Arbutus Unedo is famously known in Ireland as the Killarney strawberry tree, where it grows prolifically. Given Killarney’s proximity to the Atlantic Coast, it is safe to assume that Arbutus Unedo is very well suited to coastal areas as long as it is planted in a warm, sheltered spot.
Arbutus Unedo is a beautiful evergreen with impressive strawberry-like fruits that are very attractive to look at and lovely serrated evergreen leaves. In contrast to the green foliage, the bark is an attractive cinnamon-reddish brown colour. Small flowers emerge in creamy clusters in autumn which then go on to form the pretty, strawberry-shaped fruits. These fruit turn red when ripe and are adored by birds. The flowers last well into early winter and are sweetly scented. They provide pollen for bees and other pollinating insects at a time of the year when nectar can be scarce.
Customers often ask us whether the Arbutus fruit is edible. The answer is yes! Arbutus fruits, which take a year to ripen, are edible as a raw fruit and are rich in vitamin C. Some may find them a little bland and conclude that they look more striking than they taste. In recipes, arbutus fruit is most commonly used in jams, syrups, chutneys and as a filler fruit for pies. The fruit is relatively large, about the size of an average strawberry in fact.
The Arbutus Uneda Strawberry Tree is hardy. They are slow growing so they work well in smaller gardens. You can plant them in full sun or partial shade, ideally with shelter from strong winds. Younger plants may need protection in extra harsher winters until they are more mature and hardier.
Growing Tip: Choose a sunny and sheltered spot to allow them to settle in. Pruning may mean the loss of fruit as they form fruits on the previous year's flowers.