Good trees for urban gardens: Strawberry tree reflects the holiday season

The top of a Srawberry tree.

Anyone growing the Strawberry tree (arbutus unedo) has to be struck by the way it reflects the Christmas holiday season. The beautiful red berries stand out against the dark green shiny leaves.

Related to the native Madrona tree (arbutus Menziesii}, it has many great qualities. It is evergreen, easy to grow and quite beautiful. It will grow in many different locations and likes the sun. It has few, if any, disease problems in the Northwest.

Strawberry tree with compact Strawberry tree in background

Depending on its location, it can grow to 35 feet but can be easily trimmed to stay smaller. The ‘Compacta’ form does not grow as tall or wide.  There are also forms that grow well in a pot. This is a versatile tree, which suits smaller gardens.

It is a tough tree and has been known to regenerate when put in a difficult situation such as a rocky slope.  Under those conditions, it is more likely to stay around 10 feet.
This is a tree (sometimes a bush) that will add beauty to any garden.

— By Barbara Chase

Barbara Chase is a Master Gardener who serves on the City of Edmonds Citizens Tree Board.


  1. Squirrels eat the berries on mine. They’re poisonous to humans, but not to wildlife. Squirrels also mistake Christmas lights for this fruit. Many humans think it’s vandals responsible for clean cut wires and missing bulbs, but nope, squirrels!

  2. Although the strawberry tree is commonly used for ornamental reasons, the red berry fruit yielded by these evergreens is edible and similar to large cherries, except for the rough textured exterior skin.
    I have read that the berries are bland in taste and not recommended for eating.

    So leaving the berries to squirrels seems like a good idea.

  3. A real beauty ! So it doesn’t do too well in shady areas?

    What’s the name of plant with bright purple berries that’s in full bloom right now ?

    Thanks Barbara for sharing !

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