First of all, if you have children, a strawberry tree is actually a must. No child of herbalist parents should be denied the chance to report to school that they have a tree at home with strawberries growing on them. If not, the purchase is not a mistake. It is not for nothing that experts consider the strawberry tree to be one of the most beautiful potted plants. In the article below, you will learn why growing your own strawberry tree is a good idea and how to care for and hibernate it.

The cultivation of the strawberry tree

Growing your own strawberry tree is recommended for several reasons. For a strawberry tree of a size corresponding to this designation, you have to put down a considerable sum, and even then you will usually get a Wonne-Be-Tree (would-be tree) rather than a stately strawberry tree. In addition, the self-grown strawberry tree grows in exactly the climate in which it will later have to prove itself, certainly better than growing it in a horticultural company on the Mediterranean coast and then moving to a garden in one of the cold regions of Germany. With a bought strawberry tree, you can’t even be sure that it will grow on you. The bigger it is, the more critical it is.

This is how growing your own arbutus works.

  • If you have fresh strawberry tree seeds on hand, it is best to sow them when they are ripe.
  • Stored or purchased seeds should soak in warm water for 5 to 6 days before sowing them.
  • The light germs are only placed on the cultivation soil, not buried
  • They are best grown in a shady spot in the greenhouse or on the window sill.
  • The potting soil should never become dry, the ambient temperature should be around 20 degrees.
  • If part of a seed shipment didn’t come up, you could try a trick:
  • Stratify the rest of the seeds for 6 weeks.
  • For non-gardeners: pack the seeds in the refrigerator for 6 weeks.
  • Once the seeds are sown, you need to be patient: it can take 2 to 3 months for the seedlings to grow.
  • The young plants are prone to too much moisture, so you should separate them quickly.
  • The young plants in separate pots are easier to handle, from now on you only need to pay attention to good ventilation.

Background of the stratification: The Sami are used to different seasons. They need a cold stimulus as a signal that the new season begins afterwards, in which they are to germinate.

Caring for the strawberry tree

Strawberry trees want a light, sandy to medium-heavy loamy soil that should be well drained and can be quite poor in nutrients. It grows well in soils with an acidic pH value, but also thrives in weakly basic soils. Younger strawberry trees should first be planted in a tub. You will find out later whether and when it is conceivable to plant out an older specimen in the garden.

In summer it should definitely be placed on the balcony, terrace and in the garden. It is just an outdoor plant. He can’t stand it permanently in the low-light apartment.

He then needs a location in light penumbra or in the sun. A bit of wind protection should be close by. In the natural occurrences on the Atlantic coast, the strawberry tree grows in the midst of cork oaks and maritime pines, so it has very good wind protection around it.

In terms of daily maintenance, the strawberry tree is generally pleasingly undemanding and very adaptable. It needs water regularly during the growing season, so regularly that it never completely dries out. That is then usually its irretrievable end. He would also like to have fertilizer every 14 days during the season, but please not too much. The strawberry trees also like it when they are allowed to stand in the rain. In dry times you could give them this rain with a spray bottle or from the garden hose (fine jet). Waterlogging and excessive watering should be avoided. The strawberry trees like to grow very slowly anyway, and if they get too much water they grow even more slowly, especially the young trees.

The strawberry trees, which can be up to 10 meters high in our native nature, are only about 2 to 3 meters high in our pots, and maybe a little higher in the garden.

Arbutus don’t want to move

The strawberry tree has a somewhat idiosyncratic quirk: it would like to never leave its final location once it is overgrown. Ideally, it should really only be transplanted once, namely when it is put from the seed pot or sales container into its bucket.

This is the main reason why growing your own strawberry tree is a very good idea. The older a strawberry tree, the more difficult it is to move. A purchased strawberry tree only promises good chances of success in cultivation if it is bought very young, and even then it does not actually want to be replanted and could react badly.

So if you should start with a small strawberry tree anyway, because a large (very expensive) strawberry tree you have bought has a good chance of perishing soon after transplanting, you can also start with a seedling right away.

If you plan to plant the arbutus that has arisen from this seedling in the garden, the bucket should be in the planned location a long time in advance. Then you dig a really large planting hole, spread a net made of organic material next to the bucket, put the entire root ball on the net as it is, drive in the root ball and set it completely in its new environment.

You can, however, give the strawberry tree a freshly enriched environment with micronutrients every year without transplanting by renewing the top layer of the earth in which the strawberry tree is located.

Flowers and fruits of the strawberry tree

Don’t think that your strawberry tree is going strange ways when it bears flowers and fruit at the same time. With all strawberry trees this happens in winter. Arbutus unedo flowers from autumn to the end of the year. Arbutus andrachne and the cross from it bloom between February and April. The flowers of this winter bloomer are at the end of the branch. They appear in hanging panicles, similar to lily of the valley flowers, they also smell pleasant.

