I know, you are probably scratching your head right now and wondering what an alpine strawberry is. The only ones you have seen are those in the grocery store. While these strawberries are huge in size, the alpine strawberry is not but do not be fooled. Alpine strawberries are full of flavor.
When it comes to the alpine strawberry, it is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 6 where it grows as an evergreen species.
The easiest way of propagating alpine strawberries is through planting seed. This should be done in mid winter or 12 to 16 weeks prior to your local frost free date. Since the alpine strawberry is so sensitive to soil moisture, it is a good idea to plant your seeds in a soilless mix. While you can purchase a soilless planting medium, why would you want to when it is so easy to make. The simplest recipe for a soilless planting medium is equal parts of peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, and sand. To add nutrients to the soilless mix, add a small amount of ground limestone and slow release fertilizer. Mix your DIY soilless planting medium well and store in an air tight container.
Prior to filling a flat with a soilless mix, clean and sterilize the flat. Allow to dry. Once dried, fill with the soilless planting medium.
After the flat has been filled, you are ready to plant your alpine strawberry seeds. These seeds should be sprinkled on the soil surface. Once that is done, mist the soil until it is evenly moist. Cover with clear plastic or place in a bag made from clear plastic. Move the planted flat to a warm location away from direct sunlight. In 8 to 12 days, you should begin to see little dots of green. These dots are your germinated seeds. Once you see these green dots, remove the plastic and place the container on a sunny windowsill. Continue to monitor soil moisture and water as needed.
After your local frost free date has passed, you can move your alpine strawberries out to the garden space. They love to be placed in sunny locations but can survive in areas where there is dabbles of shade. The only requirement they are really picky about is the soil, which needs to be well draining.
When planning to use alpine strawberries in your landscape, do not limit them to the edible garden space. They work well in rock gardens and long sidewalks as an accent. But regardless of where you plant them they will need to be spaced out so that there is 18 inches between each plant. This may sound excessive but alpine strawberries grow in mounds and need space for proper mound formation.
While the alpine strawberry is called a runnerless strawberry, there are times when it will produce runners. The reason for this has to do with the fact that the alpine strawberry is an open pollinator. What this means is it is not picky who it pollinates with as long as it is a strawberry. If you have domesticated strawberries in your garden or neighborhood, chances are there will be some cross pollination, which will produce runners. If you find that your alpine strawberry is producing runners, pull it up and dispose of it.
On the other hand, you can get additional alpine strawberries by waiting 2 to 4 years from the time you planted your first alpine strawberry. This is the amount of time it takes for the crowns of the parent plant to multiply. Once that happens, divide the alpine strawberry plant so that there is only one crown per plant. Replant the other crowns.
If you do not want to incorporate alpine strawberries into your landscape or edible garden, do not write them off. They work wonderfully as a container plant. One of the easiest designs for a container garden is the strawberry planter. While many of used this planter’s little pockets to hold the runners of domesticated strawberries, the same principle can be applied but with a designer touch.
To begin this process, one will first need to clean the strawberry planter and sterilize it in bleach water. Once it has been rinsed and dried, you can begin the planting process by first lining the bottom of the container with drainage material. What is drainage material? Well, it can really be any type of broken pot, stone or even a paper coffee filter. The key to drainage material is to use something that will keep the soil in the container while allowing the water to drain out.
After you have added the drainage material, the next step is to fill the strawberry planter with a well draining soil up to the first pocket. Once here, you can plant your first plant. Yes, you can fill your strawberry planter with alpine strawberries but if you want something a little more decorative consider planting alpine strawberries with angel wing begonias.
Regardless of what you plan on planting in the “pocket,” the easiest way to plant is to move the plant from the inside of the strawberry pot to the “pocket.” Repeat this process until you have all the first level pockets planted and then fill in with well seasoned compost. Once you get past the first pockets, continue to fill with well seasoning potting soil until you reach the next level of “pockets.” Repeat with the above process.
The last planting step is to add plants to the top of the strawberry planter. Water the planter until you see moisture coming out the bottom of the container.
To keep your alpine strawberries producing, pick them often. Also, feed them a fertilizer designed for tomatoes.
If you have planted your alpine strawberries in the ground, all you will need to do is to mulch them with straw and come spring remove the straw. On the other hand, if you planted your alpine strawberries in a planter, you will need to protect your plants from freezing. The simplest way is to move the planter into an unheated garage. This simple step will keep the soil from freezing and killing your plants.