Alpine strawberries are a unique and delicious type of strawberry to grow and offer an alternative to more commonly-seen strawberries. The fruits are smaller, but are produced over a long time and come in red, yellow, or cream types.
In my time as a kitchen gardener, alpine strawberries were highly sought-after by the chefs I grew fruit and vegetables for. The plants are simple to grow and can be utilized in many different ways. They can be used as ground cover in shady areas or work brilliantly as edging plants along borders, paths, or raised beds. So, if you're interested in growing strawberries, these are definitely worth considering.
What are alpine strawberries?
Alpine strawberries, commonly known as wild or woodland strawberries, are smaller than the modern strawberries you see in stores or that many of you will grow in your backyard. They are predominantly native to Europe and Asia, though they are cultivated and strains of alpine strawberries have been created over the years. The fruits taste superb and the plants will produce through the summer and beyond, from June all the way through to October.
Lucy Chamberlain (opens in new tab), a fruit and vegetable expert for Homes & Gardens, claims that alpine strawberries allow you to ‘rediscover that true strawberry taste so often lost in modern varieties’ – and that makes them a fantastic crop to consider for a kitchen garden.
‘If you’re a believer of quality over quantity, then alpine strawberries are certainly for you. The wilder relative of our plumper, more prolific strawberries might bear fruits that are diminutive in size but boy, do they make up for it in flavor,’ she adds.
‘Alpine strawberries also have the bonus of being more versatile than conventional strawberries. They’re less likely to rot off in wet conditions, are prone to far fewer pests and diseases, and can be left to their own devices to form an attractive ground cover of flowers, foliage and (of course) fruits.’
Alpine strawberries have a different growing habit to other strawberries. They are more upright and hold their fruits in the air. This means you do not have to mulch around the base to stop the berries rotting on the soil as you do with other strawberry plants. However, it is recommended to clean strawberries after harvesting, whether the fruits have touched the soil or not.
The other positive is the upright habit offers a handy way to control slugs munching on the fruit – which is a common strawberry pest that growers have to deal with.
Lucy was a Horticultural Advisor at RHS Wisley and has been Head Gardener on a 100-acre estate in England for many years, but writes regularly for titles such asThe Garden,Gardeners’ World,The GuardianandAmateur Gardening. She’s also the author ofRHS Step-by-Step Veg Patch, available from Amazon (opens in new tab), which covers 50 types of fruit and veg.
How to grow alpine strawberries
Alpine strawberries can be bought as young plants or, if you want to add more alpine strawberries to your backyard, there are a few methods available for propagating plants.
Growing alpine strawberries from seed:
You can find packets of seed to grow alpine strawberries at home from good garden stores or online and the best time to start the seeds is in late winter.
Sow the seeds on the surface of a tray filled with seed compost, and then cover thinly with soil. They need sunlight and air to germinate so keep them uncovered, and keep the soil moist. It can take 2-3 weeks for the seeds to germinate and it is time to transplant the seedlings once they are four inches tall. At this time they can be potted on and gradually hardened off ready for planting outside.
It is recommended to purchase seeds to sow, rather than save your own. With other types, you can harvest and save seeds to grow strawberries from a strawberry. However, Miguel Palma (opens in new tab), a professional gardener and owner of JardinTienda, warns that alpine strawberries are ‘not always true to seed’ so saving seed from plants you like is not the best way to propagate more of them.
He explains: ‘The seedlings may not grow into plants with the same characteristics as the parent plant. Therefore, division is the most reliable way to propagate alpine strawberries if you want to ensure that the new plants have the same characteristics as the parent plant.’
Alpine strawberries grown from seed in late winter or early spring will bear fruit that summer. You can also sow alpine strawberries in summer or early fall and overwinter them to bear fruit the following summer, however that means you do need somewhere undercover to protect them from the cold during the winter.
Growing alpine strawberries from runners:
Some types of alpine strawberries produce runners and they offer a fantastic opportunity to propagate new plants. Runners can be easily cut off the parent plant and either moved to a new location or potted up to grow on and be planted elsewhere in the yard once they have developed into larger plants.
Growing alpine strawberries from division:
New clumps of alpine strawberries can be established by lifting, dividing, and replanting sections of existing plants. The method of dividing plants is a simple one. To divide an existing clump of alpine strawberries you need to dig up a section that will contain many individual plants. Gently pull apart the plants, or you can cut with a sharp knife if required, and you should be able to get many individual plants from one clump. Either plant these directly into the backyard or pot them up to grow them on.
