How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Wild Strawberry

Are you curious about growing your own wild strawberries? Just because they are “wild” doesn’t mean you can’t grow these tasty little fruits in your own landscape. In this article, gardening enthusiast Liessa Bowen introduces the wild strawberry and how to successfully grow your own!

A vibrant wild strawberry plant basks in the warm sunlight. The ruby-red strawberries, arranged like nature's jewels, capture the light, creating a mesmerizing display of freshness and natural beauty.

Contents

You won’t find wild strawberries for sale at your local grocery store. They aren’t practical for commercial enterprises, but you can easily grow these tasty treats at home. They are relatively small, delicate, and immensely sweet. The best way to eat them is straight off the plant at their peak of ripeness and freshness. 

Wild strawberries, Fragaria virginiana, are a member of the rose family (Rosaceae). This plant is a cool-season perennial that is native to woodland edges and meadows throughout much of North America. The home gardener will find these berries both interesting and useful because they are easily incorporated into a variety of gardening styles. 

Individual wild strawberry plants are small but readily spread by numerous runners, each producing a new plant that then creates its own runners. They eventually form a loose ground cover for your garden plot. Wild strawberry plants are also an ideal candidate for a raised bed or container, making them very versatile. 

In mild climates, your wild strawberry may stay evergreen for year-round landscaping interest. In the spring, notice the delicate white flowers, soon followed by small, delicious, scarlet red fruits. Strawberry flowers attract valuable pollinators to your garden and support native bees. Add them to your bird beds because many species of birds relish the tasty fruits as well. 

Are you ready to grow some wild strawberries in your garden? Let’s dig a little deeper into the proper care and maintenance of these fascinating and prolific plants!

Wild Strawberry Plant Overview

Delicate wild strawberries, red and plump, dangle gracefully from slender stems, tempting the senses with their sweet promise. The blurred background unveils a lush tapestry of deep green leaves.
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Family Rosaceae
Genus Fragaria
Species virginiana
Native Area North America
USDA Hardiness Zone 4 – 9
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Rich, moist, well-drained
Watering Requirements Medium
Maintenance Medium
Suggested Uses Pollinator garden, cottage garden, containers, ground cover
Height 0.25 – 0.75 feet
Bloom Season Spring
Flower Color White
Attracts Butterflies, bees, pollinators
Problems Slugs, strawberry weevil, leaf roller, spider mite, rot, leaf spot
Resistant To Drought, erosion, deer
Plant Spacing 12 inches

Plant Natural History

Red wild strawberries with a glossy sheen, ready to be plucked and savored. Delicate white flowers gracefully emerge from slender stems, creating a harmonious contrast against the vivid strawberries. The blurred background hints at lush greenery.
Wild strawberry plants, native to North America, grow in diverse habitats.

There are two species of strawberry native to North America: the wild strawberry and the woodland strawberry. Commercial strawberries that you find at the grocery store, farmer’s market, or pick-your-own farms are hybrids. Many delicious cultivars with various fruit qualities have been developed from these hybrids.

Humans have long used and appreciated strawberries as a source of food. Wild strawberries are also important for pollinators and the many animal species that use them as a food source. Because they provide food for so many different animals, these plants play a vital role in the natural ecosystem.

Characteristics

A cluster of ripe red strawberries sits nestled amidst lush green leaves, creating a visually enticing display of nature's bounty. A soft focus on the background captures the natural beauty of the surrounding greenery.
Wild strawberry is a compact plant with fine-haired leaves and stems.

Wild strawberry is a very low-growing, ground cover plant that typically stays only about six inches tall. Each plant is a rounded clump of single, short stems that end in a group of three coarsely-toothed leaflets. The leaves and stems are covered with fine hairs that give them a slightly soft feel. 

Wild strawberry plants bloom reliably each spring. The flowers are white; each typically has five petals, although occasionally, a flower has only four petals. Shortly after flowering, the pollinated flowers produce small, red berries that are extremely sweet. Each mature berry is rounded, scarlet red, and covered with many indentations, each with a tiny, dark red seed. 

Wild strawberry plants are evergreen or semi-evergreen, retaining their green leaves throughout the winter. In the heat of summer, however, plants grown in full sun partially die back, regrowing fresh foliage when the weather cools again in the fall. These plants spread by numerous runners and eventually create an effective ground cover. Individual plants are short-lived and die after a couple of years, allowing the runners to continue propagating within a healthy patch.

Propagation

These plants are very easy to propagate by dividing healthy runners. While you can start a strawberry plant from seed, this is not the easiest method. If you purchase just one or two plants from a nursery specializing in native species, you can easily allow them to multiply into a large and prolific patch.

