By: Liz Baessler
The Albion strawberry is a relatively new hybrid plant that checks several important boxes for gardeners. Heat tolerant and everbearing, with large, uniform, and very sweet berries, these plants are a good choice for gardeners with hot summers looking to extend their crop. Keep reading to learn more about Albion strawberry care and how to grow Albion berries in the garden.
The Albion strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa “Albion”) is a hybrid developed relatively recently in California. It is known for its fruits, which have a uniformly conical shape, bright red color, reliable firmness, and surprisingly sweet taste.
Albion strawberry plants grow quickly to about 12 inches (30.5 cm.) in height, with a spread of 12 to 24 inches (30.5-61 cm.). They are high yielding and everbearing, which means they will flower and fruit continuously from late spring into the fall.
They are hardy down to USDA zone 4 and can be grown as perennials in zones 4-7, but are very tolerant of heat and humidity and can be grown in much hotter climates, existing as evergreens in frost-free areas.
Growing Albion strawberries is very easy. The plants are bred to be resistant to several common diseases, including verticillium wilt, phytophthora crown rot, and anthracnose.
Albion strawberry plants like full sun and very rich, well-drained soil. They need lots of moisture and require weekly watering (if there isn’t consistent rain) in order to produce good, plump berries. Because they are so heat tolerant, they will continue fruiting well into the summer even in climates where summer temperatures will kill other strawberry varieties.
Berries and fruit will exist simultaneously on the plants, so continue to harvest the strawberries as they ripen to make room for new ones.
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Read more about Strawberry Plants
Use a starter plug: Strawberries grown from seed can take 2-3 years to begin fruiting. For a quicker harvest, get a strawberry plant plug from your local garden store or online from a variety of retailers.
Clean the soil from the roots of the plug by gently shaking the plant or lightly tapping the dirt on the roots with your fingers. Soak the roots in water, then rinse under cold running water to remove the remaining soil.
Secure the plant in your net pot using clay pebbles (recommended), vermiculite or other growing medium.
When planting it's important that the crown of the plant be at the right height in the growing medium. If planted too deep the plant is at risk of root rot. If planted too shallow the roots may dry out. We suggest you first plant with the crown slightly low and then pull it up to just even with the top of the growing medium (while lightly shaking the pot to make sure the roots are properly seated).
Once the plugs are well rooted you may see flowers develop within a few weeks. More new plants may then be started from runners that the plants will develop.
Although you may see flower buds within a few weeks after planting these should be pinched off initially to help promote further healthy growth. Then, once the plant has reached a good size the flowers can be left on and fruiting will occur.
With that said, strawberries CAN be grown in containers successfully. They can even produce just as well in containers as their in-ground counterparts. However, since strawberry plants don’t typically find themselves in pots out in the wilds, the folks who put them there need to keep a few things in mind. Remembering these tips will help your plants do well.
Strawberry plants are small, and they can easily fit into most pots. But, just like most other plants, they like their space and hate to be crowded. When growing strawberry plants in containers, the temptation is to let more plants root than the small area can support. To make sure you get the most out of your berry plants, be sure to let no more than 3 (or if a smaller variety, 4) plants root per square foot of soil. Since strawberry plants have relatively shallow root systems, the surface area (as long as the pot or container doesn’t taper too quickly) is sufficient to use as your calculation. If you allow too many plants to root, they will provide you with few strawberries, even if they look green and lush.
Most strawberry plants put out runner plants. These plants are great if you have a garden with extra space, but they aren’t so great for pots. While they will often make a very pretty cascade from a hanging basket, they also put quite a drain on the productive capacity of your plants. Snipping the runners as soon as they are recognized will allow and encourage the plants to devote most of their energy in the direction you would like: making strawberries!
Strawberries are temperate by nature. That means they thrive in the temperate zones of earth above and below the equatorial tropic zones. They can’t stand tropical conditions very well without some sort of climate control. If the heat doesn’t do them in outright, the fungi and pests that do thrive in the tropics usually will. Growing strawberries in containers exposes the all-important roots of the plants to warmer temperatures than they would normally find in the ground. Without the thick and insulating properties of the ground surrounding their roots, strawberries in pots will often see their root temperature rise with the temperature of the surrounding soil. Especially if you have dark pots/containers, the root temperature is likely to rise to the point where strawberry production is affected. To mitigate this, try to shade the containers where your strawberries live. You can also put a reflective material like aluminum foil around the pots to dissipate the heat and to shade the pots as well. Also, lightly spraying the containers with a little bit of water when you water the plants can cool them as well as the water evaporates and takes some of the residual heat with it.
Due to the exposure mentioned in the last point, the soil in pots will often dry out more quickly than you water them. Or, to compensate for that tendency, you may water them too much and keep the soil soggy. The trick to growing strawberries in containers is to avoid both dryness and sogginess. That is accomplished by watering with less water several times a day in the heat of the summer. The soil should stay just-damp, never dry. Also, make sure that your chosen container will drain adequately. If the soil stays soggy, even beneath the surface, deadly microbes can set up shop and deal death to your once-happy plants.
Unbeknownst to most, the life cycle of a strawberry plant is somewhat complex. Strawberries themselves don’t actually originate in the springtime. They started their lives in the fall of the previous year. After producing a (hopefully) bountiful harvest for you, the humble strawberry plants don’t check into the equivalent of a plant Hilton for the rest of the summer to enjoy life as a container plant. No, indeed. They get busy growing and reproducing themselves via runners. Not only that, but by the beginning of fall, the little strawberry plants have begun forming the perennating buds within their crowns that will turn into next year’s flowers. The flowers turn into strawberries subsequently. So, failure to pay attention to the well-being of your container strawberries after they give you strawberries will come back to bite you in the long run. They need tender loving care through the fall. Specifically, to provide the nutrients your plants need to maximize perennating bud formation (which you will then harvest as strawberries the next spring), apply an appropriate fertilizer (10-10-10 conventional, or an equivalent organic fertilizer) in August at a rate of approximately 1/3 of an ounce per square foot.
Just as heat seeps in during the blazing summer months, winter sends forth its icy fingers more readily into above-ground containers as well. If your winters are mild, there is little to worry about. If the temperatures stay in the twenties, or just dip into the upper teens for a short period, your plants will likely come out of the winter unscathed. If the temperatures drop out of the low twenties and stay there for a while, your plants can freeze straight through. That will surely kill them. So, if the forecast calls for cold, wrap your sleeping strawberries snugly with some insulating material and/or put them in the garage to provide them some shelter from the harsh bleakness of winter.
While growing strawberries from seed is possible it takes much longer, and it’s much easier to go to a reputable nursery and buy healthy, disease resistant, and pest free plants.
These varieties are all avaliable online through Vesey’s Seeds and is where I purchase my plants:
Albion – Day Neutral | Ideal for growing in pots
and for a something a little different: