Alpine strawberries are easy to grow and have a delicious, tropical flavor that can be described as a mix of strawberry, raspberry, and pineapple. Whether you start from seed or buy plants you won’t be disappointed when you add them to your garden.
The delicate nature of the fruit and the low yield per plant keep them from being commercially grown but that shouldn’t stop you from planting them in your garden! Alpine strawberry plants are just as tough as the fruit is delicate.
I started growing alpine strawberries on a whim but they quickly become a plant I can’t live without. I keep mine in my herb garden to protect the berries from my chickens but the adorable clumping plants would also make a charming addition to a flower bed.
What Are Alpine Strawberries?
Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are closely related to wild wood strawberries. They have a truly unique delicious flavor and the small berries melt in your mouth.
Alpine strawberries and their relative, the musk strawberry, have been enjoyed for centuries in Europe but they fell out of favor when the large, modern strawberries became a popular commercial crop.
Although alpine and regular strawberries have similar leaves and flowers the plants are grown and cared for differently. Individual alpine strawberries are tiny, large berries are only about an inch long.
I’ll be honest, the fruit are unimpressive when it comes to appearances and you might find yourself wondering if something so blah could taste good. This is definitely a ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ moment, because yes, alpine strawberries taste good, I’d even say better than good.
The small berries are very soft and delicate. These aren’t the kind of strawberries you can pack up and ship half way around the world. Instead you’re better off savoring them right in the garden.
They’re also not the kind of berries you’ll be using for pies and jam. Each plant will produce quite a few berries, but since they ripen individually over the entire growing season you’ll never have that many at once.
Unlike the standard garden strawberry, alpine strawberries don’t send out runners. It makes them much nicer garden companion plants and they’re easy to add to an existing flower or herb garden bed.
If grown singly they form a nice tight clump of bright green leaves, the flowers and subsequent fruit grow on the ends of long thin stalks. You might notice the white petaled strawberry flowers sticking above the foliage but you’ll usually have to go digging for the berries.
The weight of the fruit pulls the stalks down and you’ll usually have to lift up the leaves to find the ripe berries. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, it does help hide the ripe fruit from the birds but it also makes them easy pickings for the slugs and snails.
How to Grow Alpine Strawberries
Alpine strawberries are true perennials, coming back year after year and they should grow in zones 3-10. I’ve had them overwinter in the ground completely unprotected in my zone 5 garden.
Read more about Why Your Growing Zone Doesn’t Matter in the Vegetable Garden
If you start them indoors and get them off to a great start you can even harvest berries the first year. If you’ve ever spent years waiting for fruit you can certainly appreciate the quick returns on your effort.
Alpine strawberries don’t send out runners, instead, they are propagated by division or started from seed. I’ve started all of mine from seed but I have seen the plants for sale on the internet.
I start my alpine strawberry seeds in March. They do best if stratified but I’ve skipped it in the past and still ended up with new plants.
To stratify your seeds the easy way toss the entire packet in the freezer for about a week. I live in Mew York and it’s usually really cold when I order my seeds, maybe that takes care of the chilling requirement?
Read more about Ordering Seeds
Start your seeds in small pots filled with damp seed starting mix. Scatter thealpine strawberry seeds over the surface of the soil and gently press to make sure they’re in contact with the soil.
The seeds are tiny and require light to germinate so be careful when watering not to disturb them too much, you’re better off watering the mfrom the bottom and misting the soil surface if it starts to get too dry.
They can take up to 3 weeks to germinate and it’s important that they stay moist the entire time. Either cover the plants with a humidity dome or a plastic bag, just make sure they can still get airflow.
Once the seedlings start appearing you can remove the plastic, chances are the seedlings will be on top of each other and crowded together. They don’t seem to mind crowing when they’re small so leave them alone for at least a month.
They might they take a while to germinate but after that they grow pretty quickly. After a month you will be able to separate the seedlings and move them to their own pots or into seedling flats.
Keep them watered and under lights until the soil has warmed in the garden. Then you can start hardening them off by bringing them outdoors to acclimate.
Hardening off is the process of moving plants from a climate-controlled environment, like your home or a greenhouse, into the world. Start by bringing you plants outdoors on a warm day and then back inside at night.
Avoid direct sun for the first few days, there is a big difference between a grow light and the sun and you don’t want to fry your seedlings! After about a week of this you can start transplanting your strawberry plants.
If you’ve started with purchased alpine strawberry plants this is where you can jump in! Aim to get your plants in the ground after your last frost date, when you would normally plant tomatoes.
Read more about Different Kinds of Tomatoes
Plant your strawberries about 6 inches apart if you want them to form a short hedge row or 12 inches if you prefer the look of each individual clump. The plants stay short and would make a nice border in a potager or herb garden.
You can expect to start finding berries during the first summer, next your you’ll be able to start picking them in the spring.
Don’t be tempted to pick the berried too soon, the berries need to be completely ripe before you’ll get to enjoy the tropical flavor. The berries wll feel almost squishy when fully ripe.
Over time the plants will become congested and the clumps will start to turn woody and die off from the inside out. The best solutition to this problem is to dig up the plants are carefully seperate the crowns into smaller clumps.
You can replant the clumps in the garden, and sell or give away the extras to friends. Once you’ve tasted your first alpine strawberry you’ll want to share them with the whole world!
Alpine Strawberry Varieties
Alpine strawberries come in a few different varities, most produce red berries but you can also find yellow and white alpine strawberries.
White Soul Alpine strawberries are my favorite, I think they have the best flavor. It’s almost impossible to tell if the white strawberries are ripe so you really have to get in there and touch them. On the bright side, birds aren’t interested in them.
This year I’m testing out a new seed company and what better way to do that than with more strawberries? I’m starting a batch of Alexandria alpine strawberries this spring and I can’t wait to try the red berries.
I’ve had quite a few red alpine strawberry plants in the past but they were almost all wiped out by a few rude chickens that don’t know how to respect fences.
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