- Buy alpine strawberry plants at Burpee (opens in new tab)
- Buy alpine strawberry plants at Nature Hills (opens in new tab)
Where to plant alpine strawberries
Alpine strawberries want to be planted in fertile soil that drains well and, as a woodland plant, they will grow happily in a shady spot. However, the sunnier the spot the more strawberries they will produce. As mentioned, they are perfectly suited to being used as ground cover, or to line the edges of paths or beds. You can also grow these strawberries in pots or containers.
Lindsey Hyland (opens in new tab), founder of Urban Organic Yield, advises that plants should be spaced 10-12 inches apart in soil that is rich in organic matter and ‘slightly acidic’ with a soil pH of between 5.5 and 6.5.
She adds: ‘Alpine strawberries do not tolerate extreme temperatures or drought conditions and should be grown in an area protected from strong winds. Additionally, they require consistently moist soil for optimum fruiting, therefore a mulch layer is recommended to help retain moisture.’
Lindsey Hyland attended the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture programme and has worked on various organic farms. She is passionate about sustainable ways to better run urban gardens or small-scale farms and homesteads and shares her gardening journey at Urban Organic Yield.
How to look after alpine strawberry plants
Alpine strawberries are easy to look after, whether you are growing them in the ground or in containers. Keep the area around the plant weed-free to avoid competition for water and nutrients and ensure the soil does not dry out and is kept moist. Water plants deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions and the frequency of rainfall. Avoid over-watering alpine strawberries as it can be a contributing factor to many strawberry diseases, including gray mold.
Lindsay also recommends that plants are ‘fertilized several times during the growing season.' The best time to fertilize strawberries is in early spring and fall – use a balanced fertilizer which shows an equal amount of NPK on the plant fertilizer label. An example of a balanced feed is this 4-4-4 Natural Purpose Granular Organic Foodavailable at Amazon (opens in new tab). If you are growing alpine strawberries in containers then a tomato fertilizer that is rich in potassium – such as the Expert Gardener Organics Tomato Food available at Walmart (opens in new tab) – can benefit plants, with regular applications needed from early spring onwards.
Alpine strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season so harvest the ripe fruit as soon as it is ready to avoid any spoilage. The best method for picking strawberries is to carefully pinch the stem between your fingers – or use scissors, garden clippers, or a knife – to avoid damaging the plant or the fruit. As the plants are shallow-rooting, tugging too hard can pull the entire plant out of the ground.
Are alpine strawberries everbearing?
Yes, alpine strawberries are everbearing types of strawberry plants and will produce fruit over an extended period. They will fruit in spring and then continue to produce fruit until the frosts arrive in fall. The overall harvest may be smaller than other strawberry plants, however alpine strawberries can provide a nice crop of fruits each week for a long period of time.
How do you winterize alpine strawberries?
In terms of hardiness zones, alpine strawberries are fully hardy from zones 4-10 and can tolerate temperatures down to around -20F°. Their native regions are commonly exposed to cold and frost and the plants should be fine to winterize outdoors in most areas.
To winterize strawberry plants in very cold areas, consider lightweight mulches such as straw or mulch. New buds in spring could be protected from frosts using cloches or horticultural fleece, such as these re-usable Plant Covers available at Amazon (opens in new tab).
Overall, alpine strawberries are easy to grow and although the fruits may be small, they're delicious, and the flowers are pretty too. So why not add some to your vegetable garden this year?
Alpine strawberry plants require minimal care. Add a top-dressing of compost to the planting area every spring, or fertilize with an organic granular fertilizer at the start of each growing season, before the plants come into flower.How long do alpine strawberries take to grow? ›
In ideal conditions, they'd get about an inch of water a week, and more if you have sandy soil or exceptionally hot weather. If you are watering alpine strawberries, I recommend always watering at soil level, which is when you water right at the roots — this helps prevent fungal infections and mold growth.How do you prepare alpine strawberries for winter? ›
Winterizing strawberry plants simply involves heaping mulch over plants so they're not exposed to cold winter air. The trick is knowing when to apply the mulch. You want to cover plants when they're fully dormant. Cover too soon, and plants may fail to harden off, which means they'll definitely be damaged by cold air.Do you water strawberry plants everyday? ›
Strawberry plants need regular water to thrive, especially during fruit bearing season, when they need an average of 1-2 inches of water daily. The best way to water strawberries is to use drip or soaker hose placed at least two inches away from the plant.Do alpine strawberries come back every year? ›
Are alpine strawberries annuals or perennials? Alpine strawberries are herbaceous perennials. This means that the visible parts of the plant will die off as the winter sets in but will come back up from the roots with new leaves each spring.What should not be planted next to strawberries? ›
Plants to Avoid in your Strawberry Patch
Plants like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, melons, peppers, roses, mint, and okra may actually contribute to this deadly disease in strawberry plants. It is essential to note that strawberries should not even be planted in beds that have recently housed those plants on this list.
