11 Differently Colored Strawberries To Plant This Year
Are you thinking about planting some differently colored strawberries but aren't sure which ones to pick? There are many novelty strawberries to choose from, likely some you haven't heard about! In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines some of her favorite types of different colored strawberries you can plant in your garden.
When you mention strawberries, most people instantly think “sweet” and “red”. But there are actually many unique types of novelty strawberries, including eye-catching white, rosey pink, purple, and even pineapple-flavored berries! Most of these varieties are not available in stores, which makes them extra special for gardeners seeking diversity in their plantings.
Strawberries are remarkably easy to grow and skyrocketing in popularity. These vigorous perennial fruits vine wildly along forest floors and grow excitedly in garden beds around the country. In recent years, plant breeders and strawberry aficionados have met the demand by crossing wild and foreign varieties into a rainbow of colored strawberry possibilities.
It doesn’t matter if you are transplanting strawberry starts, or planting bare root strawberries, these differently colored fruits are sure to bring some variety to your garden this season. So, let’s dig into our favorite differently colored strawberries for home gardeners to experiment beyond the classic juicy red.
Can Strawberries be Different Colors?
Uniquely colored strawberries have been around for a few decades. These include white, pink, yellow, and golden berries. Colorful fruits and veggies have been around for a long time (purple cabbage and yellow carrots are even considered mainstream now), so it isn’t that far out to want to grow different colored strawberries. These varieties often stem from crossing wild or alpine strawberry “off-types” and saving the seeds from the subtly different hues.
But you have to be wary of photoshopped strawberries on the internet: bright blue, neon pink, bright green, black, or rainbow strawberries don’t exist (in spite of outrageous claims from online retailers selling their seeds or plants). However, there are some incredible variations on the classic strawberry that will legitimately grow in your garden.
How Are Novelty Strawberries GMO?
Traditional strawberries are plump, juicy, and red with green tops and yellow-ish seeds. But just like purple cabbage or orange cauliflower, strawberries can be bred to grow differently pigmented fruits.
Most novelty berry varieties are not genetically modified. Instead, they are made by saving seeds from certain fruits and then replanting them, selecting for unique colors, and repeating the process. If it sounds like a long process, it is.
Similar to Gregor Mendel’s pea plant experiments learned in school, strawberry plants can be slowly selected for inherited traits that make them grow in different hues, flavors, and shapes. In fact, the ‘Purple Wonder’ strawberry took 13 years for plant breeders at Cornell University to develop.
Other berries, such as white strawberry varieties, were selected from wild mutations that lacked certain genes for ripening into their standard red color.
Needless to say, novelty-colored strawberries are not “Frankenfoods”. They’re just rare combinations of fun genetics that challenge our perceptions of garden-fresh berries.
11 Fun Novelty Strawberry Varieties
These non-GMO types of novelty strawberries are becoming more popular amongst home gardeners for their refreshingly different flavors and unique ability to start conversations.
If you’ve been wanting to wow your kids or neighbors with a fresh take on America’s favorite red berry, try out one (or a few) of these novelty strawberry varieties.
Developed by plant breeders at Cornell University’s Small Fruit Program, ‘Purple Wonder’ is a truly purple strawberry that starts out creamy white and then ripens into red, then burgundy with purple undertones. Both the skin and interior are dark violet-toned and sweeten as it ripens on the planet.
‘Purple Wonder’ was released by Burpee in 2012 to offer something unique to home berry growers. In addition to the show-stopping color, the extra high antioxidant content makes them a healthier option than plain old strawberries. Plus, they taste great.
One of Cornell’s small fruit breeders, Courtney Weber, says that “the color is something you won’t be able to find in any grocery store”, but the flavor is the most important criterion for their selections: “Purple Wonder is sweet and aromatic, with outstanding strawberry flavor”.
Cornell also worked to make this variety a low-maintenance plant that won’t require as much pruning. It doesn’t produce many stolons (runners), which makes ‘Purple Wonder’ perfect for container gardens, patios, and small spaces.
The original white strawberry, ‘White Alpine’ has been around for more than 300 years. This beautiful whitish-yellow strawberry came straight from mutated wild types that had lighter colored skins. These types don’t have the ripening protein Fra a1) that standard red berries have, therefore they stay white throughout their ripening cycle.
Wild alpine strawberries or woodland strawberries (Fragaria vesca) grow throughout northern Europe and the lower elevations of the Alps. These small richly-flavored berries have been wild foraged for centuries, however, gardeners and plant breeders have more recently begun to cultivate them as well.
‘White Alpine’ can have pinkish-red or yellow speckled achenes on the fruit surface. It is particularly popular in Japan and is becoming more widely available in specialty fruit circles of the western world.
‘White Soul Alpine’
‘White Soul Alpine’ is the soul child of improved ‘Alpine’ seed varieties that have been passed down like heirlooms through generations of gardeners. These everbearing, runnerless plants grow about 6” tall and produce aromatic cream-colored fruits throughout the season. The flavor tastes like a medley of strawberry, pineapple, and coconut, making this novelty berry a tropical delight for temperate climates.