Seed

A gentle hand carefully lifts a pot-shaped mass of soil containing tender seedlings from a black pot. Delicate white roots cling to the soil, revealing the intricate network supporting the young plants' growth and vitality.
To germinate strawberry seeds, harvest overripe fruits to extract and dry the seeds found on the outside.

Strawberries are covered with tiny seeds, which actually appear on the outside of the fruits. If you want to germinate strawberry seeds, allow a few fruits to stay on the plant until they are overripe and mushy. Harvest these, then carefully remove the seeds and dry them. 

Strawberry seeds need a period of cold stratification before they germinate. Place them in the refrigerator for at least three to four weeks. When you are ready to sow them in early spring, place the seeds in a shallow tray of fresh potting soil and sprinkle a very thin layer of soil on top. Then, place your tray in a warm, bright location and keep the soil moist. The seeds take up to five or six weeks to germinate. 

After germination, keep the soil lightly moist but not wet to avoid rotting. Place them in a warm and well-lit location, and allow them to grow until they have at least three sets of true leaves. After the last spring frost date for your area, transplant your seedlings outside in a sunny location. 

Division

A pair of vibrant green gloves delicately cradle a wild strawberry bush, their fingers gently exploring the lush foliage. The sun's golden rays grace the intricate dance, casting a warm glow that highlights the intricate details of the strawberry bush.
Strawberry plants can be propagated by dividing mature plants.

Division of runners is the quickest and easiest method for propagating strawberry plants. Each mature plant produces several long runners, and at the end of each is a completely new strawberry plant.

Simply snip off a young plant at the end of a runner and set it in a new location. Keep the soil moist, and it will soon develop roots, grow larger, and create runners of its own!

Transplanting

Gardener's hands display a gentle expertise as they prepare to transplant a thriving wild strawberry seedlings into the awaiting earth. Surrounding the scene, the ground already hosts an array of plants.
Transplant strawberries in spring or fall by preparing the soil with organic compost.

If you have a wild strawberry plant from a nursery or a young plant that you have nurtured from seed, you eventually need to transplant it. The best time for transplanting is in the spring or fall

Identify the location where you will transplant your strawberry plants. Prepare the soil by loosening it and enriching it with some organic compost. Dig a hole slightly larger than the pot in which your plant is growing. Gently remove the plant from its pot and place the rootball in the hole. Fill in around the base of the plant with fresh soil. The soil level should cover the roots but not the crown of the plant. 

Water your new transplants well and keep the soil moist, but not wet, for several weeks. Strawberry plants appreciate mulch around their base, so you can also add some organic compost to help retain soil moisture and suppress weeds in your strawberry patch. Straw, as the name suggests, is the best mulch for this fruit.

How to Grow

Wild strawberries are very easy to grow in the home landscape. They don’t require much more than a bit of space in a sunny location with well-drained soil. You need to do some regular light maintenance to keep your strawberries looking their best.

Sunlight

A sun-drenched meadow showcases the beauty of a wild strawberry bush, adorned with luscious red fruits glistening in the warm sunlight. The ripe red strawberries stand out as a delicious promise of sweetness, ready to be plucked.
Strawberries flourish in sun or shade, needing at least 4 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Wild strawberries grow best in full sun or partial shade. In the hottest climates, they benefit from some shade, particularly in the summertime. They should receive at least four hours of direct sunlight each day.

Water

A silver watering can suspended mid-air releases a gentle stream of water, nurturing the strawberry bushes below. Amidst the lush greenery, the absence of ripened fruits is compensated by delicate white flowers adorning the strawberry bushes.
They thrive in generally moist soil but are adaptable and tolerate brief drought periods.

The soil should be generally moist. Strawberries are fairly adaptable, however, and will tolerate brief periods of drought. If you are growing strawberries in a container, you want to make sure they receive regular moisture since containers dry quickly.

Soil

Rich, brown soil teems with nutrients, showcasing its fertility. Tiny particles clump together, forming a textured landscape that promises a thriving habitat for plants. The moistness hints at ideal conditions for seed germination and robust plant growth.
Ideal soil is rich in organic matter, well-drained, and slightly acidic.

The best soil will be organically rich and moist. It is very important that the soil is well-drained. You can add sand to heavy soils to easily improve drainage. The soil should also be somewhat acidic, with a pH between 5.6 and 6.5

If you plan to grow a large strawberry plot, contact your local cooperative extension agent for information about soil testing and nutrient requirements for growing strawberries, and they can help you improve your soil quality, if necessary.

Climate and Temperature

Foreground displays a scene of wild strawberry bushes adorned with luscious red strawberries, capturing the essence of nature's bounty. The blurred background unveils a captivating row of wild strawberry plants, forming a harmonious tapestry of lush greenery.
Wild strawberries thrive as perennials in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5-9.

