Strawberries are several plant species from the genus Fragaria from the rose family, Rosaceae. The name of it can refer to the plant species itself or its edible fruit. While Fragaria vesca (wild strawberry), Fragaria chiloensis, and Fragaria Magna are also strawberries, the most widely cultivated is a hybrid called Fragaria ananassa (or garden strawberry).
So what is the strawberry plant, and why is it the favorite fruit plant of urban gardeners? From its inspiring history to the varieties and conditions in which it thrives, here’s a post to tell you all there is to know about this beautiful but also easy-to-grow plant.
Strawberries are herbaceous perennials native to the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate regions. Though wild strawberries have a long history, the garden strawberry was first bred in France in the 18th century.
Today, these fast-growing plants are being cultivated widely throughout the world. Whether you eat them raw, serve them with whipped cream, top them on cake and desserts or puree them into a mouthwatering sauce, you’ll love them in every way!
|Botanical Name||Fragaria Spp. (Primarily Fragaria × Ananassa)|
|Plant Type||A Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||8 To 10 Inches (About 20 To 25 cm) Tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Well-draining Loam That Is Rich In Organic Matter|
|Soil pH||From 5.4 To 6.5|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, And 10|
|Native Area||Northern Hemisphere|
How Many Strawberry Varieties Are There?
There is a wide range of varieties to select from, currently amounting to over 600! Most of them are cultivars of the hybrid species, Fragaria x ananassa. But, there are others too!
Some wild strawberries from F. vesca have also been domesticated as a food crop. All garden varieties fall under three categories, and there are several varieties for each type.
Everbearing varieties give harvests thrice a year, in spring, summer, and fall. Most varieties will produce a more significant crop during the spring and fall harvest seasons than during the hot summers.
During the first year of growing everbearing plants, most growers snip off the flowers until June. The later blossoms are allowed to progress to the fruiting phase for the next two harvests in the same year.
Keep in mind that everbearing varieties will typically produce fewer runners than other types. Here are some famous everbearing varieties to grow in your garden:
- Ruby Ann
- Sweet Kiss
- White Pineberry
- Alpine Alexandria
- Alpine Yellow Wonder
- Berries Galore Pink Hybrid
June bearing strawberries produce a single bumper crop during spring, with a harvest season that typically lasts for a month. Growers typically snip off all blooms during the first year of growth of June-bearing varieties so that the plants can concentrate all their energy into developing a healthy root system.
June-bearing varieties are further categorized into early-season, mid-season, and late-season varieties, based on their fruiting times. Here are some famous June-bearing varieties you can grow:
- Galletta (early)
- Whooper (early)
- Earliglow (early)
- Tillamook (early)
- AC Wendy (early)
- Northeaster (early)
- All-Star (mid)
- Honeoye (mid)
- Chandler (mid)
- Flavorfest (mid)
- Camarosa (mid)
Day-neutral strawberries bloom and fruit evenly throughout the growing season. As long as the temperatures stay above 35°F (about 1,6°C) and below 85°F (about 30°C), they’ll continue bearing berries. They produce fewer runners than June-bearing strawberries.
Just like everbearing varieties, growers prefer removing blossoms from first-year day-neutral strawberry plants until the start of June. The flowers after that are allowed to progress to give fruit through the summer and fall months. Here are some of the favorite day-neutral varieties you can grow:
- Evie – 2
- Mara Des Bois
Where Do Strawberries Originally Come From? – A Delectable Contribution From The French
Wild strawberries, native to the Northern Hemisphere, have existed for centuries. Since it grew abundantly in the wild in North America, ancient Americans did not consider cultivating it for a long time. References of the use of this plant in medicine have also been found in Roman literature.
Though it found culinary uses long before that, the cultivation of this plant began somewhere in the thirteenth century. Charles V, France's king in the mid-1300s, was particularly fond of them. Under his orders, there were 1200 strawberry plants in the royal garden.
The larger, American strawberries were introduced to Europe in the 1600s when the first colonists to the New World shipped the fruit back to Europe. During the early 17th century, “Fragaria vesca” was the dominant species among cultivated strawberries.