These berries are expensive not because they are hard to grow, but because the plants are not very productive. Unlike modern strawberries, which generally produce a lot of fruit at once, alpine strawberries ripen only a few at a time. Each ripe fruit has a delectably intense, wild strawberry flavor.Can you grow alpine strawberries in pots? ›
They make for good border or edging plants, and can be grown both planted directly in the ground or in pots. The fruits are bright red, seedy, and have an intense strawberry flavor with just a hint of something 'wilder' to them. (Hence their nicknames of 'wild strawberries' or woodland strawberry'.)What kind of fertilizer for alpine strawberries? ›
Fertilizer. Given their lengthy fruiting season, it's no surprise that alpine strawberries are heavy feeders. Incorporate compost and a slow-release organic fertilizer into the soil when planting. For established plants, fertilize every spring with compost or a balanced granular fertilizer.
During normal weather conditions, strawberries need water equal to 1 to 1.5 inches of rain each week. During hot, dry periods, water as needed to prevent shallow roots from drying out. Plants in containers may need daily watering. Always water early in the day so that foliage dries well before nightfall.Why are my alpine strawberries so small? ›
Variety and Genetics. Certain varieties are known for producing smaller fruits. The genetics of some strawberry varieties cause them to naturally produce smaller berries. For example, wild type or “Alpine” strawberries (Fragaria vesca) produce tiny berries with superb bursts of flavor.What happens if you don't cover strawberries for winter? ›
If left uncovered, winter temperatures below 18-19 degrees F will freeze and injure the dormant flower buds that produce fruit next summer. Even a couple of inches of mulch over the strawberry plants in the winter is enough to protect the buds from extreme cold.How big do alpine strawberry plants get? ›
Alpine Strawberries perpetually bear fruit through a good part of the summer as long as they are watered regularly in times of low rainfall and protected from furry and feathered sweet-toothed thieves. Only growing 6" to 8" tall, they can be used as a border plant or as an edible ground cover.Can I plant alpine strawberries in summer? ›
Grow Alpine Strawberries From Seed
If you're planning on growing your plants from seed it helps to get started in early spring. You can sow them during the summer or early autumn too but those plants will need to be overwintered under cover to protect them from the cold.
Sprinkle your used coffee grounds at the base of the plants before watering. They love it! They grow so much after that. It's works great and is better for you than store bought plant food.How do you keep strawberry plants healthy? ›
When growing strawberries, keep plants well-watered. Check soil weekly, and when the top inch is dry, it's time to water. Drip irrigation works well with strawberries because it keeps leaves and fruit dry, which helps reduce disease outbreaks.How often should I fertilize my strawberry plants? ›
Strawberries. Established strawberries should be fertilized once per year after the final harvest. Spring fertilization is not recommended because it can result in soft berries and overly vigorous growth that can increase the incidence of disease.What fertilizer is best for strawberries? ›
Specifically, strawberry plants rely heavily on nitrogen. You can use a fertilizer containing only nitrogen such as urea (46-0-0) or ammonium nitrate (33-0-0). Another option is to use a balanced fertilizer such as a 12-12-12.Can you eat alpine strawberry leaves? ›
A quick search online will tell you that, yes, strawberry leaves are safe to consume. Strawberry leaves are known for helping with arthritis pain, because they contain a diuretic called caffeic acid.
Alpine strawberry plants are everbearing, meaning they fruit in spring and keep producing until frost.What are the best and worst companion plants for strawberries? ›
Good companion plants for strawberries include spinach, lettuce, peas, beans, onions, clovers, thyme, garlic, and borage. Avoid planting brassicas like kale, cauliflower, and broccoli near your strawberries, as well as all types of fennel.What happens if you plant strawberries too close together? ›
Strawberry beds tend to get overcrowded with plants and expand in size so that it is difficult to pick fruit without stepping on plants. They become less productive after a few years because plants produce less fruit as they get older. Plants also produce less fruit of smaller size when they are crowded.Is it OK for strawberries to touch soil? ›
Soil-borne microorganisms can wreak havoc on strawberry planting. So, it is vital to protect the vegetative parts of the strawberry plant (leaves, stems) and the fruit from coming into contact with the soil as much as possible.How far apart should alpine strawberries be planted? ›
Growing Alpine Strawberries Conventionally
They should be planted 12 inches (30 cms) apart, and if you want them in rows, these should also be 12 inches apart.
