Strawberry trees care guide (Arbutus Marina)

Arbutus marina is a variant of the Arbutus family of trees, popularly known as the strawberry trees. Arbutus marina got noticed for the first time in the year 1917 at a Horticulture symposium. It was kept and maintained at a nursery in Marina, San Francisco, and hence subsequently got named as Arbutus marina.

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A mature Arbutus marina can grow to a height of about 40 – 50 ft and 20 – 30 feet wide. It is a hybrid tree (of unknown parentage) that grows in full sun and requires moderate to low water.

Arbutus marina is a hardy evergreen tree and can even withstand drought. It is endowed with shiny dark green leaves 4 -5 inches long and pale on the underside. Pink to red flowers of pedant bell shape bloom throughout the year but are maximum in fall and winter. The flowers grow into edible fruits, which are very similar to strawberries, but milder in taste.

How fast do Arbutus trees grow?

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The Arbutus tree grows at a languid pace. On average, it grows just about 12 inches in a year. Initially, young trees grow faster. But in the later stage, the growth slows down.

If you are planting the Arbutus for the first time, do not be too surprised by the slow growth. It grows that way. Since it grows slowly, it would be better to put up small guard rails around the tree to protect it.

Once planted, do not disturb it too much. The plant should have access to plenty of sunlight. Ensure that the root drainage is good. If water logs at the root, it may rot or beget some disease. Try to protect it from strong direct winds.

Full sun with little water blooms the strawberry tree.

When to prune Arbutus marina ?

Generally, these trees tend to grow in an organized way and do not need pruning. However, if the growth is unruly and scattered, or there are dead branches, pruning should be done only at the end of the winter. It is because it bears fruits in the winter, and one wouldn’t want to sacrifice the fruits for pruning.

If you want the strawberry tree to spread its foliage, reduce the density by cutting the leave to expose the branches. It will help new shoots to come out from them.

Arbutus is known to have multi trunks. So pruning may also be essential if you want a single trunk tree to develop.

How to prune Arbutus marina ?

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The Arbutus marina generally grows well and in an orderly fashion and does not need pruning very often. But occasional pruning helps the tree to grow well, and the new branches and leaves come out stronger.

You can prune the tree to get to your required shape (if you have that in mind). Pruning is also done to get a single trunk tree (Arbutus marina can develop multi trunks).

If the branches or leaves are infected, it is better to prune them off and prevent the spread of disease. Apart from focusing on the external branches and leaves, look into the dense internal foliage and prune some branches there. It will facilitate the sunlight to reach inside the tree.

Are strawberry trees messy?

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The strawberry trees are evergreen. Which means it does not shed leaves all at once during the autumn or any other season. However, few of the leaves keep falling throughout the year. Every day you can find dropped leaves under the strawberry tree.

The tree goes right up to 25 -30 ft in height. The fruits, when ripe, drop from that height to the ground from that height. It also creates a lot of wet and mushy mess around the tree. If you have the tree near the driveway, the fruits and leaves get squashed under the car, and that is really very dirty.

From far, the tree looks beautiful, but up close is it quite a mess. So if you plan to have a strawberry tree in your yard, remember to clean around the tree at least once in 2 days.

Are Arbutus berries edible?

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Yes, Arbutus berries are edible. Though not very sought after, but many people eat it. The arbutus tree is planted more for its decoration value rather than as a fruit-bearing tree. The bell-shaped flowers and the yellow and red berries look lovely.

Since it is an evergreen tree, it adds greenery and aesthetics to the garden and the backyard. It looks beautiful when planted on the driveways or near the entrance gate.

Arbutus trees are robust and survive the toughest of conditions. Hence they are a popular choice to lend greenery to the landscape.

What do Arbutus berries taste like?

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Though it looks like a strawberry, it does not taste like one. It is said to be insipid in taste and not interesting. It has a kind of mild sweet-sour taste. Also, the orange-yellow flesh tastes like a bland peach. One cannot eat many of the berries at one go. Some may stop at just one.

The seeds lend the soft pulp, a sandy texture. Rather than being eaten as fruit, it is more famous for making jams and alcoholic beverages.

What are the most common problem Arbutus marina has?

