Monday, July 22, 2024

How to grow wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

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Alpine strawberry. Paul Debois

Wild strawberries or alpine strawberries, Fragaria vesca, are delicious, tiny red fruits borne on low-growing, spreading, perennial plants, from spring to autumn. Perfect for  informal spots around the garden, they grow in a variety of situations, including cracks in paving and stone walls. In some situations they can become invasive. Wild strawberries are native to many countries in the Northern Hemisphere and are highly sought after due to their intense flavour, which is said to be sweeter than that of cultivated strawberries. If fruit production is your main aim, look for named varieties of wild strawberry that have been bred to produce slightly larger fruits than those of the species, although neither produce anywhere near the size and quantity of fruit borne by cultivated strawberry plants.

Identifying wild strawberries

Wild strawberry plants form small (10-30 cm) rosettes of bright green leaves divided into three leaflets with toothed edges. Five-petalled white flowers are borne in spring and summer, followed by fruits no more than a centimetre across that turn from green to red and then dark red, at which point they are ripe and ready to eat (although birds and other animals may get there first!). In winter, the foliage may remain semi-evergreen if conditions are mild. Wild strawberries grow in a range of locations including road verges, path edges, banks and woodland edges, particularly on alkaline (lime-rich) soils such as chalk. In England, plants are categorised as near-threatened due to habitat loss, so any wild plants are best left untouched.

How to grow wild strawberries

Grow wild strawberries in moist but well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. Trim back or remove runners as needed.

Where to grow wild strawberries

Grow wild strawberries in places where they can spread without becoming a problem, such as in informal locations like banks, hedge bottoms or wild gardens. Avoid planting wild strawberries in a border as the runners are likely to root under and amongst other plants, and can quickly become a nuisance.

How to plant wild strawberries

Potting up wild strawberry plants. Jason Ingram

Potting up wild strawberry plants. Jason Ingram

Plant pot-grown wild strawberry plants in autumn or early spring when soil is moist and plants establish quickly. Keep watered during dry spells until established.

How to care for wild strawberries

These vigorous and hardy plants are easy to care for once established. To contain growth, trim back or pull up runners as needed. To remove unwanted plants, pull them up or hoe them off on a dry day.

How to prune wild strawberries

If plants become congested and start to look untidy, trim back growth in late summer-autumn or early spring.

How to propagate wild strawberries

Wild strawberries propagate themselves enthusiastically where conditions are suitable. The easiest way to propagate wild strawberries is to let the plants produce runners – long stems that bear new plants as they spread – and then dig them up and pot them on once they are well rooted. Wild strawberries are also easy to grow from seed, sown in spring.

Pests and diseases

Wild strawberry plants are usually free of pests and diseases when grown in the right conditions.

Advice on buying wild strawberries

  • Wild strawberry is available to buy from online suppliers, especially wildflower and herb specialists, as well as from nurseries or garden centres
  • Wild strawberries can be bought as seeds to sow yourself, or as young plants
  • Always check plants for signs of damage or disease before planting

Where to buy wild strawberries online

Types of wild strawberry to grow

Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria'

Fragaria vesca ‘Golden Alexandria’

Fragaria vesca ‘Golden Alexandria’ – a golden-leaved variety, bearing small fruits with a rich, sweet flavour.

Fragaria vesca ‘Baron Solemacher’ – an heirloom German variety, bearing very sweet and aromatic fruits.

Fragaria vesca  ‘Mignonette’ – a compact variety, bearing masses of tiny sweet strawberries.

* This article was originally published here

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