As we know today, the garden strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is a hybrid cross between two species and was first bred in Brittany, France, in the mid-1700s. It was developed by crossing “F. Virginiana,” a North American cultivar noted for its superior flavor, with “Fragaria chiloensis,” a species from Chile, appreciated its size. Soon after, the newly bred strawberry became a favorite and replaced the other varieties in commercial production.
Current Trends In Strawberry Cultivation
Fragaria x ananassa formed the platform for most modern cultivars that we grow and consume today. This essential variety has gone through several breeding experiments, primarily in Europe and America, to improve disease resistance, hardiness, and fruit characteristics.
Currently, strawberries are grown in many temperate regions globally, with China dominating the world’s production. This single country accounts for 40% of strawberry production.
What Does The Strawberry Plant Look Like?
Strawberry is a fruiting herbaceous perennial. They are low-growing plants with characteristics that vary with the species and cultivar. Some of them are evergreen, while for others, the leaves fall off during the winters.
They can grow between 8 to 10 inches (about 20 to 25 cm) in height and fruit optimally for about 2 to 4 years before you need to replace them.
Strawberry plants have hairy, trifoliate leaves with saw-toothed edges. The leaves form a crown over a short stem.
The plant gives white flowers that grow on a thin flowering stalk in clusters. Early flower buds are usually clipped from first-year plants to produce bigger and better fruits in the following seasons.
The flowers bear fleshy fruits that are typically red. The plant is botanically neither a fruit nor a berry. Instead, it’s an “accessory fruit.” The red flesh that you consider fruit is the enlarged flower receptacle that holds ovaries. The specks on the outer layer that look like “seeds” are ovaries, each having a seed within.
In What Conditions Do Strawberries Grow Best In?
If you plan on growing them in your garden, here’s a little information that will come in handy.
What Is The Best Temperature Range For Growing Strawberries?
Temperatures between 60 and 80°F (about 15,5 to 27°C) are ideal for growing them. But, they’ll also tolerate temperatures down to 22°F (about -5,5°C) with some frost protection.
How Much Sunlight Do Strawberries Need?
Choose a site with full sun exposure to plant them. If the plants don’t receive 6 to 10 hours of direct sunlight, the harvest will be smaller.
What Type Of Soil Is Best For Strawberries?
Rich, loamy soil that drains well is perfect for garden strawberries. It prefers a soil pH slightly on the acidic side, with a pH level between 5.4 and 6.5.
How Much Water Do Strawberries Need?
Regular watering is vital throughout the season, primarily from blooming till harvest. Make sure they get between 1 to 2 inches (about 2,5 to 5 cm) of water each week through rainfall or irrigation.
How To Fertilize My Strawberries?
Strawberries are moderate feeders. Feed them with compost tea every few weeks but avoid giving excessive synthetic fertilizers. Over-fertilization will increase yield, but the flavor will suffer. It may also promote diseases.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Strawberries?
Strawberries are delicious and nutritious fruits loved by adults and children alike. They are a healthy addition to the regular diet of most people. But, are there any side effects to know about? Are they safe for everyone, or should you avoid consumption in some instances? Let’s learn more!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
They’re healthy treats to consume if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But, take them in moderate amounts only since there isn’t much evidence of excessive use.
Strawberries are healthy for babies and can be started at an early age. But, whole strawberries may be challenging to eat and can pose a choking hazard.
During the early weaning stages, pureed strawberry mixed with other fruit purees or cereals is an excellent way to add essential nutrients to your child’s diet.
People With Diabetes
When taken in moderation, they are a healthy choice for people with diabetes. They’re rich in antioxidants and fibers, but they can also help regulate your blood sugar levels.
People With Allergies
People who are sensitive to other members of the Rosaceae family may also be allergic to strawberries. If you’re allergic to apricot, apple, pear, plum, or almonds, you may also be allergic to strawberries.
The plant, including all the Fragaria spp., is non-toxic to pets. Strawberries can safely be offered to cats and dogs but should only be given in moderation since they contain sugar.