These strawberries will grow as a perennial in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 – 9. They tolerate freezing temperatures as well as heat and humidity

Fertilizing

Gentle hands cupping nutrient-rich brown soil, fostering the growth of vibrant life in a garden. The earth below holds a mosaic of discarded vegetable peelings and brown eggshells, patiently awaiting transformation into nourishing compost for future plant sustenance.
Optimal growth for wild strawberry plants requires yearly application of plant-based compost.

Wild strawberry plants will do best in organically rich soil. Add some organic compost around your plants each year to boost soil quality. Plant-based composts, such as wood chips, kitchen compost, or wheat straw work very well, enriching the soil as they break down. 

Maintenance

A glossy black fabric adorned with precision blue grid lines, creating a modern and sophisticated visual appeal. Sprouting through strategically spaced openings in the fabric, wild strawberry seedlings reach for the sunlight, promising a burst of nature's beauty.
For optimal growth, they need weed-free space, organic mulch, and occasional thinning.
  • Keep weeds pulled around your plants. Strawberries do not like competing with weeds.
  • Keep a layer of organic, biodegradable mulch around your strawberry plants. Mulch retains soil moisture, reducing the need for weeding, and keeps fruits clean.
  • Thin overcrowded plants every few years.

Garden Design

Red strawberries, ripe and succulent, delicately dangle from their green stems, promising a burst of sweetness with every bite. Lush green leaves create a natural backdrop, enhancing the allure of the ripe fruit.
Wild strawberries are versatile in the garden, perfect for raised beds and containers.

This strawberry may be a small plant, but it has plenty of uses in the garden. First of all, wild strawberries are an excellent choice for gardening in raised beds and containers. In a raised bed, grow them alongside some herbs such as basil, parsley, or oregano. Your strawberry plants enjoy a little sun protection from the taller plants. This delightful edible combination also provides plenty of flavor for your kitchen!

Wild strawberries make an excellent ground cover as they spread by numerous above-ground runners, creating new rosettes as they creep along. Use them as an edging plant in your cottage garden or native plant garden. Their low growth pattern makes it easy to find them a suitable location along a border or walkway.  

If you have an assortment of edible plants in your yard, such as herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, or fruiting shrubs, you can easily incorporate a patch in your edible landscape. You may not be the only one enjoying your edible landscape, however. You can also use wild strawberries for a wildlife-friendly garden since they will attract plenty of pollinators, as well as birds and small mammals. 

Varieties

Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca

A close-up of a red woodland strawberry, glistening in the sunlight, showcases its succulent texture and rich color against the backdrop of lush green leaves. In the blurred background, another strawberry fruit and white flowers add a touch of ethereal beauty to the scene.
This displays conical fruits with surface-bump-seated seeds that are both edible and sweet.

The woodland strawberry is very similar to F. virginica. This species is native throughout much of North America but prefers cooler climates and shadier habitats.

Woodland strawberry fruits are more conical than wild strawberry fruits and have seeds that sit on surface bumps along the outside. Woodland strawberry fruits are also edible and deliciously sweet.

Garden Strawberry, Fragaria x ananassa

A cluster of garden strawberries in vibrant shades of red, creating a visually striking display. Lush green leaves cradle the strawberries, providing a natural contrast to the rich red hues.
Commonly sold at garden centers and nurseries, garden strawberries are easy-to-grow plants.

Garden strawberries are those fruiting strawberry plants most commonly found for sale at garden centers, nurseries, and the grocery store. They are easy to grow and have large, sweet, red fruits.

Garden strawberry plants produce fruits either in the early summer, or they’re an ever-bearing variety that produces fruits for a longer period.

Mock Strawberry, Potentilla indica

Vibrant mock strawberries, drenched in a deep red hue, form an exquisite contrast against a verdant carpet of lush leaves. The rich, ruby-like berries evoke a sense of ripeness.
This variety closely resembles wild strawberries with yellow five-petaled flowers.

Mock strawberry looks very much like a wild strawberry and is a very common weed in lawns and gardens throughout the southeastern United States. The flowers of the mock strawberry are yellow and have five petals. Although mock strawberry fruits greatly resemble wild strawberries and are edible, they are completely tasteless

Wildlife Value

Wild strawberries, adorned with delicate white flowers boasting sunny yellow centers, emerge gracefully from a slender stem. The lush green leaves cradle this exquisite arrangement, forming a picturesque scene that encapsulates the beauty of nature's intricate design.
Strawberries’ fruits are enjoyed by birds, small mammals, and box turtles.

