Pineberries might look like strawberries that haven’t fully developed yet, but their name derives from their subtle pineapple favor. They also may seem like a ‘gimmick’ fruit intended to boost supermarket sales, which is far from the truth. Pineberries are in fact a member of the original South American strawberry family, reintroduced into the market as a pineberry possibly as a marketing ploy highlighting the pineapple flavor and they’re a food rich in vitamin c. I know what you’re thinking, these must be GMO fruits, but they really aren’t: neither the white flesh nor the distinctive flavor come about as a result of genetic modification. Fragaria chiloensis, another member of the South American strawberries native to Chile, have always had the pale complexion of the pineberry too.
Pineberries are smaller than the typical strawberry, and look like the wild strawberries you see hiking. Pineberries tend to come from generations of older Chilean strawberry stocks that have remained to this day with some modern European breeders. The breeding program is about a decade old and it took them about four years to bring this variety into the mainstream market.
In other words, pineberries are diverse in origin and if you want to be the proud owner of pineberries with any breeding regularity, simply growing one’s own may be the solution. The planting materials are often stocked at nurseries, sometimes availability is limited. Currently you can buy pineberries from this seller on amazon (with great reviews and many buyers).
If you are able to buy or get hold of some, it is certainly worth the investment for their fantastic flavor, and they are certainly a novelty at dinner parties.
For those that have experience growing regular strawberries, growing the pineberry will be just as simple a task.
But, getting hold of the pineberry starts could be a challenge. Often, breeders will offer branded plants, but there are mainly three varieties to be aware of. There is the ‘White D,’ the ‘White Carolina’ and the ‘White Pineberry.’ Of the main varieties, the standard ‘White D’ have much larger berries next to their counterparts.
Pineberry starts are on the more expensive side compared to seeds. There’s not a way out of this one really, and often people have no other option as they may not come true from buying seeds (as many a disappointed gardener has discovered!)
Ensure the starts you buy are self pollinating. That’s no bad thing, cross pollination with regular strawberries will not change the color or indeed the flavor of pineberries. So encouraging this is a good thing.
The pineberry starts you buy online or in store may be pretty small and fragile. But, they are suitable for growing in USDA zones 4-8. That is not to say that you won’t have success in other zones if you are able to protect the starts from the harsh weather. Starting out in pots is often advised.
You can purchase 50 Pineberry White Carolina bare root plants from here on Amazon.
Growing Pineberries in Pots
Growing pineberries in pots in pretty easy. Let’s get started:
What Size and style of pot?
Pineberries are easily grown in any pot that can hold a quart of soil. Pineberries have a fairly small root system, so a pot that is about 8 inches deep will work fine. The most important factor in growing them is the drainage is the most important consideration, pots with holes at the bottom and pots with breathing holes are ideal – which also allows you to check the moisture content. It’s about striking a balance, too much water can kill them, but the soils need to be moist as much a possible.
What soil should I use?
You should ensure you buy a good quality soil mix, (intended for strawberries is better) to fill the pots with. Soil mixes are easily available on the internet here. Alternatively, you can also make your own with:
- 5 parts sterile potting soil
- 5 parts quality peat moss
- 4 parts organic perlite (I use this one)
- 2 parts compost
- 1 part fine grain sand
For the expert plant potters out there: Pineberries, being primarily woodland plants generally prefer mildly acidic soil. They would have a pH value of approximately 5.5 to 6.5. Experienced plant potters will know how to test the pH value of their soil to ensure optimum growth, however, I do not bother with pH testing on small plants like this.
How To Make A Pineberry Patch
Setting the pineberry beds:
If you wish to grow a patch of pineberries, first, prepare the bed as you would normally for growing garden strawberries. Find an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day, and ideally that gets the majority of the light in the first half of the day. You may find that the more sun they get, the higher the fruit yield. Similarly, the more sun they get the more pink they get too.
If possible, avoid beds where you have grown any member of the ‘nightshade family plants’ previously, such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers etc. These plants are effected by Fusarium and Verticillium fungal spores which can lay dormant in the soil for up to 3 years after, and are harmful to delicate pineberry plants. Though, this is not always a problem.
Furthermore, keep the plants a suitable distance away from raspberry and blackberry shrubs that might pass on common garden pathogens to pineberries.
Fine tuning the beds:
Given that these perennials will be in the same spot for many seasons to come, bed preparation is crucial. We suggest adding some slow release organic fertilizer to the soil, as well as some ammonium nitrate, while preparing the beds for planting.
As with planting in pots, good drainage is important. Toss the soil with generous amounts of organic matter and sand to increase water dispersion. If the soil is already poor, consider using raised beds.
To plant the bed:
- Make sure the bed meets the above criteria. Then double dig the bed and remove all the weeds.
- Add some organic manure and the above extras.
- This small berry will need space to spread out, but there are less runners than normal strawberries, so you can plant them every in holes 12 inches.
- Position the pineberry starts in the holes. Ensure that the crowns are at soil level height.
- Compact the soil around them.
- Water the plants thoroughly.
Timing and harvesting:
The starts are typically set out in spring once the ground has warmed. Still, be mindful to protect them from late spring frosts that sometimes occur. Pineberries planted in spring can take up to a year to start bearing and maybe an extra year to fully mature.
You can consider fall planting if you can ensure adequate protection from winter. Some growers even suggest this tactic to ensure the plants gets a good root system before top growths begin. Use mulch (and plenty of it) to keep the roots of the pineberries nice and warm.
The pant will grow just fine if they receive plenty of watering and feeding. Use a high phosphorous, high potassium fertilizer as a liquid feed about every month, and begin this process from mid-spring. The feed will help promote flowering and fruit bearing.
When pineberry flowers begin to appear, be sure to mulch around the base of the plant to stop the still developing fruit from laying on ground. Once the berries are ripe, pick as you go, as this helps aid production. More than likely given their alpine nature, you’ll have a long season of bountiful harvesting commencing late spring and going into fall.
Ready To Get Your Pineberry Adventure Started?
Grab your Pineberry plants from this breeder on Amazon and get started! Share with your friends too!