Alpine Strawberry plants produce tiny sweet berries
Tips on how to grow alpine strawberries. These fruit plants are either wild strawberries or closely related to them and produce tiny red berries.
The first time I came across alpine strawberries was as a seed packet at a garden show. I’d always grown strawberries from runners or bare-root plants so was intrigued. I took the seeds home, grew them on and became enchanted with these pretty garden plants. They great for ground cover, produce handfuls of tiny red fruit, and the variety I grow doesn’t send out runners. Though they don’t produce the gigantic fruit that conventional garden strawberry plants do, I love walking past and picking a few for a small garden treat.
Types of Alpine Strawberry
The term alpine strawberry can refer to both the wild strawberry, Fragaria vesca, and to strains bred for our gardens. They’re similar though and have a low-growing habit, produce small berries, and have more delicate leaves than garden strawberries.
The main type of alpine strawberry that I grow is called Golden Alexandria. It doesn’t produce runners but easily grows from seed. Its berries successfully self-seed themselves too and I’ve found many tiny strawberry plants growing in the cracks of my patio.
I also grow ‘Mara des Bois’ and ‘Just add cream’. Both of them are a lot sweeter than the Golden Alexandria, especially ‘Just add cream’. They can both be purchased as bare-root plants and I have a video below showing how I planted both up.
Here’s a couple more varieties that you can get seeds for:
Growing alpine strawberries from seed
Strawberry seeds are tiny and when they develop shoots, roots, and leaves they’re tiny too. 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.
When sowing seed, use a good free draining compost like John Innes no 1 or a peat-free multi-purpose. If you’re using the latter, it helps to work in some perlite/grit/vermiculite. Sow the seeds lightly on the surface and then just barely cover them with compost or horticultural grit. Keep moist, warm, and in a well-lit position. Seedlings can take up to a month to emerge so don’t get disheartened if you don’t see any signs immediately.
When they do turn up, let them grow on in the pot or tray until they have two true leaves. You’ll see the distinctive leaf veins and vessels on them. At this point, gently tease them out and pot them on into small individual modules. I harden them off and plant them outside when they get to about 2″ in height.
Growing from berries
One interesting thing that I’ve discovered in growing alpine strawberries is that they readily grow from fresh seed. You remember the self-seeded plants I mentioned? They must have dropped as fresh berries on the patio and the seeds were eventually blown into the cracks.
Last year I conducted an experiment and squished some fresh berries onto compost. I lightly covered them with another layer of compost, watered the pots, and waited. Both times I tried this I was rewarded with dozens of tiny strawberry seedlings.
The last time I tried this experiment it was last September. The seedlings emerged and I kept them in the house over winter. They did attract aphids though (where did they even come from) so I had quite the time squishing and washing them off from time to time. Probably best to do this project in spring and then move them outdoors as soon as possible.
As you can see from the image below, these late sown plants are big and healthy now. They’re more than ready to go out in the garden but we’re moving house soon and I want them as a border at the new house. They’ll hang in there for just a little bit longer.
Planting and growing
Alpine strawberries are far more upright than garden strawberries. This means that you don’t need to worry about mulching the base with straw since the berries are held up high as well. They grow as neat little plants and look pretty as part of your edible landscaping.
Plant your alpine strawberry plants in rich, well drained soil that doesn’t dry out easily. These are woodland plants so they’ll tolerate a bit of shade but aren’t a fan of dry soil. If you can situate them in a sunny place they’ll produce more berries. If you’d like them as ground cover only, then shade to semi-shade is perfectly fine.
Of all the varieties of strawberries out there, alpines are the ones I think do best in pots and containers. I grow my ‘Just add cream’ strawberries in terracotta pots using this method. I like walking out the door and seeing those pretty pink petals. My ‘Golden Alexandria’ plants do incredibly well squished together into a stoneware pot. They’re planted up with purchased ‘Farm Yard Manure’ — essentially composted horse muck. Though I don’t currently have them planted up in one, I think they’d also do great in this DIY strawberry pallet planter.
Harvesting the berries
Alpine strawberries are ever-bearing, meaning that they produce fruit over a long period. On the mild Isle of Man I’ve found ripe berries on my plants as late as November. The first to ripen for me are around early June but in warmer climates they’ll fruit earlier.
A few berries ripen at a time usually and off three plants I can get a handful a week. It’s not huge but I love finding and picking the berries as I’m walking past. They’re generally less sweet than their gigantic cousins and have a lot more seeds. I’m saying that about the Golden Alexandria because of the three types I grow they’re as close to wild strawberries as you can get.
The berries on ‘Mara des Bois’ and ‘Just add Cream’ are considerably larger and sweeter. I recently made a strawberry jam with the ‘Mara des Bois’ and it’s the best batch I’ve ever made. A little sugar and heat can work wonders.