Nurturing a garden often leads us down paths of delightful discovery, and for me, the journey with alpine strawberries has been nothing short of enchanting. For many, the challenge lies in understanding the unique needs and quirks of these petite berries. With over a decade dedicated to cultivating alpine strawberries and nurturing hundreds of plants, I’ve wrestled with the common issues every grower faces and savored the sweet success that comes with perseverance.
Introduction to alpine strawberries
Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are a tiny type of strawberry known for their delicious, aromatic wild-strawberry taste. They are flavorful, luxurious, and extremely cute! Unlike their larger grocery-store counterparts, alpine and woodland berries haven’t been bred for size. These little beauties are all about the flavor! 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 of as much sweetness as adorable-ness. They are a favorite variety to eat and grow due to their old-fashioned strawberry flavor and easy-to-grow characteristics in the garden. If you can find them, alpine strawberry plants are well worth growing!
Alpine strawberry (Fragaria vesca) plants are a naturally occurring wild species of strawberry. Alpine strawberries are day-neutral, meaning they flower no matter how long or short the days are (amount of daylight). The fruits of Alpine strawberries are long and thin.
Alpine strawberries are ridiculously well-behaved. They make great container plants. They don’t put out runners with the enthusiasm of garden strawberries and stay nicely within their container. Despite the lack of runners, make sure you plant them with enough space to allow for proper growth!
“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 Alpine Strawberries – Fragaria vesca is that they will provide fruit and are considered in season from June to 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 varieties
There are several popular varieties of Alpine Strawberries available for gardeners to grow. Some are red with a white inside, while others are yellow with a white inside. Here are some of the most popular varieties of alpine strawberry plants:
- Mignonette Alpine Strawberry
- Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberry
- Alexandria Alpine Strawberry
- Ruegen Alpine Strawberry
Alpine strawberry plant 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, as well as areas in Asia and Europe.
Alpine Strawberries are classified as Fragaria vesca, along with Woodland Strawberries (Fraises des Bois). Typically, gardeners refer to the long and thin Fragaria vesca berries as Alpine Strawberries, while the rounded Fragaria vesca are called Woodland Strawberries. Alpine Strawberries tend not to grow runners, while Woodland Strawberries do run. Alpine Strawberries are day-neutral, while Woodlands are June-bearing.
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 modern 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
Alpine strawberries are one of the only types of strawberries that grow true-to-seed. Most cultivated strawberries are propagated by runners or other means, but Fragaria vesca tends to grow uniform plants from saved seeds.
I first grew alpine strawberries from seed before we moved to our current home. I kept them in cute planters, pots, and containers indoors, and they did surprisingly well! Growing strawberries from seed is a bit more tricky than from bare-root plants, but it is very rewarding. It’s worth it!
Plus, there are tons of interesting varieties available as seeds as compared to bare-root plants. I like the Mignonette alpine strawberries.
Alpine strawberry seeds for sale
You can get alpine strawberry seeds for sale from a few different seed companies, including Botanical Interests, Baker Creek, Renee’s Garden, and West Coast Seeds.
Now that I’ve been growing Alpine 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.
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 upfront, but they will be productive for many future years. Also, less work in the long run…
Alpine strawberries 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 alpine strawberries
Like most berries, these plants thrive in well-drained soil (sandy, with air voids). They also appreciate rich ground. A mulch of 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 nicely and dry up on the straw, which will keep them from rotting.
Another wonderful feature of alpine strawberries is 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 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 flavor as the entire hybrid conventional berry. The flavor of those little guys is incredibly rich. That’s not even the best part.
The taste 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 and often considered one of the best-tasting strawberries.
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 must try them (if you haven’t already)! If you’d like to grow alpine strawberries year-round, check out these instructions for growing strawberries indoors.