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Home & Garden

Learning to Grow in St. Charles: Enjoy a plant both edible and ornamental

The European wild strawberry is great for edging, in a rock garden or in containers.
The European wild strawberry is great for edging, in a rock garden or in containers.

If you would like a plant for your garden that is pretty, practical and versatile, consider Fragaria vesca “Reugen.”

Known as “Fraises des Bois” in France, this is the European wild strawberry. Clumps do not produce runners, so they are well-behaved plants suitable for edging, in a rock garden or in containers. Tiny white flowers appear all season, followed by small cone-shaped fruit, the tastiest of all strawberries.

It’s fun to encourage visitors to pick and taste them, and, with the permission of their parents, children, too. They are always popular. How many plants are both edible and ornamental?

There are many variants of this plant in color and the size of the berry. Some have yellow berries. But do not confuse this lovely little plant with the one with hard little inedible berries that runs around your garden. Fragaria vesca “Reugen” is not aggressive. It simply bunches up and rewards you with those tiny, sweet berries.

It is easy to grow in part shade to full sun, and requires nothing more than average soil. It adapts to a wide variety of soil types, including both clay and sandy. If you want plants to produce lots of sumptuous berries, give them some extra moisture during dry periods. Hardy in zones 4 to 8, plants are also disease resistant.

Woodland strawberries grow 6 to 10 inches tall and up to a foot wide after a few years. They bloom from early summer straight through fall. They are great edging plants, terrific for borders.

I grew my first ones in containers, and they are lovely for that purpose, too.

They are available for sale as plants at many garden centers. When purchasing, remember to buy runner-less woodland strawberries. They also are easy to grow from seed, which is great for me because I like to use it extensively as an edging plant, which can get expensive.

If you want more plants, you can simply divide it. Or you can let it seed and put the plantlets wherever you would like. I hope that you will try it – I wouldn’t be without it.

Donna Mack is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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