Wild strawberry: varieties, sowing & care


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

The wild strawberry is the slightly smaller, far more aromatic relative of the cultivated strawberry we are used to seeing in the shops. Here is our guide to wild strawberries with tips on growing, care and use.

Strawberries growing in a pot
Wild strawberries can be cultivated in any garden [Photo: aniana/ Shutterstock.com]

These little wild strawberries will win you over with their deliciously unique flavour. Find out how to propagate, plant and harvest your own wild strawberries here.

Wild strawberry flowers, taste and characteristics

The wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is closely related to the cultivated garden strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa). They both belong to the rose family (Rosaceae). Wild strawberries are common in the temperate climate regions of Eurasia and are usually found growing on the edge of woodlands. The plants have thick rootstocks from which sprout toothed leaf rosettes that are divided into three parts. As a native perennial, the wild strawberry is completely winter hardy. Depending on the amount of light and the location, it grows to a height of 5 to 20 cm and spreads through its many runners. The flowers, which are white and have five petals, develop on upright, later overhanging stems in May. In June and July, the 1 to 2 cm large, edible fruits of the wild strawberry ripen and develop their typical flavour.

What is an alpine strawberry? Alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca var. semperflorens) were selected and cultivated from the wild strawberry. They are a subgroup of wild strawberries that are slightly larger and hardly ever form runners. The harvest time for alpine strawberries lasts for several months, from June to the end of September.

Tip: Sometimes wild strawberries are confused with mock strawberries (Potentilla indica). Also known by the names false strawberry and backyard strawberry in North America, it produces red, edible fruits that taste watery and bland. It is easy to tell the two species apart at flowering time – wild strawberries have white flowers and mock strawberry flowers are yellow. The fruits of the mock strawberry are also more spherical rather than oblong, and they grow on straight flower stalks that do not form the same overhanging shape as wild strawberries.

Yellow flowers of mock strawberries
Yellow flowers distinguish mock strawberries from wild strawberries [Photo: Nick Pecker/ Shutterstock.com]

The best varieties of Fragaria vesca

There are not many differences between varieties of wild strawberries, however, there are among the alpine strawberries that have evolved from them. Here are some of the alpine strawberry varieties and their characteristics.

  • ‘Alexandria’: alpine strawberry that does not form runners. This variety flowers and produces fruits from June right through to September. It is suitable for balcony boxes and for companion planting in woodland-like shrub beds.
  • ‘Attila’: runner-forming, red alpine strawberry that bears fruits until late autumn. Fruits already in the first year after sowing and quickly forms a groundcover.
  • ‘Baron Solemacher’: a runner-forming cultivar that comes in two varieties with red or white fruits. Bears fruits until late autumn and is good for ground cover or underplanting.
  • ‘Rügen’: red alpine strawberry with high fruit yield, delicious taste and hardly any runners. It was first developed in 1920, but since then, there is a new cultivar, the ‘Improved Rügen’. Ideal for edging beds or keeping in large tubs.
  • ‘Yellow Wonder’: cream-coloured alpine strawberry without runners. Harvest time for these sweet, aromatic fruits is between June and September.
  • ‘White Soul’: cream-coloured alpine strawberry with hardly any runners and a sweet, aromatic flavour.
Close-up of ‘Alexandria’ strawberries
The variety ‘Alexandria’ does not spread through runners [Photo: Shulevskyy Volodymyr/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting wild strawberries: when, where and how

Wild strawberries can be planted in shade and partial shade, but they prefer sunny locations. The ideal soil for wild strawberries is moist to moderately dry, nutrient-rich and loamy with a slightly acidic pH. Wet, clayey, and compacted soils are unsuitable as they can lead to root rot. Wild strawberries and a few alpine strawberries spread through runners which make them ideal for planting as ground cover or underplanting around woody plants and fruit trees. Varieties that do not form any runners are great for planting along the edge of borders and as companion plants in perennial beds. All wild and alpine varieties can be cultivated in pots and window boxes, so they are ideal for any small outdoor growing space such as a balcony, terrace or patio.

