Can You Eat the Fruits and Leaves of Ornamental Strawberry Plants?
Ornamental strawberry plants (Fragaria spp.) occasionally produce edible fruit despite being grown primarily for their flowers and foliage. These showy plants share most of the same traits as fruiting strawberry varieties and grow mainly within USDA plant hardiness zones 2 to 10, although hardiness varies between cultivars.
All parts of a strawberry plant are edible, but it is best to double check that the plant growing in your garden is actually a true strawberry before allowing children to eat from it, because some common lookalike plants produce bad-tasting fruit.
Children can safely eat fruit from ornamental strawberry plants, although the fruit may not taste good.
Recognizing Ornamental Strawberry Cultivars
Ornamental strawberries with pink flowers are most common but there are also some cultivars with bright red blooms.
The most common cultivar of ornamental strawberry found in gardens is Pink Panda (Fragaria x ananassa 'Pink Panda,' USDA plant hardiness zones 4 to 8). This cultivar is grown primarily for its 1-inch-wide pink flowers but it also may produce edible, tasty fruit. Pink Panda ornamental strawberries bloom in late summer and will occasionally produce fruit, although the fruit is very small.
Lipstick strawberries (Fragaria x 'Lipstick,' USDA zones 2 to 9) produces brilliant red and dark pink flowers that earned the cultivar its name. The flowers appear on and off during the summer and autumn months and will occasionally turn into tasty red berries.
Red Ruby (Fragaria x ananassa 'Red Ruby,' USDA zones 5a to 9a) is another red-flowered ornamental strawberry that occasionally produces edible berries.
Can Children and Pets Eat the Fruit and Leaves of Ornamental Strawberry Plants?
Ornamental strawberries tend not to fruit well because they are bred for their foliage, but most will occasionally produce small berries that taste similar to fruiting strawberries.
Fruit: Less Sweet and Not as Juicy
The fruit looks the same as standard strawberries with the small seeds dotting the outside of the red flesh, but they tend to be much smaller and harder to spot. One major difference between regular and ornamental strawberries is that the fruit on ornamental strawberry plants is less sweet and juicy than standard strawberries.
Leaves: Non-Toxic to Children, Dogs and Cats
All parts of ornamental strawberry plants are edible, so children eating the occasional fruit or even eating strawberry leaves is not a problem. In fact, strawberry leaves are not only edible, they are nutritious and contain vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Dogs and cats can also safely eat ornamental strawberries, which makes it a good landscaping choice for yards when kids and pets play.
Distinguishing Ornamental Strawberry Lookalikes
The low-growing perennial mock strawberry (Potentilla indica, USDA zones 5a to 9a) is sometimes mistaken for ornamental strawberries but it is only loosely related. It was crossbred with traditional strawberries to produce the ornamental cultivar Pink Panda, but it is not typically grown in home landscapes because it can become weedy and invasive.
Can you eat mock strawberries?
Mock strawberries resemble ornamental strawberries, but the flowers are yellow and the 1/2-inch-wide red fruit lack the external seeds found on true strawberries. The fruit also stands upright, unlike strawberries, which tend to hang downward toward the ground. This fruit is safe to eat but it is dry and bland.
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Strawberry Types
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Red Ruby Strawberry
- Heritage Perennials: Fragaria 'Lipstick'
- Washington State University Extension: Pink Panda Strawberry
- Walter Reeves: Mock Strawberry-Edible?
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Indian Strawberry
Sasha Degnan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Anthropology. Her written work has appeared in both online and print publications. She is a certified Master Gardener and dedicated plant enthusiast with decades of experience growing and propagating native and exotic plant varieties.