I grow a few different varieties of strawberries (as well as blueberries and other berries) but the stars of all my summer berries, hands down, are the Yellow Wonder alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca).
Alpine strawberries are just about the most perfect patio plant you could hope for. Green, lush, prolific, and full of melt-in-your-mouth berries bursting with a flavor that’s hard to pin down. I liken them to cotton candy, but with added notes of pineapple and rose. They’re complex and intensely aromatic. They’re full of sweetness and lack the tartness of commercially grown strawberries which, in my opinion, prove that bigger is not always better.
Unlike conventional strawberries, which love to spread, most cultivated alpine strawberries don’t sprout runners. Where you plant them is where they’ll stay, making them ideal for small spaces such as balconies and borders.
Related: How Far Apart to Plant Strawberries for the Biggest, Juiciest Berries
They concentrate all of their energy into their fruits, which also grow smaller than cultivated market varieties — no more than an inch long with pointed ends, and almost conical in shape. The plant itself is a compact perennial, growing 8 to 10 inches tall with bright green foliage and delicate white flowers.
To chefs, alpine strawberries are sometimes called gourmet strawberries because of their refined texture and taste. You’ll probably never find alpine strawberries in a supermarket, because they’re simply too fragile to make the trip through modern processing and packaging. The berries go from green to ripe to overripe in a blink, and their flesh is softer than what you might be more accustomed to.
But pick them at the right time, when the flesh has a little give and the fruit readily separates from its green cap, and one bite of an alpine strawberry will make you want to rip up your other strawberries and plant only alpines in their place.
Today’s alpines come from the Fragaria vesca berries that were indigenous to ancient Persia. Some archaeological evidence even dates them back to the Stone Age, when humans were first documented as having eaten them. In fact, before our supermarkets were filled with baskets of red, large, firm, tart and sometimes tasteless berries, the only strawberries that existed were wild woodland strawberries that ranged in color from white to red.
Fragaria vesca was then introduced to Europe, where wide cultivation led to several varieties of strongly-flavored alpine strawberries that didn’t stray too far from their predecessor. They eventually fell out of favor in the 18th century when garden strawberries (what we eat today) showed greater promise in the variation for breeding and size of the fruit.
Alpine strawberry plants are everbearing, meaning they fruit in spring and keep producing until frost. It totally delights me to pick a handful of berries in April (which usually never make it back into the house before I gobble them all down) and then to see the plants still laden with berries in August.
I’m partial to yellow alpines because I’ve found that they’re a little sweeter than red alpines, and their pale color, combined with an unusual shape, makes them a standout against my red garden strawberries. As a bonus for those who have to fend off birds in their gardens, it’s said that birds usually ignore yellow berries because they think they’re unripe.
Alpine strawberries are cool-weather plants, so you can start seeds indoors in the summer and transplant seedlings outside in the fall. By spring, the first flowers will appear and you’ll have perfect little fruit to top a bowl of yogurt or simply eat out of hand. Grow multiple plants, and you’ll have enough to adorn a cake next year.
The plants reseed very easily and I’ve often taken a few overripe, nearly-dried berries that were hiding in the foliage and pressed them into the soil elsewhere in the garden. Let them go through a cold winter and in spring, a few strawberry seedlings will sprout in their place.
You can also save alpine strawberry seeds (from homegrown plants or, if you’re lucky, out in the wild) by collecting them from the skin and freezing them for a month to condition them. Afterward, store the seeds in a cool, dark and dry place and sow in spring or fall.
Strawberry plants are perennials. They grow year after year but fruit production starts to decline with age, so they should be replaced every five years or so. If you’re growing them for fruit, treat them like a crop: the more space or larger container you give them, the more productive they’ll be.
But you can also plant them as an ornamental or an edible ground cover, and enjoy the fruits as a perk!
AngelaMay 13, 2021 at 1:06 am
Hi, I have a seed packet of alpine strawberries but haven’t managed to germinate them at all! It’s a new purchase so it’s not expired. Any tips?
balazerFebruary 19, 2019 at 2:54 am
I have a couple hundred Yellow Wonder strawberry plants in my garden. They were easy to germinate, but the plants are not very productive and don’t handle warm weather very well. The berries are tasty, but not that much better than regular strawberries. I don’t recommend this plant.
Linda from Garden BettyJune 10, 2019 at 1:35 am
Interesting that your experience has been so different from mine. I grew these strawberries in Southern California, where it’s warm year-round, and they thrived with great, super sweet flavor. I wonder if the difference comes from the soil composition, fertilizer, seed used…?
Kathleane O'LearyJune 6, 2020 at 1:11 am
I’ve been looking for Alpine Strawberry starts and seeds for months and haven’t been able to find them. I live in Orange County, CA. Can you share where you found your Alpines?
Linda from Garden BettyJune 30, 2020 at 5:45 am
My Yellow Wonder seeds were from rareseeds.com and they tend to go in and out of stock throughout the year. I believe there’s usually some type of alpine strawberry available, if not Yellow Wonder.
RandyJune 14, 2021 at 5:45 pm
Wait, however, your Bio tells that you live in the Central part of Oregon. So, are you in SoCal or in Oregon growing these berries?
FLJune 2, 2022 at 2:14 pm
I have my yard full of alpine strawberries, but they are red, not yellow. I use them as a ground cover, and fruits, when they have fruits. They are somewhat invasive and spread. I am in the Chicago area and they produce only from the end of May to the end of June. I wonder if this has to do with the variety I have or with the climate. I have never heard of everbearing alpine strawberries. I have to look for seeds for this specific variety. Very interesting!
theGardenBettyAugust 17, 2014 at 11:01 am
If you like sweet and juicy berries: Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberries http://t.co/y4U38IdliF #gardenchat < TY for RT! @FredJaicks
CaitlinAugust 15, 2014 at 9:49 am
I grow some of these berries and I adore them also! Thank you for sharing more information on them :)!
adamcortellAugust 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm
How Sweet It Is: Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberries http://t.co/e8kgvrhgdX from Garden Betty by Linda Ly
FredJaicksAugust 14, 2014 at 11:12 am
RT @theGardenBetty: If you like sweet and juicy berries, start growing these in the fall. Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberries http://t.co/y4U…
theGardenBettyAugust 14, 2014 at 9:02 am
If you like sweet and juicy berries, start growing these in the fall. Yellow Wonder Alpine Strawberries http://t.co/y4U38IdliF #gardenchat
Mike the GardenerAugust 11, 2014 at 8:43 am
Fresh strawberries grown at home are the best! I had two beds of strawberries … the only problem I had was, all the critters in my area thought they tasted great also … it was constant battle between me, the birds, squirrels and the occasional chipmunk.
I removed the beds during expansion, but plan on bringing strawberries back into the fold in pots and containers.
Linda LyAugust 15, 2014 at 2:18 pm
Perhaps these yellow strawberries will help with some of your critter problems!
Mike the GardenerAugust 19, 2014 at 6:26 am
maybe … will definitely give them a go