area and gradually warm them up over a couple of weeks like you’re simulating spring. Isolate them from other houseplants and give them as much sun as possible. Keep them moist but not soaking wet and allow them to dry out a bit before watering them again.
If possible, transplant them a few days after they have thawed out and adjusted to their new environment. I like to put Quick Starts into 6 or 8″ pots with well drained soil. This would also be a good time to clean off the yellowing and dead leaves. Don’t pull them off, snip them off with a garden shears or scissors.
Good luck. Please let me know if you have other questions about receiving plants in the winter.