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Arbutus unedo
Arbutus unedo

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Zone
Zones 4-24, 26, 28, 31
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Full, Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Arbutus unedo

Strawberry Tree
Ericaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

ARBUTUS

These broad-leafed evergreens have ornamental bark, clusters of little urn-shaped flowers, decorative edible fruit, and handsome foliage that looks good year-round. Slow to moderate growth to 8–35 ft. tall, with equal spread. Normally has basal suckers and stem sprouts. 

Provide good drainage, especially if plant receives regular water. Grow in sun or part shade; needs some shade in the desert. Thin its branches to make an open-crowned tree, or plant several and leave unpruned to make a big screen. 

Arbutus unedo (photo courtesy of Norman A. Plate)
Arbutus unedo (photo courtesy of Norman A. Plate)

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Arbutus unedo

Native to southern Europe and Ireland. Thrives in a wide range of climates and soils, from desert to seashore; tolerates wind at the beach, but is damaged in severe winters. In California, it is one of the best lawn trees. Attracts birds.

Trunk and branches have rich red-brown, shredding bark; they tend to become twisted and gnarled in age. Dark green leaves are oblong. Clusters of small white or greenish white, urn-shaped flowers and yellow (young) or red (mature), round, 3/4-in. fruit, like strawberries in texture, appear at the same time in fall and winter. Fruit is edible but usually mealy and bland in flavor.

Varieties include ‘Elfin King’, a dwarf form (not over 5 ft. tall at 10 years old) that flowers and fruits nearly continuously; ‘Compacta’, seldom exceeding 10 ft. tall; and ‘Oktoberfest’, a 6–8-ft.-tall plant with deep pink flowers. A. u. rubra is like the species, but its flowers are deep pink.

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