Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Plant of the Week: Beach Strawberry

It's the time of the year where the sweet, demure little Fragaria chiloensis transforms into a creeping, spreading, unstoppable force!  You don't know where you'll find her next, but don't worry- for the most part that's a good thing!  After all the rain, she's waking up and stretching her arms through the garden, popping out a wee white flower here and there just to remind you how great she is.  It's so nice to have a little spot of light in the shady gardens she prefers to be in.  While the little red fruits that follow don't have the flavor you'd wish they had, I'm sure the birds and squirrels don't mind the snack.  There's also Fragaria californica sp. vesca, which apparently has tastier fruits and is better suited to clay soils.  If she does get carried away with her above-ground runners, snip them back and either replant the cuttings somewhere else, or toss them in the compost bin.

Soil:  Sand to loamy clay
Sun:  Dappled shade to shade
Plant:  It will get better established well if you plant before the winter rain.  It will probably need a spritz or two of water during the hottest summer days while it's getting its bearings
Buy it:  For some reason, buying Fragarias can be tricky.  I checked all the usual suspects, but I find only Las Pilitas is carrying it right now.  What gives?
Good for:  dry, shady gardens, a quick groundcover, creating a tea party atmosphere of little white flowers and red berries for birds and other wildlife to enjoy. 


  1. We have a rather large swath of strawberry next to our very neglected lawn, in fact, it's invading what was lawn once. Not that I mind, the lawn isn't long for this world. I'm just not sure which species of the strawberry I have. Do you know how to tell them apart?

  2. That sounds so much nicer than lawn! As far as I know through my limited research, it's a matter of tasting the berries. If it's tasty, you have californica, if it's dry and mostly tasteless, it's chiloensis. Yerba Buena Nursery mentioned that the californica has a reddish tinge to the foliage. Can anybody else chime in on this one?

  3. One of my favorite groundcovers...they did become hard to find down here too after the big freezes we had a few years ago....maybe the growers haven't quite recovered?????

  4. That's a great point, Susie. Those freezes a couple of months ago might have hindered their availability.