This flowering period can get you in trouble if you want to see the decorative fruits on your strawberry tree as well, but only cultivate a single strawberry tree. Because bees and butterflies theoretically like to fly to the flowers of the strawberry tree, when some varieties are in bloom at the beginning of winter, there are typically hardly any insects here. Then there can be problems with the pollination of the flowers. Even if you grow a variety of strawberry tree that has been sold as a self-pollinator, it will never work for sure on a single sapling. Then you’d better help with a little brush and pollinate the flowers yourself. Then you can be sure that fruits will develop.

Whether it is absolutely worthwhile, apart from the decorative value, to bring the strawberry tree to fruition is probably rather doubtful: The fruits are described partly as sweet, partly as completely tasteless, and the name “unedo” should mean “I only eat one” because the fruits leave an unpleasant aftertaste.

The trim

Actually, the German-language literature on strawberry trees recommends pruning the strawberry tree as little as possible. So only if the branches are growing too dense and it seems necessary to thin out the plant. But it is probably only about the plants that are supposed to provide decoration for a few years in pots and from which one does not really expect a long life. Some of them are then cut quite unrestrainedly.

However, if one follows reports that revolve around older strawberry trees, one learns that strawberry trees tend to grow less densely after being rather bushy in the beginning, if they can simply develop untrimmed. By the way, every fruit tree would do that if it weren’t pruned regularly.

On English-language pages, on which gardeners often report, it is assumed that the strawberry tree has been pruned. It’s just a little difficult to find the right time to do it. Because if you prune at the beginning of winter immediately after flowering and fruiting, the new shoots that are stimulated in this way could freeze to death in the rest of the winter. When pruning in spring, you may remove the newly created buds, because the strawberry trees bloom and fruit on the wood of the old season. A pruning is certainly necessary and sensible for older strawberry trees, but should be done according to the rules of tree pruning, preferably by a specialist who can adapt these rules “strawberry tree-typical”.

Hibernate Arbutus

The genus of the strawberry trees has spread from North America through Central America to Nicaragua, where they sometimes grow at altitudes of up to 3,000 meters, so they also know the cold. Some species can also be found in regions close to us, but in the Mediterranean area. Strawberry trees are therefore generally not hardy with us, but it may be worth trying to plant a strawberry tree permanently in the garden:

1. Hibernate the strawberry tree in the garden

Whether you can start a realistic attempt to overwinter a strawberry tree outside or even to plant it in the garden depends of course first on the variety and then on two other factors:

It depends on where …
The winter hardy varieties in Central Europe should be able to withstand temperatures of minus 15 degrees, the average winter cold in Germany reaches higher values. So you should know exactly which hardiness zone your home town belongs to. Temperatures that are tolerable for the strawberry tree are only given in a few spots in Germany. It also depends on the local microclimate, if you can place a strawberry tree in a corner of the house that is even heated a little from the inside because the insulation is not yet ideal, it naturally also has a slightly better chance of being outdoors in winter survive …

… and at what age
boy, e.g. B. self-grown strawberry trees should be kept in their first winters in a greenhouse or in a room with a similar temperature. If they are old enough to “try gardening”, they should be planted out in late spring after the last frosts. Of course, when you are old enough cannot be stated in years and months. Older plants, the wood of which is already well-matured, survive more cold.

Even with this strawberry tree, wintering must not simply take place in the free, unprotected nature. The strawberry tree should get very good winter protection. Above all, the leaves, the trunk and the lower area should be packed very well with scraps of fabric made of breathable material or special foils.

2. Overwintering in the winter garden

If you don’t know exactly which Arbutus variety grows with you, or if you simply don’t want to take any chances, overwintering in the winter garden is recommended. The temperatures here should be between 3 and 8 degrees. An adequate substitute for a winter garden can be an unheated staircase or a basement with windows. During the winter, the strawberry tree is watered as little as possible; a few splashes of water are actually enough to prevent it from drying out. Like most other plants, the strawberry tree should definitely not be fertilized during the winter.

When spring finally comes, the strawberry tree should slowly get used to more light and “food”. From February / March it should be best to move to a window on the south side and get a little more water again. Then he is allowed to go back onto the terrace – initially by the hour.

The strawberry tree is definitely the right plant for every friend of really exotic plants – and surprisingly easy to care for. In addition, it is really unusually attractive, in terms of foliage, flowers and fruits. If you are looking for a slightly crazy Christmas tree substitute: Here you go, the fruit time is right, the colors of the fruits are typical Christmas colors.

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