Strawberry: Cultivate an Ancient Fruit

Typical essence of the Mediterranean maquis, the strawberry tree ( unedo strawberry tree ) is a beautiful shrub, very interesting to cultivate for ornamental purposes but also with a productive intention, since it produces abundantly edible fruit rich in nutritional properties.

It is a perennial plant With a pleasantly messy posture, in autumn it is found full of flowers and fruits that give a touch of joy to the environment in which it is inserted. The strawberry tree can be grown as an isolated specimen in the garden, but also as part of a mixed, thin hedge, or placed in a real orchard.

The fruits produced by this plant are arbutus little known for its slightly sweet taste, not appreciated by everyone, but on the other hand very healthy for its nutritional properties . For this species, with ancient and forgotten fruits, such as the arbutus, they must be rediscovered and valued. Also because, to promote plant biodiversity, it is important to include in our growing media certain species of European origin like this one, well adapted and resistant to adversity.

Let’s find out more about this species, and try to cultivate it using the organic method. to which it lends itself very well.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • Arbutus unedo: the plant

  • where you can grow

    • Climate necessary for cultivation

    • the perfect ground

  • plant an arbutus

  • how to grow

    • Irrigation

    • Fertilization

    • Padded

    • Pollination

    • Avoid plant diseases

    • harmful insects

  • How to prune strawberry tree

  • Arbutus grows in a pot

  • The collection of fruits and leaves


Arbutus unedo: the plant

Arbutus is an evergreen shrub, belonging to the Ericaceae family, and its botanical name is Arbutus unedus . It is related to cornflower, azalea and rhododendron, to name just a few of its famous cousins. It is an ancient fruit, known since ancient Rome, although it never enjoyed great fame.

The strawberry tree has a very slow growth and rarely exceeds 3 meters in height in the wild, while the cultivated one, which receives careful care, even reaches 8 meters. In any case, it is very lively.

The flowering of the strawberry tree is very long and overlaps the fruiting. The flowers are in the form of small vials, all grouped in inflorescences, white in color, and pleasantly scented. The fruits are spherical berries , have a yellowish-green color at first, then turn red towards maturation. In autumn-winter, we can find flowers and fruits in different stages of ripening at the same time, so the plant takes on a very pleasant and friendly appearance. Thanks to the simultaneous presence of the colors green, white and red, this beautiful plant is symbolically associated with our Tricolor.

The bark of the strawberry tree is reddish brown and with the growth of the plant it tends to peel off, it has a unique appearance. The wood is strong and heavy, excellent when used as firewood.

where you can grow

The arbutus is a Mediterranean shrub, native to our country where it is also found spontaneously. Like all berries, strawberry tree berries can only be picked if you are sure of their correct identification, to avoid confusion with other inedible or even poisonous fruits. If we plant an arbutus in the garden, the problem does not arise.

Climate necessary for cultivation

The unedo strawberry plant is quite cold hardy but if it is planted in a cold climate area, it is better to cover it in winter with non-woven fabrics, at least for the first 2 or 3 years after planting.

It can stay on the plain and on the hill, whereas at more than 800-1000 meters of altitude it generally suffers.

Before planting this bush, we must remember that is a sun-loving species , so it is important to ensure a sunny position. strawberry tree also suffers from cold winds and in highly exposed areas, it is also necessary to assess the presence or absence of windbreaks.

the perfect ground

Contrary to what other species require, that is to say rich and fertile soils, the arbutus grows discreetly and produces also in lean soils rich in skeletons. However, it certainly prevents water stagnation, so it is essential to ensure soil drainage through proper tillage and a good supply of organic matter, which makes soils soft even those that tend to loosen. compact and form characteristic cracks.

Other species in the Ericaceae family require acidic soils and are lime intolerant, while arbutus is more adaptable, although certainly best for it. a slightly calcareous soil and a slightly acidic pH . If in doubt, it is better to prepare a soil test and in case of high pH, ​​correct it with sulfur or put at least some acidophilic soil in the hole of the plant.

plant an arbutus

To plant an arbutus you can from plants purchased from the nursery as in the case of other more common fruit species, or reproduce a seedling yourself by cutting it , by taking a few small branches of beautiful and healthy plants and rooting them. With this method, of course, it takes longer before the plant is ready, and it is worth doing it if you particularly like it and are not in a hurry.