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Initially, thought to be a very robust tree, Arbutus marina is not readily susceptible to pests or diseases. But Aphids were seen to attack the new growths and form sooty molds. Though not to an alarming extent, Greenhouse thrip, soft scale, and Glassy Winged Sharpshooter also attack the Arbutus marina.

Arbutus tree is severely affected by standing water around the roots. ‘Drenched’ roots give rise to a disease called the Phytophthora root rot. This disease can eventually kill the tree. Hence always be careful to ensure that the drainage of water from the Arbutus marina is efficient. Also, do not plant the root too deep or surround it with compacted soil. It promotes water retention, which may ultimately lead to root rot.

Another problem noted with Arbutus is the decay of leaves and twigs ‘within the canopy.’ The tree grows well because the new shoots are not infected. The Botryosphaeria fungus causes this disease. The information on remedial action is limited, but it helps not to injure the plant unnecessarily as it increases the stress for the plant. The best way to control Botryosphaeria fungus is to cut away the infected twigs and branches. Spray the diluted(1 part bleach to 9 parts water) house bleach on the affected parts of the tree.

At times the leaves of the Arbutus start browning prematurely. The flowering and fruiting are also thin or completely absent. The prime cause of such a condition is restricted and strangulated roots. The roots are not able to spread out. Some hard surfaces around the tree may be the reason. Loosen up the soil around the tree. It might help.

These fungi attack and spread in warm weather. To prevent the onslaught of these fungi, spray the Bordeaux mix at the end of winter. With a gap of 15 days, spray twice or thrice.

If the tree does get infected by these fungi, collect all the affected leaves and burn them off in the distance to control them from spreading to other plants.

Do strawberry trees have invasive roots?

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Invasive roots are the ones that cut through the roads and underground constructions like the water tanks, or cellar. It can also grow into the building and cut through the walls and foundations too.

Strawberry trees do not have invasive roots, and hence it is prevalent for home gardening. It usually does not damage or cut through any constructions.

You can safely plan to have a strawberry tree near your entrance or on the driveway

How does one take care of a strawberry tree?

The strawberry tree as a family is quite hardy and robust. Hence it is the easiest to grow in the house and fields as well. Nevertheless, it does require proper care and attention before it can bear fruits and make you happy.

  • Plant the strawberry trees in well-aerated soil. Remember to keep the crown exposed over the ground when you plant a strawberry tree. The stem and the leaves spring out of the crown. A buried crown will rot it away, and the plant will die.
  • The strawberry may need the soil to be wet but not clogged with water. Ensure that the water drainage is efficient, else it may rot away the roots of the plants. A straightforward way to ensure water drainage is to have raised plant beds. Mulching the soil around the strawberry is an excellent way to ensure proper moisture and good drainage. Mulching also keeps the weeds at bay. The soil should be relatively loose for the appropriate aeration of the roots.
  • Ensure that the place where you plant to have the strawberry leaves have full sunshine for at least 6 – 10 hours.
  • It is advisable to shade them from strong winds.
  • Though strawberry thrives in all types of soils, the loam (a mixture of sand, silt, and clay) is most suited for it.
  • De weeding is necessary at least till the time the plants grow up a bit.
  • Be on the lookout for any fungus outbreak or rotted roots. These two are the main problems faced.
  • Organic compost is an excellent fertilizer to use for strawberries.
  • Strawberry plants bear the temperature till -60C. But beyond that cover the plants to prevent damage from frost.

Is Arbutus marina poisonous to dogs?

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No, it is not poisonous to dogs. You can safely plant an Arbutus tree in your backyard. It won’t harm the dogs.

In some cases, dogs have shown signs of indigestion or allergy to eating Arbutus berries. But it does not act as a poison to them.

It would be best not to feed the dogs with strawberry, as it is not their natural food. But at the same time, the accidental ingestion of one or two strawberries should not harm the dog.


The Arbutus trees are indeed trendy for their beauty and robustness. They withstand climatic conditions which can wither away other trees. They need very little care and water and have a very long life. The flowers of the Arbutus trees are beautiful, and the fruits are edible. It is, in fact, a good tree to have in your garden or backyard.