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Tips and tricks for how to grow pineberries including where to source them, cultivation tips, and harvesting. Pineberries are white to blush-pink berries similar to standard red strawberries in flavor but with a citrusy kick. They’re also easy to grow and very prolific!
I’ve grown white strawberries, also known as pineberries Fragaria x ananassa, for many years now. It’s a white strawberry cultivar that grows in much the same way as regular red strawberries but with some major differences. The main ones being they can be more prolific, more competitive, and produce small to medium-sized white berries instead of red. The berries also have a slightly citrusy flavor which some say is like a combination of strawberry and pineapple flavor — hence the name pineberry. There are some things that you should know before you start planting them though. Both positive things and things to watch out for. The following are my tips for how to grow pineberries including where to source them, harvesting, and the best ways I’ve found to use them in food.
Growing pineberries is much like growing strawberries, and if you’ve done that, then it will be a breeze. If you’ve not grown strawberries before, don’t sweat it, since they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow. Once you have your plants established, you can also keep propagating new plants from runners. That means that even if you begin with just one pineberry plant, you can be assured of dozens, or hundreds, more to fill the garden over the years to come.
Though pineberries were discovered in South America, they were further bred in the Netherlands and released as a commercial fruit in the UK and Europe around 2010. I remember seeing them for the first time in Marks and Spencer — it’s not often that you see a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store! At first, the berries appear to be unripe fruit due to their color, but unlike unripe strawberries, pineberries have bright red seeds rather than green. The flesh is soft and sweet too and I for one got that pineapple strawberry experience in my first bite. To others, it tastes like a less-sweet garden strawberry with a citrus kick.
Pineberries are not a GMO but rather the result of cross-pollination. It’s a hybrid of two species of strawberry: the beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) from Chile and the wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) which grows across North America. One specific breeding between the two produced pineberry plants with delicious white strawberries. Just like with other hybrids, though, the seeds from pineberries will not necessarily produce plants with white strawberries. That’s why you must grow pineberries from plants, rather than from seeds.
Start Pineberries from Plants, not Seeds
When pineberries were first introduced to the market you couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal plants and everyone wanted to grow them. These days, they’re much easier to find and a perfect addition to your berry garden. However, as per the info above, if you want to grow pineberries, you’ll need to begin with plants, not seeds.
If you spot pineberry seeds for sale on Amazon or somewhere else please do not buy them. Even if they were harvested from actual pineberries, there’s little chance that the plants they grow into will produce white strawberries. And yes, that means that seeds harvested from pineberries bought at farmer’s markets won’t grow into pineberry plants either.
My own massive patch came from six plants that a friend gave me back in 2013. He’d tried growing them in his polytunnel but said that they hadn’t produced any berries for him (more on that later). This is the best way to get pineberry plants! So, if you know someone who has them, I recommend that you ask them for a few. They’ll more than likely give you a dozen for free since pineberries produce A LOT of runners every year. You could also offer to do a plant or seed swap with them.
If you don’t know anyone who grows them, then you will need to order them from a plant nursery. The least expensive way is to order bare-root plants in winter. If you can’t find them as bare-root, then they also come as potted plants but will be a bit more expensive. Either way, they’re usually sold singly or as sets of five to ten. I’d start with just a few though. You won’t need many since they’ll produce more plants through runners than you’ll ever need.
Get Pineberry Plants
Most garden centers are unlikely to stock pineberry plants even though they’re growing in popularity. To get them, you will probably need to order them from a specialist nursery or trusted sources who grow them already. There are quite a few varieties out there now too including Snow White, White Dream, White Carolina, White Pine, White Albino, Wonderful, Natural Albino, and White D. The first two are the types you’ll find more in Europe and the others in North America. Sometimes plants will be simply called Pineberry without a variety name.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are white alpine strawberry varieties out there too. These are not pineberries, but small wild strawberries that are white when ripe. The berries are tiny, the seeds will be yellow when ripe, and they have very little flesh and too many seeds. I’ve not tried them but I doubt that they are sweet.
Trusted sources to get pineberries include Hirts Garden Store (USA) who sell on Amazon and Thompson & Morgan, J. Parkers, or Crocus in the UK. Again, ensure that you’re buying plants, not seeds, and always read the reviews.
How to Grow Pineberries
Once you have your plants or bare-root plants, it’s time to get them planted. With bare-root plants that arrive in winter, follow the instructions I give at the beginning of this video. If the roots seem a little dry, you can also soak them for ten to fifteen minutes before potting them up or planting them out. You can plant potted plants at any time of the year, providing that the ground isn’t frozen and/or covered in snow.
You’ll be pleased to know that pineberries grow well in open ground as well as in containers. They grow a little too happy in the garden, in my opinion, and this winter I removed every plant, both strawberry and pineberry, from my existing strawberry patch. That’s because the pineberries swallowed up all of the other strawberry plants and not a single plant produced red berries last year! Considering this, I recommend growing strawberries and pineberries apart.
