Arbutus unedo – noted for its berries

arbutus-unedo

The Arbutus unedo tree is a superb shrub appreciated for its beautiful red fruits that look like strawberries – and they’re edible, too!

A summary of A. unedo key facts

Name – Arbutus unedo
Family – Ericaceae
Type – shrub

Height – 6 ½ to 16 feet (2 to 5 meters)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – ordinary, well drained

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – September
Harvest – Autumn(a year later)

Planting, care, and pruning are key to making sure your Arbutus tree thrives and produces many berries!

Planting an Arbutus unedo tree

Planting arbutus unedoFall is the best season to plant your Arbutus unedo tree but you can still plant it without dire consequence until spring, as long as you are able to avoid frost spells.

When planting in spring, provide for adequate watering after the planting.

  • A. unedo prefers locations with high exposure to sunlight.
  • All types of soil will do, but it’s better if it drains well.
  • The hardiness of this tree is quite good: 5°F (-15°C). This is zone 8 and warmer in the USA, and zone H5 and warmer for the United Kingdom.

For hedges, space the trees at least 32 inches (80 cm) apart.

Caring for Arbutus unedo

Caring for this tree is easy: since it’s used to growing in harsh environments, not much is needed. As years go by, you’ll have less and less to worry about!

Arbutus unedo pruning

Pruning arbutus unedoPruning of the Arbutus unedo tree is best done in spring.

Avoid pruning in fall, because you would be pruning off the magnificent berries that form and stay on the tree over winter.

Watering Arbutus unedo

Watering arbutus unedoThis tree won’t need any watering at all, apart from the day it’s planted.

The only exception? When you grow it in a pot!

  • It’s recommended to water potted arbutus every week during the summertime.

Disease and treatments for Arbutus unedo

The most common disease for an arbutus tree is a type of fungus that covers leaves with black spots.

Disease on arbutus unedoIn the end, leaves fall off because they’re not able to help the tree photosynthesize anymore. However, this never kills the tree: new leaves grow back faster than sick ones fall off.

Nonetheless, it’s best to spray Bordeaux mix to keep the disease from appearing or spreading.

Harvesting and using the berries

Arbutus unedo fruitIt’s important to wait until the berries are soft and red: this is when they’re ready for harvest. Any earlier and they’ll taste powdery and bland, and not sweet at all.

Arbutus unedo berries are edible

However, don’t try to eat them raw. The taste, when uncooked, is far from the joy birds express when they take a quick peck…

Arbutus unedo careActually, the “unedo” part of the scientific name is said to come from old Latin “unus” and “edo” which means “one edible”. Not that it is toxic: simply that since the taste isn’t very delicious when raw, eating one is more than enough!

A note on its other health benefits: bark shavings are a diuretic, helping to trigger micturition (peeing). Roots help fight against hypertension.

Learn more about Arbutus unedo

Arbutus flowerArbutus unedo is a very beautiful shrub that bears cute edible fruits. That’s why it’s also called the strawberry tree.

This tree grows to over 15 feet (5 meters), and its lifespan ranges from 100 to 400 years. This is a slow grower, making it a great option for small gardens and containers.

Arbutus unedo is naturally present around the entire Mediterranean ocean, and it grows well along coastlines.

You may plant it as a standalone and also as part of a hedge to decorate your hedge in winter thanks to its ornamental berries. Flowers, though not very showy, are cute and pearly-white.

Surprising peeling bark

Bark of the arbutus treeOn top of hosting those bright red ping-pong ball-sized berries, the amazing bark of the tree will increase your garden’s winter appeal!

Easy to care for, Arbutus unedo adapts to all soil types, either in beds or in hedges, or in pots or garden boxes for a terrace.

Read more about shrubs:

Smart tip about Arbutus unedo

No need to add any fertilizer, but it is a good idea to mulch the base of the tree to avoid weed growth in summer and protect roots when winters are cold.


Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 3.0: Carsten Niehaus
CC BY 2.0: Anna, Manuel Martin Vicente
CC BY-SA 2.0: Leonora Enking, Bernard Dupont