The ideal time for planting these and other perennials is late autumn between mid-October and the end of November. The perennial plants slowly go into winter dormancy during this time and begin to establish themselves underground. The first leaves sprout in spring when they are supplied with water and nutrients from the roots. You can also plant them in March and April. However, keep in mind that they then need regular watering to be able to survive the summer.

Strawberries growing in container
Wild strawberries can be grown in pots and window boxes [Photo: Peter Turner Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

For many varieties, the only way to propagate new plants is with seeds. The process starts in February on a warm, bright windowsill. Prepare a sowing container with a mixture of half low-nutrient growing medium and half sand. For both wild strawberries and alpine strawberries, simply scatter the seeds on the surface of the soil and, as they need light to germinate, only very lightly cover them with soil. Keep the wild strawberry seeds moist with a spray bottle. After three to four weeks, the seeds will germinate. Once the strawberry seedlings have four leaves, they can be transplanted into more nutrient-rich soil and placed outdoors. Some wild strawberry varieties will flower and bear fruit already in the first year after sowing, others in the following year.

Before planting wild strawberry plants, loosen the soil in the entire planting area and mix in some compost if necessary. Alternatively, fill a container with a loose potting soil such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost. This peat-free compost is great at retaining moisture and releases it to the plant roots as needed. With the help of a hand trowel, plant the wild strawberries shallowly − the same depth they were growing before pricking them out. The young buds should be exposed in the middle of the leaf rosette. Keep a spacing of 15 to 25 cm between each plant. If you are planting wild strawberries as a ground cover, plant about seven to nine plants per square metre. After planting, press the soil down well all around the plants and water the area thoroughly.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
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Summary: How to plant wild strawberries

  • Location: prefers sun; shade and partial shade possible
  • Soil: moist to moderately dry, nutrient-rich, loamy, slightly acidic pH
  • Time: mid-October to end of November or March/April
  • Plant spacing: 15 to 25 centimetres between plants

The most important care measures

Wild strawberries are easy to care for. It is important, however, to water them occasionally during hot and dry summers. You only need to fertilise your wild strawberries in spring when the flowers have begun to form and once again in early autumn after the fruit has been harvested. A liquid fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food, replenishes the nutrients used up by the plant for fruiting and supports repeated flowering.

Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for tomatoes & other vegetables
  • Liquid fertiliser for healthy plant growth & an abundant harvest
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

Pests are hardly ever a problem for wild strawberries. However, diseases like grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) and mildew can occur. If the wild strawberries are in pots or window boxes, they should be repotted every two to three years. The reason for that is that the soil becomes compacted over time and important trace nutrients, which fertilisers often do not provide, become scarce.

Propagating wild strawberries: seeds and cuttings

You can propagate wild strawberries from seed or by cuttings. The quickest way to propagate wild strawberries is to use established runners as cuttings. Often these offshoots will have already formed roots, allowing them to grow quickly after transplanting. For strawberry varieties that tend not to form runners (like most alpine strawberries), growing from seed is recommended. To obtain seeds for sowing, harvest ripe wild strawberry fruits, cut them into quarters and dry gently in the sun or at 50 °C in the oven. When the flesh is completely dry, the seeds can be rubbed off of the surfaces. Lay the seeds out in an airy place and leave them to dry for a few more days. Store the wild strawberry seeds in a cool, dark and dry place until it is time to sow them.

Planting tray of young strawberry plants
Alpine strawberries can usually only be propagated by seed [Photo: iva/ Shutterstock.com]

When and how to harvest wild strawberries

Wild strawberry fruits are simply picked by hand from the plants in summer and usually eaten fresh. After harvesting, the delicate fruits are good for only a few hours, possibly up to a full day, before they become mushy. Always use freshly harvested wild strawberries when processing them. Wild strawberry jam is particularly tasty, but juice, syrup, liqueur and vinegar are also great options for preserving the perishable fruit. Apart from the sweet fruits, the leaves of wild strawberry plants are used for teas in traditional medicine to relieve digestive problems, rheumatism, gout, liver diseases and urinary tract disorders.

Note: People who are allergic to cultivated strawberries should also avoid the fruits of wild strawberries.

Another delicious forest dwelling fruit shrub is lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), also known as cowberry. Learn everything about the special requirements for planting, caring for and harvesting these tart, fresh berries.