Alpine strawberries are flavourful, luxurious, and extremely cute! Unlike their larger grocery-store counterparts, woodland berries haven’t been bred for size. These little beauties are all about the flavour! Alpine strawberries aren’t exactly a high-production crop, but they certainly are well worth growing in your garden.
Growing Alpine Strawberry Plants In Your Garden
Alpine strawberries are packed full with as much sweetness as adorable-ness. They are a favourite variety to eat and to grow. …Everything you could want in a berry!
Woodland strawberries are ridiculously well-behaved. They make great container plants (I like this little strawberry garden in a pail!). They don’t put out runners with the enthusiasm of garden strawberries, and stay nicely within their container.
“All our native strawberries are easy of cultivation and have well-deserved reputations as dependable groundcover plants.”Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg & Linda Chalker-Scott.
Alpine strawberry plants also put up with a certain amount of neglect. I am frequently away for 7-day stretches and can’t water my plants. The strawberries don’t seem to mind the mini droughts at all. I am convinced that my neglect is good for them. Ever notice that strawberries that have been watered a lot taste, well, watery?
Another excellent characteristic of Fragaria vesca is that they will provide fruit from June-September. They will also bear fruit in their first year. And, as mentioned above, they will not send out excessive amounts of runners. This is not a common characteristic of many garden strawberries.
Alpine Strawberry Plants: Origins & Background
But what actually is an alpine strawberry? Alpine strawberries are true heirloom berries. Fragaria vesca is native to much of the USA and Canada. Alpine strawberries are also called Woodland Strawberries, or Fraises des Bois, as they are a gently cultivated form of wild berries
“The wild strawberries have basal trifoliate leaves (clover-like) on long leaf stalks, creeping, horizontal runners from each rosette, lovely white, five-petaled flowers, and edible fruits (small strawberries)”Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg & Linda Chalker-Scott.
Woodland berries are not a hybrid variety like most garden or supermarket strawberries. Alpine strawberries are much smaller than these hybrid types. Check out the photo below for a comparison of conventional garden strawberries to alpine strawberries.
The photo above shows a regular hybrid garden berry (left) beside an alpine strawberry (right). Both were grown organically in containers on the south-facing side of my house. The hybrid strawberry looks like what we generally see at our farmer’s markets and grocery stores. The woodland strawberry looks like a bit of a runt.
Growing Alpine Strawberries from Seed
I first grew alpine strawberries from seed before we moved to our current home. I kept them in containers indoors and they did surprisingly well! Growing strawberries from seed is a bit more tricky than from bare root plants, but is very rewarding. It’s worth it!
“Fragaria versa ssp. californica (woodland strawberry) comes in two forms, once classified as taxonomic varieties, in our area. Form bracteata is the taller of the two (up to 8 inches) and is well suited as a ground cover in open woodland places. Form crinita is a smaller plant of open rocky places west of the Cascades. It is a good, low carpenter, with soft, tawny green leaves.”Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg & Linda Chalker-Scott.
Now that I’ve been growing woodland strawberries for a few years, I’ve noticed that they are decent self-seeders. Fallen berries tend to grow new seedlings in the garden relatively easily. The established plants also grow quickly and can be divided to get more plants.
Alpine Strawberry Seeds for Sale
Here are some seed companies that sell heirloom seeds for alpine strawberries:
- West Coast Seeds (Canada) – Mignonette Alpine (Fragaria vesca)
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (USA) – Regina (Reine des Vallees) Alpine (Fragaria vesca)
- Renee’s Garden (USA) – Heirloom Pineapple Alpine (Fragaria vesca)
Are Alpine Strawberries Annuals or Perennials?
Alpine strawberries are herbaceous perennials. This means that the visible parts of the plant will die off as the winter sets in, but will come back up from the roots with new leaves each spring. My plants tend to keep a few of their leaves over winter, which is very cool! It’s kinda fun to see them peeking out of the snow in February.
I love perennial plants because I only have to buy them once! I rarely buy an annual (one-year) plant when a perennial will do. Perennials may cost more up front, but they will be productive for many future years. Also, less work in the long run…
Fraises des Bois grow their first flowers early in the spring. They are one of the first treats from the garden. The tiny blossoms arrive in early May in our area. We do get berries throughout the whole summer, even into October! While there are fewer berries as the summer stretches on, there are more than enough to enjoy :)
Tips for Growing Fraises Des Bois
Like most berries, these plants thrive in well-drained soil (sandy, with air voids). They also appreciate rich ground. A mulching of fine compost will do well on top of the soil.
You may also wish to place dry straw around the plant to keep weeds down. If you do decide to mulch with straw, ensure there are no seeds in the straw before you use it as a surface mulch. The berries will sit nice and dry up on the straw, which will keep them from rotting.
Another wonderful feature of alpine strawberries are the wonderful green foliage. The bright green leaves of Fragaria vesca plants make wonderful ground cover. I’ve planted the ground around my berry walk with a whole row of the adorable little plants and I love it!
Alpine/Woodland Strawberry Flavor and Tasting Notes
Here’s where it gets fun…the tiny woodland strawberry packs as much flavour as the entire hybrid conventional berry. The flavour of those little guys is incredibly rich. That’s not even the best part. The flavour of the alpine strawberry is not only richer, but is also slightly sweeter in a way I can’t totally describe. It tastes like whatever those marshmallow strawberry penny-candies are trying to taste like. It is magical. Alpine Strawberries are magical.
This is the part where I should be suggesting some sort of recipe in which to use alpine strawberries. Unfortunately I am unable as the berries never make it more than a few feet from the plant before I devour them. If I could resist them long enough to use them in the kitchen, I’d likely use them to top a dessert. They would be darling on top of a tart!
Trust me, you have to try them (if you haven’t already)! If you’d like to grow alpine strawberries year-round, check out these instructions for growing strawberries in a container.
PS: Here’s a little alpine strawberry garden in a bag for a winter windowsill ;) Super cute!