I bought a large-fruited strawberry tree in the botanical garden. What you need to know about this plant to provide him the right care?
T.SHEVCHUK (by email)
The strawberry tree is large-fruited, or the ordinary strawberry (Arbutus unedo) belongs to the heather family. It is a small evergreen tree or shrub with bright green ovoid leaves. The plant got its name for the original form of juicy fruits, similar to the berries of garden strawberries.
They are edible, with a strawberry smell.
They are eaten fresh, jam is made from them. Unfortunately, the strawberry tree grown in room culture, they do not have that pleasant taste, which is the fruit of plants that grow in open ground.
When looking for a suitable place for growing a strawberry tree, it should be borne in mind that in nature, its range covers the Mediterranean and Western Europe, including the North-West of France and Ireland.
In conditions of central Russia, this plant is best grown in a potted culture in the winter garden, on a warmed balcony or in a living room. Planted in open ground is not worth it, because in winter it will freeze out.
Since the strawberry tree is light-requiring, you need to place it in the house on a bright windowsill. It tolerates direct sunlight well, but not midday (they can cause leaf burn), but only morning and evening.
If the plant is on the southern window, on hot summer days it should be shaded from direct sunlight so that it does not suffer from overheating.
The optimum summer temperature for a strawberry tree in summer is +18 ... + 25X, in winter + 3 ... + 10'С. He needs a cool wintering so that it does not give the ugly elongated growth, which is possible in conditions of lack of light at normal room temperature.
The strawberry tree loves fresh air, so the room in which it grows needs to be aired regularly. In the summer the plant is best kept outdoors in a sunny place, protected from the wind.
The strawberry tree has the reputation of a fairly drought-resistant plant. However, it becomes such only in adulthood. At a young age in the spring-summer period, it must be watered regularly and abundantly, especially during active growth, flowering and fruiting. Wintering in cool conditions, the plant is rarely watered.
The strawberry tree can grow in a wide variety of substrates: from loose to dense, from slightly acid to alkaline. For cultivation in the pot culture will suit any universal soil for indoor plants, sold in stores.
Since the strawberry tree grows slowly, it does not need frequent top-dressings, in the spring and summer it is enough to feed it once every two weeks with complex fertilizer (preferably with trace elements). In autumn and winter, when kept in cool conditions, the plant should not be fed.
Origin and species of kudrania
It is known that the strawberry tree initially grew in the territory of East Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and also in Central China. By species, kudrania belongs to the mulberry family by biologists. This is what determined the exigencies of this exotic to the temperature of the soil and the environment, light and humidity. How did this plant get to other territories and when did it happen? Kudrana, whose photo is not uncommon now, was supposedly distributed almost throughout the world thanks to trade and the development of tourism. Be that as it may, but even in the last century only botanists knew about this plant, but today this tree is in the collection of any amateur breeder respecting itself.
What does a strawberry tree look like?
The plant, known as Kudrania, is a deciduous tree, which in natural conditions does not grow more than 6 meters in height. The leaf blades of the plant are simple, entire, with small notches along the edges. Their color is dark green, without pubescence.
Annual shoots of Kudrania covered with green bark, more adults - brown. A strawberry tree, cultivated under ambient conditions, almost always has brighter tones in stem color than those that grow in natural conditions. The branches of Kudrania are straight, located at a slight angle to the trunk, which makes it convenient to care for the plant. The crown of the plant is sprawling and fairly dense, easy to form. On the break of leaves, young or mature branches of Kudrania, droplets of the milky juice can be seen.
Resistance to frosts
Unfortunately, the strawberry tree is absolutely not able to withstand even short-term decreases in air temperature. Freezing of the soil can cause the death of the tree. That is why Kudrania, whose frost resistance is low, in the conditions of Russia is successfully grown only in room conditions. Only in the Caucasus and Crimea can this tree be kept in open ground. It should take care of protecting the tree from low temperatures, as frosts for it are disastrous.
Strawberries from a tree? Description of Kudrania fruits
Despite the fact that the plant is called "strawberry tree", its fruits have a slight resemblance to these berries. The spherical red or red-maroon fruits of a tree are in fact most of all resemble large-fruited raspberries, since according to the biological classification, they belong to complex multi-stem. The size of the fruit depends on many factors, often they reach 3-5 cm in diameter.