Because pineberries are so vigorous, I also recommend that you grow pineberries in containers. You could grow them in a cute terracotta strawberry pot or in a Strawberry Pallet Planter. In general, grow pineberries just as you would new red strawberry plantings:
- Needs a position in full sun
- Plant into rich soil that’s been supplemented with compost
- Plant no deeper than the top of the crown
- Keep well watered
- Mulch with straw when the berries begin to form
- Take precautions against slugs
- Net the plants when the berries are forming to protect against birds
- Feed the plants with a top dressing of composted manure in autumn to early spring
Pineberry Cultivation Tips
You might have heard that one of the benefits of growing these white-skinned berries is that animals don’t think that they’re ripe and won’t eat them. This is only partially true since slugs are a big problem. Keeping the plants mulched and removing any rotten berries helps to minimize this. Try to reduce the slug population around your plants by using beer traps, organic slug pellets, or picking them off manually.
One thing that I’ve noticed with my pineberries is that they do not produce berries in their first year. My friend who gave me his plants gave up on his just as they were about to produce a massive harvest! From their second year onwards they have produced many more berries than I could ever have time to pick. Also, though traditional red strawberries are most productive in their first few years and need replacing afterward, pineberries seem to be productive for many more years than that.
Pineberries are also prolific berry producers since they’re an overbearing strawberry type. That means that they can continuously produce berries as long as they get warm sunshine (not too hot), regular watering, and there are insects around to pollinate the flowers. Berries all summer long is not a bad thing.
When are Pineberries Ripe?
It’s initially a little difficult to know exactly when they’re ripe though since the berries are white when unripe AND ripe. The white begins as greeny-white and ripens to a creamy white. The best way to know when pineberries are ripe is to look at the seeds on the berry. When they’re bright red, the berry is ripe. The flesh is soft to the touch at this point too, and if you leave the berries on the plant long enough, and in the sun, the white flesh will turn light pink.
Harvesting the berries can be a bit more tedious than with strawberries since the fruit are so much smaller. However, there can be loads more berries, so the numbers make up for the bulk. My patch could easily produce a large mixing bowl full of berries every couple of weeks in peak pineberry season.
- They’re ripe when the skin changes from green-white to a slightly creamy white
- If left on the plant, the skin will mature into a light pink blush
- Berries may not appear on the plant in the first year.
- As soon as berries form, tuck straw or another material under them to protect them from slugs and rot
When Pineberries Sneak In
Hilarious story. When planting the strawberry pallet planter for my book, A Woman’s Garden (photo above), I mistakenly planted it with new pineberry plants, rather than the Mara des Bois strawberries I planned for. I couldn’t figure out why they never produced berries that summer and had to rely on a bit of red from the couple of alpine strawberries for this photo. A year later I realized what happened when they finally ripened. Blasted pineberries snuck into my book! I realized too late since they tend to begin producing in their second year.
A Year in the Life of Pineberries
A year in the life of a pineberry in my garden begins in spring when plants that have overwintered begin to form new leaves. By May they’ll have also bloomed with small white-petaled flowers that my honeybees love! They need insect pollination so make sure that any netting or positioning allows them in. Once berries form, I’ll tuck straw or sometimes paper egg crates under the berries to keep them off the ground. I also net them to keep them safe from wildlife.
Pineberries begin ripening in June, around the same time as other strawberries, but unlike June bearers, they’ll keep flowering and producing berries in flushes several times over the summer. My climate is a mild one though with plenty of rain and gentle sunshine.
Towards the middle to end of summer, pineberries start sending out runners. These are long green stems that will take root in the soil, mulch, on landscaping fabric, and especially mature woodchip paths. Once firmly rooted, you can snip the connecting stem and grow these on as new plants! Give them to your friends or increase your berry patch. The runners can quickly colonize a bed though so try to remove the new plants (if only to compost them) each year by early autumn.
In autumn and/or late winter I mulch pineberries with a half-inch layer of compost, making sure to not cover any part of the plant. If I’ve not managed to clear all of the runners off and it’s an absolute mess (it happens!) I’ll also spend an hour or so tidying the strawberry bed. Mulching with the compost comes after that job.
Harvesting and Eating Pineberries
I know some who consider pineberries a novelty, rather than a main crop. I too nearly ripped out my entire patch last year before I realized that they have some really great attributes. They’re dependable, produce a lot of berries, and produce a continuous harvest over the summer. However, once you have them harvested, you need to use or preserve pineberries very quickly. They don’t last as long as strawberries and will begin to brown and mold over before you know it.
Freezing is the best way to preserve them in my opinion! I don’t wash freshly picked berries from my garden and simply pull the calyx (the green leafy bit) off and place them on a freezer-paper-lined baking tray. Six hours in the freezer and you can take them off the tray and store them in a container or ziplock bag.
You can also use pineberries in preserves, though I’d recommend mixing them with other more colorful berries. I’ve tried making strawberry jam with pineberries on their own before and, though it tasted delicious, it was a pale-colored jam that wasn’t very appetizing. That light color can be really helpful though since sometimes you might want strawberry flavor but without a pink or red color. For example, you can cook them with bananas in quick oats for a delicious and non-pink bowl of porridge. Pancakes are another of my favorite ways to have them!
More Berry Gardening Inspiration
I have a lot of berries growing in the garden and LOVE the dependable sweet harvests that they give me each year. Here are more of my tips for filling your growing space with perennial fruit and berries too:
- Grow a Berry Garden (video)
- Plant these 70+ Food Plants Once and Harvest for Years
- How to Clean up Overgrown Strawberry Beds
- Build this Thornless Blackberry Trellis
- Strawberry (or Pineberry!) and Rhubarb Pie Recipe