Are Strawberry Trees Messy?
Strawberry red fruit, delicate white blooms and shiny evergreen leaves supply year-round visual interest in the landscape. Although a tree that is striking, leaf and copper drop do happen, causing some litter in the landscape. Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8b through 11.
Strawberry trees are broad-leaf evergreens that keep their leaves year-round. The shiny deep-green leaves grow 2 to 4 inches long and are obovate or slightly egg-shaped. Evergreens do not shed leaves like deciduous trees do, but they do drop leaves. At the landscape, strawberry trees will lose a few leaves at a time continuously during the season. To maintain a groomed landscape, strawberry trees need minimal but constant maintenance to keep the place clean of leaf litter.
Flowers and Fruit
A striking characteristic of strawberry trees is the occurrence of flowers and fruit at the exact same moment. The showy white and light pink blossoms blossom in winter, followed by strawberry fruit. The fruit carries a complete year to ripen. From the time strawberry trees flower again the next winter, last year’s fruit is just beginning to turn red. When the fruit ripens and falls in late winter, then they make some mess in the lawn.
In the distance, strawberry trees with fruit look like they are filled with strawberries, a likely source for the frequent name “strawberry tree .” Up close, however, the fruit is rounder than a strawberry. The 1/2- to 1-inch-diameter fruit is edible but bland-tasting with just slight sweetness. Harvest the fruit in late winter for preserves, or leave the harvest on the tree to attract birds into the garden.
Care and Maintenance
Strawberry trees grow between 8 and 18 feet tall, forming a naturally uniform rounded contour. With regular pruning, this tree can be grown as a tall shrub. Strawberry trees function well as specimen or accent plants in the landscape or as part of a shrub border or a living hedge. The trees thrive in full sunlight to partial shade and also grow well in clay soil with good drainage.