The taste and smell of strawberry fruit, as well as their appearance, does not really resemble strawberry itself. The presence of sugars in the berries causes their sweetness, but the sourness peculiar to strawberries is absent altogether. If you compare the fruit of the strawberry plant with other fruits, the photos of which you can see below, it is very similar to persimmon in taste.
It is noteworthy that the fruits, like the branches with leaves, contain milky sap (milk). The berries of this exotic are very juicy and soft, so they are not suitable for transportation. After collecting them, they are eaten for several hours, because within a day after collection they lose their commodity and taste qualities. In addition, jam or jam can be made from the berries of Kudrania, dried and used to make drinks.
How to grow kudraniyu: outdoors or indoors?
Despite the fact that in Russia there are areas with a relatively favorable climate for such an exotic plant as kudrania, cultivation in the open field is practically not carried out. Most gardeners prefer to keep this plant in room conditions. This is due to the requirements that this tree makes to the conditions of detention.
Firstly, a strawberry tree does not tolerate cold snaps, therefore, growing it even in the southern regions is quite problematic. Secondly, the number of fruits on each tree is small, therefore rare gardener will agree to occupy the useful area of the dacha exot. Thirdly, a humid climate and the same soil are not suitable for cultivation of soil, and it is easiest to regulate the water content both in the soil substrate and in the atmosphere in indoor cultivation.
However, despite all the difficulties, a strawberry tree can be found in lovers gardens even in the middle lane. In the Caucasus, there are also enthusiasts who provide the most comfortable conditions for this exotic tree.
Cudrania planting material: how to get?
So, where do you start the cultivation of Kudrania? Of course, with planting material. You can buy it in specialized stores or from fans. If you yourself are the lucky owner of kudrania, you can try to multiply it yourself. You can do this in several ways: cuttings, root shoots or seeds.
It should immediately be noted that the best way to get planting material among those who are engaged in the cultivation of Kudrania, is the separation of root shoots. In this case, you can get up to 99% of viable seedlings, which, moreover, come into fruition earlier.
The cutting of the strawberry plant, the reviews of which in this respect cannot be called positive, is a rather complicated process. To begin, cut off the annual shoots without signs of disease are placed for 16-18 hours in a solution of root formation stimulants. After that, the cuttings are placed in a sandy wet substrate for 3-4 months. It is important to constantly monitor the soil moisture, not allowing it to dry completely.
The chance to get a healthy young plant in this way does not exceed 30%, so grafting is not very popular. In addition, after transplantation of the cuttings with formed roots, the probability of their death is high, therefore, planting them in containers, do not forget to use any stimulant.
There is no reliable information about reproduction of seeds by seeds, however, it is known that the plants obtained in this way begin to bear fruit only 10–15 years after germination.
Preparing the soil for planting
The main condition in the preparation of soil mixture for a strawberry tree is its breathability. The reaction of the soil should be slightly acidic or neutral. These characteristics have a mixture of turf land (2 parts), humus (1 part), peat (1 part) and sand (1 part). In addition to excellent breathability and nutritional value, this soil has a good ability to pass moisture. This mixture is suitable for growing indoor plants. For cultivation in the open ground, it is recommended to make the same mixture, which then needs to be poured into a large planting pit (at least 1 meter deep) with a drainage layer of at least 20-30 cm.
Caring for the first year after landing
In the first year after planting, the strawberry tree (a photo of it is available in the review) does not need additional fertilizing (provided that the nutrient soil mixture has been compiled). Otherwise, fertilizing with a solution of universal fertilizers may be required. In addition, it is important to start the formation of the crown of the tree and do not forget to monitor its condition. Despite the relatively high resistance to diseases and pests, it is worth paying attention to the condition of the stems and leaves of the plant. When signs of vital activity appear, it is important to start treating the tree with appropriate means.
Formation of plants in the open field and in the room
When grown in open ground, kudrania practically does not need pruning. Sometimes it is enough to pinch shoots that grow too fast and cut branches that grow inside the crowns or thicken it “on the ring”. As a rule, a strawberry tree is grown on a low trunk. Pruning is best done in the spring, but pinching shoots should be given time during the growing season.
All the recommendations outlined above are fully applicable to those plants that are grown in room conditions (often in the form of bonsai). There are also significant differences: it is recommended to leave no more than 5 skeletal branches in the crown, the length of which should be constantly monitored by pinching and trimming. All branches that interfere with the normal development of the crown (growing inside it, for example) should be removed at the very base.
