The Strawberry Tree is an evergreen tree in the rhododendron family that has edible, bright red, strawberry-like fruits. The fruits have a high sugar content and a pleasant flavor. They are used in jams, marmalades, yogurt and beverages. Arbutus unedo is native rocky slopes, hillsides, and shrublands of the Mediterranean and the British Isles. It typically grows in a multi-stemmed form, but can be trained as a single trunk tree. It matures to 10-15' tall but infrequently grows to as much as 30' tall. Mature trunks and branches are covered with grayish-brown bark which peels and flakes to reveal an attractive reddish-brown inner bark. Aromatic, pinkish-white flowers in drooping panicles (to 2" long) bloom in October, with bloom often continuing until January. Long-stemmed, spherical, green fruits (to 1"diameter) appear in winter after the flowers, but take almost a full year to ripen. As new white flowers begin to bloom in October, the fruits from the preceding winter ripen to strawberry red, leaving the plant with the unusual situation of having both attractive flowers and ripe fruit at the same time. Glossy, leathery, obovate, dark green leaves (to 4" long) have red stems and serrate margins. Accent /specimen with four-season ornamental interest. Woodland garden margins, mixed shrub borders, road medians, seaside gardens, hedges, screens. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 where it is easily grown in average, consistently moist to dry, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Established plants have some drought tolerance.
Growing Instructions for the Strawberry Tree
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall or winter for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy at any time of the year. 1. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. 2. Put the seeds in a ziplock bag. 3. Put the bag in the refrigerator and leave it there for 60 days. 4. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Put a sterile seed starter mix in a pot. 5. Sow the seeds on the soil. 6. Cover the seeds with a layer of layer of that is 1/16 of an inch thick. 7. Water the soil so that it is moist but not wet. 8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.