Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) are attractive, hardy trees that produce masses of white blooms in the spring, followed by red fruit that looks similar to strawberries. The fruit, while edible, is not considered tasty. For that reason, strawberry trees are most often planted as ornamental trees. These trees are perfect for urban landscapes, as they are small, slow-growing, and can tolerate pollution very well. Once established, they require very little care beyond cleaning up the mess their fruit creates.
Choose a location to plant your strawberry tree that is exposed to full sun if you live in northern or cooler climates, and partial shade if you live in hot climates. Strawberry trees love bright light, but direct exposure to the hot afternoon sun on an ongoing basis can scorch the tree's leaves. Cold winds, especially in the winter, can also burn the leaves, so find a location that is protected from such winds.
Keep the soil around your tree free of lime. Use a soil testing kit (available at any home or garden center) to determine how much lime is in the soil. Strawberry trees grow best in soil that has very little lime or is completely lime-free. For this reason, many home gardeners grow their strawberry trees in containers filled with lime-free potting soil.
Water sparingly. These trees can survive a drought and prefer the soil to be on the dry side. Water only when the top 3 inches of the soil is dry to the touch. Container-grown trees have shorter roots, so they should be watered when the soil is dry to a depth of 2 inches.
Decide how you want to prune your tree. The strawberry tree often grows as a bush, with three or more trunks. In this case, you will want to control the side growth by pruning it to your desired shape in the spring. If you want to train it to grow on one trunk, cut away any competing trunks or suckers yearly.
Things You Will Need
- Watering tool
- Pruning tools
- Strawberry trees do not need to be fertilized. Avoid planting the tree near a sidewalk or other pavement. The fruit is very sticky and can be hard to wash off hard surfaces. Birds and squirrels love the fruit, however, so if you have a good population of squirrels, they may eat the fruit before it can drop.
- Established strawberry trees have long taproots, making them very difficult to transplant. Once planted, a strawberry tree should not be moved unless absolutely necessary.
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