Wild strawberries are the smaller, far more aromatic relatives of the cultivated strawberry. We present the wild strawberry and its cultivated forms and give tips on cultivation, care, and use.
The small wild strawberries inspire with the uniquely delicious aroma of their fruits. Here we reveal how you can successfully grow and harvest wild strawberries yourself.
Wild strawberry: flowering, taste, and properties
The wild strawberry ( Fragaria vesca ) is closely related to our cultivated strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa ) and belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae). It occurs widely in the temperate climatic zone of Eurasia. The forest edge dweller has a thick rhizome and a basal leaf rosette with typical three-part, toothed leaves. The shrub that is native to us is completely hardy.
Depending on the light and location, it reaches heights of 5 to 20 cm and spreads over numerous runners. The five-fold white flowers of the wild strawberry develop on upright, later overhanging stems in May. In June and July, the 1 to 2 cm large, deep red, pointed, edible false fruits of the wild strawberry ripen and develop their typical aroma.
What is a monthly strawberry? Monthly strawberries ( Fragaria vesca var. Semperflorens ) were selected from the wild strawberry and cultivated. They are very similar to wild strawberries, but somewhat larger and hardly ever form runners. The harvest season for monthly strawberries lasts for several months, from June to the end of September.
Tip: Sometimes the wild strawberry is confused with the Indian mock strawberry ( Potentilla indica ). This immigrated neophyte is also known as the false wild strawberry, as it forms red, edible fruits that taste watery and bland. It is easy to distinguish between the two species at flowering time. Wild strawberries bloom white, Indian mock strawberries light yellow and form a striking wreath of large, notched sepals. The fruits of the Indian mock strawberry are also flat-round and sit on straight flower stalks that do not overhang.
Recommended varieties of Fragaria vesca
There is no differentiation of varieties for wild strawberries, but there is for monthly strawberries from them. In the following, we will introduce you to various types of monthly strawberries and their properties.
- ‘Alexandria’: Monthly strawberry without runners. This variety blooms and fruit from June to the end of September. It is well suited for balcony boxes and a planting in the same location in forest-like wooded beds.
- ‘Attila’: Red strawberry with strong runners and continues into late autumn. Fruits in the first year after sowing and quickly forms a carpet of plants that covers the ground.
- ‘Baron Solemacher’: Runners-forming selection in two variants with red or white strawberry fruits. Cultivar for ground cover or underplanting until late autumn.
- ‘Rugen’: Red strawberry of the month with very good fruit yield, delicious taste of wild strawberry, and hardly any runners. It was created back in 1920, meanwhile, there is a new selection, the ‘Improved Rügen’. Ideal for edging beds and keeping them in large pots.
- ‘Yellow Wonder’: White-yellow monthly strawberry without runners. The sweet, aromatic fruits are harvested between June and September.
- ‘White soul’: Creamy white monthly strawberry with hardly any runners and a sweet, aromatic wild strawberry taste.
Planting wild strawberries: location, timing, and procedure
Wild strawberries can be planted in the shade and partial shade, but they prefer sunny locations. The ideal location for wild strawberries is on fresh to moderately dry, nutrient-rich, and somewhat loamy soil with a slightly acidic pH. Wet, clayey, and compacted soils are unsuitable for wild strawberries as they can lead to root rot. Wild strawberries and a few monthly strawberries form runners and are ideal for covering the ground or for greening underwood and fruit trees. You can use varieties without runners to frame beds or as plantings in perennial beds. All Auslese and wild forms can be cultivated in groups in larger planters. Wild strawberries can also be grown in pots and boxes on the balcony.
The ideal time to plant these and other perennials in late autumn between mid-October and the end of November. The perennial plants slowly hibernate during this time and only form roots after planting. The fresh leaf shoots in spring are already supplied with water and nutrients by the new fine roots. The perennials can also be planted in March and April. You will then need regular watering to survive the summer.
Many varieties only propagate through wild strawberry seeds. It begins in February on the warm, light windowsill. Prepare a sowing container with a low-nutrient potting soil mixed halfway with sand. The seeds of the wild strawberry or monthly strawberry are applied superficially and only very lightly covered with soil. Now always keep the seeds well moist, the easiest way to do this is with a spray bottle. The delicate strawberry plants germinate after three to four weeks. If the wild strawberries already have four leaflets, they can be put into more nutrient-rich soil and planted outdoors as a vigorous young plant. Some strawberry varieties of the month bloom and produce fruit in the first year, some only in the year after sowing.
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Loosen the future soil for planting wild strawberries over a large area and bring in some compost if necessary. Alternatively, you can fill a planter with loose potting soil. The high compost content of our soil stores – instead of the climate-damaging degraded peat – moisture and releases it to the plant roots when required. Use a hand shovel to plant the wild strawberries no deeper than before in the loosened soil so that the young buds are exposed in the middle of the rosette of leaves. You should keep a planting distance of 15 to 25 cm between individual wild strawberries. If you plant wild strawberries as ground cover, seven to nine plants should be planted per square meter. Press the soil well all around and then water vigorously once.
Planting wild strawberries: summary
- Location: Preferably in the sun; Shade and partial shade possible
- Soil: Fresh to moderately dry, rich in nutrients, somewhat loamy, slightly acidic pH
- Time: mid-October – end of November; March April
- Plant spacing: 15-25 centimeters
The most important maintenance measures
Wild strawberries are easy to care for. In hot and dry summers, watering should be used occasionally. Wild strawberries are only fertilized in the spring for flowering and after the fruit has been harvested in early autumn. With the help of organic liquid fertilizer, the extracted amount of nutrients is supplied by the fruit formation and the bloom formation is supported. Pests are rarely observed in wild strawberries; gray mold ( Botrytis cinerea ) and powdery mildew can occur as diseases. If the wild strawberries are in pots or window boxes, then they should definitely be potted in new soil every two to three years. The substrate sags over time and important trace elements, which fertilizers often do not contain, become scarce.
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Propagating wild strawberries: sowing and cutting
Wild strawberries can be propagated from their seeds or through natural cuttings. The faster way to propagate wild strawberries is to cut off the abundant runners. Often the offshoots of the wild strawberries have already formed roots, so they also grow quickly after they have been moved. However, depending on the variety, monthly strawberries form little or no runners and can therefore usually be propagated by sowing. To obtain seeds, quarter ripe wild strawberry fruits and dry them gently in the sun or the oven at 50 ° C. If the pulp is completely dry, the seeds can simply be rubbed on the surface. These nuts can now lie airy and dry for a few more days. Then keep the wild strawberry seeds in a dry, cool, and dark place until you sow them as described above.
Wild berries: harvest time and use
The edible wild strawberry fruits are plucked by hand from the perennials in summer and usually nibbled directly. After harvest, the pressure-sensitive fruits only keep for a few hours to a day before they become mushy. You should always harvest the wild strawberries fresh for processing. Wild strawberry jam is particularly tasty, but juice, syrup, liqueur, and vinegar are also good alternatives to preserve the perishable fruit. However, people with a strawberry allergy and a tendency to hives should also avoid the fruits of wild strawberries. The leaves of the wild strawberry are used as teas in folk medicine for the relief of digestive problems, rheumatism, gout, liver diseases, and urinary tract diseases.
Other delicious local fruit bushes and forest dwellers in our latitudes are cranberries ( Vaccinium Vitis – idaea ). Find out everything you need to know about the special requirements, planting, care, and harvesting of sour, fresh berries in our article.