The most suitable time for planting in temperate climatic zones is autumn, while spring is the coldest. .

Once the position has been chosen, dig a hole deep enough for the root system to develop unhindered, in soft soil. The soil in the hole should receive a basic fertilizer based on compost or manure, in both cases very mature, better if not thrown into the hole as it is but first mixed with the most superficial layers of the earth excavated, which is ideal. is to rise to the surface.

how to grow

After planting, we need to take care of the seedling and handle it properly. In the case of the strawberry tree, fortunately, little care is required and even cultivation with natural methods is simple.


Young plants, in the first years after planting, need a little watering, especially in the hot season and in the absence of rain. then slowly the plant strengthens and deepens its root system in this way we can reduce the risks, by giving them regularly in periods of heat and always avoiding that the plant enters into water stress.


Although the arbutus is content with poor soil, a good amount of organic matter is still important for its growth and health. Thus, in addition to the soil amendment which is distributed at the time of transplanting, every spring it will be necessary to think of supplementing the food by distributing a little floured or granulated manure, or even fertilizer, over the entire surface under the foliage.


After transplanting, it is very useful to prepare a good mulch on the ground, that is, to spread it around the young stem a wide circular layer of straw, hay, dry grass, about 10 cm high. Mulch prevents wild grass from sprouting and competing with the plant for water and nutrients, and also delays soil drying, reducing irrigation.


Arbutus flowers are much visited by bees, as they are rich in nectar and are present in autumn, when the other flowers are absent. In fact, there is also strawberry honey, with a less sweet flavor compared to other much better known types, but still delicious and refined, suitable for certain combinations such as pecorino cheese, for example.

The strawberry tree however it is a self-fertile plant production is also carried out in isolated specimens, although the presence of more plants can improve their quantity and quality.

Help with plant diseases

Fortunately, it is a hardy species, which is hardly affected by any pathology. However, the strawberry tree should also be involved in preventive treatments. which are administered to all plants, based on natural products such as those based on decoctions of horsetail or propolis, which have a generic reinforcing effect on plants.

harmful insects

Frescoes can be affected by mealybugs , which we remove beforehand with macerates of fern, or with propolis oil, or which we can eradicate more vigorously with treatments based on white oil. In general, however, occasional pruning to thin out the foliage, which airs it out and gives it light, discourages scale insects.

aphids , other potentially harmful insects also for the strawberry tree, are prevented in the first place by avoiding treatment with aggressive products that also kill their natural predators. Aphids can be controlled by spraying extracts of nettle, pepper, garlic or defeat them by treating them with soap both classic Marseille soap and soft potassium soap, which can also be purchased for agricultural use in garden centers.

How to prune strawberry tree

The size of the strawberry tree is limit let’s not forget that it is a very slow growing plant.

Towards the end of winter we can cut off the dry and cold-damaged branches, or we can simply do something to keep the shape of the plant in order and air the foliage as a preventive measure against fungal diseases and scale insects.

Potted shrub grower

You can also grow the strawberry tree in a vase, knowing that the shrub will not reach great heights. However, it must be placed in pots at least 40 cm high, to ensure that it has enough soil to develop a good root system.

The substrate must be well draining, so it is advisable to choose a soft soil. mixed with the specific for acidophiles and a good soil amendment .

Watering must be regular, especially in hot weather, considering that the potted plant does not have the autonomy of a plant in the ground.

The collection of fruits and leaves

Fees, also called albatrosses, even take a year to mature and they are round fruits about 2 or 3 cm in diameter, which can be found grouped in clusters on the plant.

They should be eaten at the appropriate degree of ripeness, which is usually reached between November and December . If they are still immature, indeed, they contain a lot of tannins, and » allappano to taste, but are just as unpleasant when overripe.

As these are unusual fruits, it is difficult to find them in supermarkets, and for those who do not appreciate their tangy taste, it may be interesting to know that excellent jams can be made. In addition to jams, strawberry trees can also be made into liqueurs.

But the leaves of the strawberry tree can also be appreciated especially the young ones harvested in summer, because they are rich in substances with antiseptic properties astringent and purifying and we can use them for the preparation of infusions throughout the year, drying them and keeping them in a dry place.

Arbutus fruits and leaves have very appreciable beneficial properties especially because of the arbutin content, very useful for the intestinal flora.

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