‘White Soul Alpine’ tends to have yellow achenes (small seeds) whereas the original ‘Alpine’ has pink or red speckled achenes on its surface.
Though it’s hard to find ready-to-plant crowns or plugs of this variety, ‘White Soul Alpine’ seeds are available from several rare and heirloom seed companies. The seeds germinate in 14-48 days and take about 120 days to harvest from the time of planting. Plants need to be thinned to 8” apart and grown in areas with full sun.
While ‘White Soul Alpine’ has a creamy white color with yellow undertones, ‘White Pineberry’ is a white strawberry with red achenes. The stark contrast between the creamy background and red speckles offers a distinct and memorable culinary experience. These white strawberries have a tropical flavor reminiscent of pineapple. They are gorgeous alongside red varieties in the garden and in the kitchen.
‘White Pineberry’ plants are everbearing, self-pollinating, and produce fruit from late spring until the first frost. Planting another cultivar of strawberries can help improve pollination and production.
Another variant of alpine strawberries, ‘Yellow Wonder’ yields small strawberries with vibrant golden-yellow color. The creamy texture and tropical flavor are often preferred to the taste of common red strawberries! These fruits are uniquely aromatic and smell incredible when the plants are loaded in peak summer.
Popular in Europe and fine dining restaurants in the U.S., ‘Yellow Wonder’ is surprisingly easy to grow from seed. It takes 14-48 days to germinate and 120 days to begin producing fruit. Because it is an everbearing type, fruit production typically amps up in the second year.
Image Credit: Theo Lagendijk via Flickr (Use Allowed With Attribution)
One of the most popular heirloom alpine strawberries, ‘Golden Alexandria’ is another variant of Fragaria vesca. It is among the highest-rated alpines for yield, vigor, and flavor. The plants are everbearing, runnerless, and pleasantly compact.
While the berries are a standard fruit red, the foliage is a unique greenish-gold color that adds a nice splash to summer gardens. ‘Golden Alexandria’ is perfect for containers and slightly shaded areas of the garden. The thimble-sized strawberries taste ultra sweet and luscious.
‘Lipstick Beach Strawberry’
This Chilean Strawberry goes by the latin name Fragaria chiloensis. Native to the Pacific coast of the U.S. from Alaska to California as well as the coast of Chile, it is also called beach strawberry, coastal strawberry, or sand strawberry.
This wild fruit was actually one of the original strawberries that were hybridized to create modern berries. Yet it is also a unique novelty berry on its own.
‘Lipstick’ is a beach strawberry that yields an abundance of fruits with vibrant red skins and white interiors. The berries are larger than alpine types, but not quite as flavorful. The great thing about this variety is that it can tolerate moderate foot traffic. Some gardeners even plant it as a lawn substitute!
Another wild type of strawberry, Fragaria virginiana are mountain strawberries that are native to North America. Though they aren’t as remarkably sweet as the European alpine strawberry, they still have exceptional flavor packed into their tiny berries.
They spread into their own patches via loads of runners. The ground-hugging plants are low in height and have beautiful frilly foliage. The white delicate flowers appear in spring and delicious tiny berries begin fruiting in early summer. In the autumn, Fragaria virginiana has a gorgeous maroon to burgundy foliage.
If you love native plants or want to use strawberries as an edible ground cover, this is the novelty variety for you!
Most of us gardeners know that strawberries have white flowers. But ‘Tristan’ blooms fuschia pink blossoms in the spring! Though its berries are a standard red color, these deep rosy red flowers are showstoppers in their own right. These neat, compact plants are great for ornamental patio and container gardens. They are everbearing, easy to grow, and yield deliciously sweet elongated berries.
‘Mara Des Bois’
The French are known for delightful garden varieties, and this strawberry is no exception. ‘Mara Des Bois’ produces continuous harvests of delectably sweet, plump, and fragrant red berries throughout the summer. It is a day-neutral type that technically comes from alpine strawberry relatives, yet has been bred for much larger fruits. It can be grown in the ground or in containers and wafts an intoxicating berry scent over the garden.
A delicacy in Europe, Musk Strawberries or Hautbois Strawberries (Fragaria moschata) are highly coveted for their luxurious flavor. These dark burgundy to brownish-rose colored berries can sometimes ripen as dark as a blackberry. They have pearly white tender flesh.
Their exceptionally aromatic taste is remarkably complex and peculiar. Some say it’s lightly spicy with hints of wine, honey, and musk (hence the name). Others say it tastes like raspberry, melons, and cheese. These berries have such a strong perfume that their smell can fill your garden or kitchen.
Far too delicate for commerce or transport, ‘Musk’ is a novelty that you can only find in central European forests or by growing in your garden.
Whether they’re purple, white, golden-yellow, or classic burgundy, you can’t go wrong with a juicy fresh-picked berry from the garden. Each of these novelty cultivars offers unique splashes of color to your garden and summer desserts.
Thankfully, there is no need for genetic modification or photoshop to create far-out strawberries. You also don’t have to sacrifice yields or vigor when growing differently colored strawberries. Just make sure you stick to the strawberry growing basics, and you should be growing some fresh novelty strawberries in no time!