For indoor cultivation, kudrania should be placed in the lightest room near the window, as the plant is very fond of sunlight. In winter, strawberry trees are placed in cooler rooms than in summer, as it needs rest (recall that the Kudrania is a deciduous plant). In the warm season, a pot or a container with a plant can be transferred to a balcony or an open veranda, as well as taken to the garden. Before this, it is recommended to gradually accustom the tree to direct sunlight.
Particular attention should be paid to the plant in hot periods. It is not worth watering it once again, because the muddle tolerates drought well. The best option would be to spray the plant with slightly warmed water.
It is somewhat easier to take care of the strawberry tree growing in the open field: pruning in spring, feeding with green fertilizers and humus during the growing season strengthen the root system of the plant, which makes it more resistant to adverse environmental factors. In contrast to indoor gemstones, a garden plant needs special care during the cold season. It is important to warm the tree trunk with leaf litter, humus and other materials after completely dropping the leaves. In addition, it is important not to forget about the insulation of the trunk and large branches with non-woven material.
Pests and diseases of Kudrania and methods of combating them
No matter how tender the tree we are looking at seems to be, few plants can compare with it in resistance to pests and diseases. Even such “eminent” pests as a spider mite and aphid do not affect this exotic beauty. However, if agricultural practices are not followed, strawberry trees may be attacked by thrips and mealybugs. Normalization of humidity and temperature in the room, as well as special preparations that can be purchased at any store for gardeners and flower growers, helps to cope with them.
What is useful kudrania
What can be useful parts of the plant and the fruit of Kudrania - the so-called "strawberry"? The tree, the photo of which you could see in this article, is often used in traditional medicine. For example, oil infusion or decoction of the bark is used to treat burns and ulcers on the skin. Fruits are consumed inside with heartburn and other digestive disorders. In addition, they are used in the form of decoctions with high blood pressure and diseases of the liver and spleen.
About 14 species of strawberries are well known, but the most popular are the following two:
- Arbutus unedo - Strawberry tree. It has great fruit,
- Arbutus andrachne - The strawberry tree is red, small-fruited.
For amateur breeding often choose the first type of plant - Arbutus large-fruited. This species is quite thermophilic and does not tolerate frost, so in our latitudes it can be grown only under the shelter of rooms heated in winter. Best of all, the plant feels in large winter gardens and greenhouses, but its cultivation in the conditions of an apartment or a residential building is quite acceptable.
In the latter case, the unusual beauty of the Strawberries is especially appreciated. Its branches create an intricate structure, fancy crowns, covered with foliage with a noticeable emerald sheen, and at the time of flowering, Arbutus of the Rubra type is especially beautiful.
Plant care rules
At home, this plant is grown mainly in pots or pots. At the same time, it is very carefully protected from frost. It is best to grow a tree from a ready seedling, but you can use a cutting and even plant and germinate the seed of ripened fruit.
Planting a strawberry tree from seed provides for a specific sequence of actions:
- Prepare a nutrient substrate. It should include 70% of peat, preferably top and 30% of washed river sand. In such a composition, previously it is slightly moisturized for 2 months, the stratification of seeds is carried out. They must be collected from the ripe fruit,
- After stratification, the seeds are soaked in water at room temperature for a period of 7 days and planted into the ground to a depth of about one and a half centimeters,
- The flowerpot with the planted seeds is placed in a shaded, warm place and await the seedling shoot,
- When shoots appear, as a rule, this happens around the third month, they are regularly watered with settled water, and upon reaching sufficient growth, the seedlings can be divided and planted in separate pots.
If the surrounding air is dry, during the growth of shoots they should be regularly sprayed. In this case, you need to make sure that excess moisture does not fall into the ground. Best of all, at the time of spraying cover it with polyethylene or in any other way.
A feature of the plant can be called its unpretentiousness to the quality of the soil. The strawberry tree grows well, both in acidic and alkaline conditions, in loose or dense, but it is still better to ensure normal drainage. Perfect soil from the store, with the characteristics - universal.
The strawberry tree is a beautiful ornamental shrub that will not only decorate the room, but also bear tasty fruits. With proper care, this exotic evergreen will please the host for many years. It will be appreciated by lovers of bonsai, because the slow growth and long life expectancy is perfectly suited for this kind of art.