Ornamental strawberries are grown for the landscape value of their pink flowers and bright green leaves. They also produce small red fruit which curious children may eat without harm. This is fortunate, as children are attracted to the color red, red fruit and juicy strawberries in particular. When it comes to the leaves, though, some caution should be taken by all children and adults not to ingest the leaves unless carefully prepared as tea.
Even the small fruit of ornamental strawberries will attract children, and it is perfectly safe for them to eat the little berries. Ornamental strawberries are fragaria hybrids, a cross between a strawberry (Fragaria) and the marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris). Although tiny, the fruit is edible, but the berries will probably not be as delicious as berries from plants grown for fruit production. If a child has a reaction to the berries, he is likely allergic to all strawberries and they should be avoided.
Children should be cautioned not to eat the leaves of ornamental strawberry plants. Fresh leaves can do no harm, neither can completely dried ones. However, leaves that have been plucked and become wilted or partially dry can experience a toxic chemical change. When fresh healthy foliage is carefully and completely dried, the leaves from ornamental strawberries can be used as a tea ingredient.
Ornamental strawberries are grown massed in beds or as ground cover. The best ornamental strawberry varieties are those with deep pink abundant flowers such as Fragaria "Lipsitck". It grows 6 to 8 inches tall and spreads 12 inches wide. Pink Panda has lighter and smaller, 1-inch wide pink flowers but is widely available.
Grow ornamental strawberry plants in full sun or light shade. Pink flowers appear abundantly from spring to fall. The leaves are evergreen year-round in most zones. In colder areas, cut back in late winter to renew the plant. This eliminates droopy old foliage and stimulates the production of fresh green leaves in spring. Ornamental plants reproduce by runners and can invade lawns.
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