Wild strawberry is a wonderful wildlife plant. The spring-blooming flowers attract many pollinators, like early-season bees, as well as butterflies and other beneficial insects. Birds love to eat the fruits, especially ground-foraging frugivores. Other small mammals and even box turtles stop by to munch on the fruits.

Common Problems

Wild strawberries are easy to grow but also prone to several problems. You may encounter issues with pests and diseases, so learn to identify some of the most common issues so you can treat them promptly or, better yet, take steps to prevent them from occurring. 

Slugs and Snails

A close-up reveals the intricate spiral patterns on the shell of a brown snail as it leisurely makes its way toward ripe strawberries. The deep green leaves that surround the snail sparkle with tiny water droplets.
Strawberry growers face challenges from nocturnal slugs and snails that burrow into fruits at night.

Slugs and snails can be a real problem for strawberry growers. Slugs love burrowing into your fruits at night and eating large chunks, then disappearing again during the daytime. They leave behind a telltale slime trail and rarely snatch the entire fruit from the plant. 

Use slug bait to remove the problem from your garden, or set up a beer trap. Nestle a small plastic container in the ground and pour in some beer. The slugs and snails will fall in, get drunk, and drown.

Spider Mites

Closeup of spider mites on rose leaves in sunlight. The leaves of the rose are compound, consisting of oval green leaflets with jagged edges. Spider mites are minuscule arachnids, measuring about 0.5 millimeters. They are reddish-brown in color and form a thin web on the leaves and stems of the plant.
Look for sticky white webs on leaf undersides when scouting for spider mites.

Tiny minute spider mites are most common when the soil is dry and dust remains on plants. As their numbers increase, these mites spin webs around foliage, and can kill plants. Wipe your plants down with damp cloths to remove them.

Keep the soil sufficiently moist to prevent them. If you can’t eliminate them with these methods, insecticidal soap applied before the sun rises can assist in controlling them.

Rot 

Two red wild strawberries hang delicately from a slender stem, their once-lustrous skins now showing signs of wilting and fading. The blurred background unveils a rustic scene, featuring dried leaves and twigs.
Strawberry plants are vulnerable to fruit and leaf rot caused by excess moisture.

Strawberry plants are susceptible to both fruit rot and leaf rot. These problems are often a result of too much moisture. Root rot can develop quickly if plants are left sitting in wet soil. These are fungal infections that develop in conditions that are too moist.

Fruits rot when left on the plant beyond their peak ripening. The best way to combat rot is to try to prevent it from happening. Don’t overwater your strawberry plants, and pick the fruits as soon as they are at their peak.

Leaf Spot

Wild strawberry leaves showcasing striking dark spots, creating a captivating contrast. These spots, indicative of a leaf spot infection, contribute to the plant's visual narrative, highlighting the intricate interplay between nature's beauty and ecological challenges.
Prompt removal of infected leaves is crucial to prevent the spread of leaf spot.

Leaf spot is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, sometimes Anthracnose. It spreads from one infected plant to another, so be sure to promptly remove any infected leaves that you see. Leaf spot looks like dead brown spots scattered on the leaf surface and once a leaf develops these spots, it will not recover.

The best way to prevent leaf spot is to grow your plants with plenty of air circulation, don’t allow them to sit in wet soil, and provide their ideal growing conditions to keep them healthy overall. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do strawberries make good companion plants?

Wild strawberry plants make good companion plants, particularly for attracting pollinators. Because they bloom early in the season, plant them alongside other spring-blooming plants to attract plenty of pollinators and other beneficial insects to your garden!

How do I protect my strawberry fruits from the birds?

Humans aren’t the only ones who like to eat these berries. You will probably find that, once the birds find your plants, you have some serious competition for the delicious fruits. While your plants are actively fruiting, cover them with critter cages to prevent hungry birds and squirrels from eating all the fruits. Since strawberries rely on pollinators to create fruits, solid barriers like floating row covers won’t work because they block pollinator access.

What is the best container for growing wild strawberries?

A good strawberry container is large enough to accommodate a plant that likes to spread. Your container should also have excellent drainage, via several drainage holes on the bottom. There are specialty strawberry pots available with different tiers for plants to spread into, but these are not necessary. Although they look interesting, they are not particularly practical. The material of the container is less important, as long as you choose one with good drainage.

Final Thoughts

These charming berries are great for raised beds, containers, borders, and a variety of other garden and landscape settings. Their small, delicate fruits with a big, sweet flavor make an excellent snack.

With flowers in the spring, fruits in the summer, and evergreen foliage, this diminutive plant is a valuable addition to your garden with year-round appeal. Do you have a sunny site with moist, well-drained soil? A patch of wild strawberries is exactly what you are looking for to fill in some gaps!

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