Unfussy, they bear the best testing fruit in soil that is rich in organic matter and that is well-draining. Alpine strawberries have shallow roots that can be easily damaged through cultivation or by the hot summer sun, so it is best to mulch around them with compost, straw, or pine needles.Do strawberries grow better in pots or ground? ›
Growing strawberries in the ground is easiest for long-term, perennial growing. While you can grow in containers, it may shorten the lifespan of the plant. Window boxes, flower bags, and hanging baskets are fine for a single growing season. You can also overwinter containers to continue growing in spring.Does Epsom salt make strawberries sweeter? ›
Adding Epsom salt to your fruits and vegetables soil will mean sweeter fruit and delicious vegetables. The Epsom salt will help to boost the chlorophyll levels in your fruit and nut trees. The more chlorophyl means more energy, and more energy means sweeter fruit.
Early morning is the best time for effective strawberry irrigation. This way, the plants have all day to dry before evening. If you're growing strawberries in containers, check the moisture daily; the potting mix will dry out quickly, especially during warm weather.How often do you water strawberries after planting? ›
Strawberry plants require regular watering. When your strawberry plants are growing and producing fruit, they will need an average of 1 to 2 inches of water weekly. New strawberry plants can be given about 1 inch of water each week to establish growth.
Overwatered strawberry symptoms include yellowing leaves, root rot, wilting, and soggy soil. Overwatering is caused by using containers or pots with few drainage holes, watering too frequently, using the overhead watering method, and not monitoring or adapting to weather changes.What makes strawberries grow bigger? ›
Better pollination leads to larger fruit. Strawberries are called aggregate fruits because they have multiple ovules per fruit that need to be pollinated during bloom. These are observed as the many seeds (achenes) on the outside of the fruit.
Strawberries need full sun to produce maximum fruit. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Strawberries are self-fertile, but require bees for pollination. Remove some of the runners throughout the season or your strawberry plants will take over your yard.Why put straw around strawberries? ›
Strawberry plants are considered a tender perennial on the prairies and require additional winter protection to survive our extreme winter temperatures. Mulching with straw is necessary to protect the crop from low tem- perature injury to crowns and shallow root systems.Should you put mulch around strawberry plants? ›
Apply straw mulch over strawberry plants in the late fall to prevent winter injury. Mulch saves the plants from drying out or being killed by cold winter temperatures. It also retains soil moisture the following spring and summer.What should I cover my strawberries with in the winter? ›
Straw mulch is by far the more common choice for covering strawberries. Local garden centers and hardware stores often sell straw in rectangular bales for about $5-8 per bale. A rectangular bale is enough to create a 2-3 inch thick cover over a 10-foot-long row of strawberries.Which strawberry is the sweetest? ›
The Alpine Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is one of the sweetest fruits you can grow. Although they produce a small fruit, they are incredibly sweet and are easy to grow.What temperature is too hot for strawberry plants? ›
The preferred temperature range of strawberry plants is 60-85 degrees. What is this? They can tolerate up to 100 degrees on occasion but what can you do to protect your strawberries from prolonged extreme heat?Do alpine strawberries need full sun or shade? ›
Because of our very warm summers, your alpine strawberries will need a slightly shadier location than conventional strawberries. A location with morning sun and some late afternoon shade would be ideal. The soil should be amended with organic matter to help hold moisture.Do alpine strawberries like full sun? ›
Unlike their strawberry cousins, Alpine strawberries do not require an area of the garden that receives full sun. Four or five hours of sun per day is ample, and they do poorly in hot sections of the garden. Not only are Alpine strawberries a culinary delight, but they also are a most attractive landscaping item.
Growing Alpine Strawberries Conventionally
They should be planted 12 inches (30 cms) apart, and if you want them in rows, these should also be 12 inches apart. They should go into well-manured soil that you keep damp until they've settled in and are growing away.
Alpine strawberry plants are everbearing, meaning they fruit in spring and keep producing until frost.