Arbutus: planting cultivation maintenance and fruiting

The common Arbutus (I unite the trees) is a shrub that belongs to the family of Ericaceae. In adulthood, depending on the local climate, it reaches between 5 and 10 meters in height et 4 meter wingspan. This tree with decorative cracked bark in reddish brown tones and evergreen is covered in autumn with small clusters of white flowers in the shape of bells. Its fruits, edible, with a slightly acidulous flavor, are harvested in the middle of winter. They are called the arbouses. They are small round fruits that turn red when ripe. It is for this reason that the Arbutus tree is nicknamed strawberry tree. Let’s see how to plant and properly maintain your Arbutus tree to take advantage of its interesting fruits for their vitamin C content.

Plant a Common Arbutus

Arbutus is appreciated as an ornamental tree but also for its fruits. It is planted in the ground if the winter temperatures are relatively mild, although it tolerates temperatures of -12°C for short periods and provided that the soil is perfectly drained. The ideal time to plant this tree is spring but it remains possible during the autumn in the South and on the Atlantic coast, except of course if it freezes.

Pour plant an Arbutus in the groundthe method is as follows.

  • Start by choosing its location taking into account its requirements because it is not desirable to transplant an Arbutus because its rooting is relatively long.
  • Remove the root ball from the container.
  • Gently loosen the root bun.
  • Soak the root ball in a container full of water.
  • Dig a hole three times larger than the root ball.
  • Work the extracted soil to loosen it well, and if it tends to retain too much water, it is useful to add either pebbles or gravel.
  • Enrich the soil with planting soil.
  • Install the young Arbutus in the center of the planting hole, ensuring that the upper part of the root ball is flush with the level of the ground.
  • Fill in with the rest of the soil.
  • Water generously even in rainy weather.

It is possible to create a arbutus hedge. In this case, the gardener should space the shrubs 75-90 cm apart. It is also necessary to respect a distance of 80 cm between the arbutus and the surrounding wall.

If you live in a region marked by severe cold, it is preferable to plant Arbutus in a pot. Compact varieties are well suited to this mode of cultivation. Here’s how.

  • Prepare the root ball as explained above.
  • Choose a large tank, imperatively fully drilled50 cm deep and at least 40 cm on each side.
  • Place a drainage layer 10 to 15 cm thick at the bottom of the tank, such as gravel or clay balls.
  • Cover with soil for Mediterranean plants to which you can add a little special planting soil.
  • Position the shrub in the center of the container.
  • Fill in with the rest of the compost so as to moderately cover the root ball.

Water as soon as you plant and take care to eliminate the water from the saucer.

Growing an Arbutus

The Arbutus is not very resistant to extreme cold and does not support the icy wind. It can therefore be grown in pots in regions with harsh winters and very exposed places, which allows it to overwinter, while planting it in the ground is quite possible in regions with a mild climate.

He likes them sunny exposures, without drafts, and warm enough. However, in the most southern regions, it is wiser to install it in partial shade so that it does not suffer from the oppressive heat in summer. He particularly likes the well-drained soilsslightly calcareous, sandy and light. Adding heather soil is necessary if the soil is too calcareous.

Caring for the Arbutus

No need to have extensive gardening experience to grow an Arbutus. It is an undemanding tree.


During the two years following planting, a weekly watering is sufficient for the Arbutus in a pot. If grown in the ground, it only needs watering every 15 days between June and September, if the rains are rare.

Once it is perfectly rooted, watering is no longer really necessary for the Arbutus in the ground. As for the plants in containers, it is useful to water them in summer, but just once a week throughout the summer period.


Only potted arbutus should benefit in March or April a supply of fertilizer either for Mediterranean plants or for flowering shrubs.


Environ every three years, in the spring, the Arbutus grown in a container is repotted in order to completely replace the devitalized substrate with very fertile soil. When the tree becomes difficult to handle, a simple surfacing once a year is enough.


Non indispensable for this slow-growing tree which naturally retains a pretty habit, the pruning of the Arbutus can possibly be carried out at the beginning of spring to eliminate dead wood, remove a few troublesome twigs or shorten branches which are considered a little too long .

Protect the Arbutus tree in a container

Overwintering the Arbutus grown in pots is strongly recommended in regions with harsh winters. Down to -3°C you can simply install a wintering veil all around the pot. From -4°Cthe Arbutus must be placed in a local hors gel but not heated, dry, airy and bright.


Install a mulch of dead leaves or bark at the foot of the Arbutus tree grown in the ground protects its roots against severe frosts, at least during the four or five years following its planting.

Pests and diseases

Arbutus is rarely the target of parasites and he is less susceptible to diseases when grown in good conditions. Poorly drained soil, too frequent watering promote fungal diseases such as septoria. In the event of attack, it is advisable to remove the leaves which present spots and to burn them. In autumn and then in spring, septoria can be prevented by carrying out one or two sprays of Bordeaux mixture.

Fruiting Arbutus

Arbutus flowers bloom between September and January to give rise to arbutus. These fruits mature during the following winter. Thus, during the off-season, the Arbutus is both covered with flowers and fruits, which is spectacular.

The arbutus harvest takes place between December and January, when the fruits are perfectly ripe. If their consistency is quite soft and their orange-red color, it means that it is time to pick them. To store arbutus after harvest, it is necessary to place them in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, but no longer than 4-5 days.

Finally, note that Arbutus should not be confused with Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), a shrub of the family of Elaeagnaceae whose fruits are also edible. Confusion is also common between these two shrubs and Neem (azadirachta indica) which belongs to the family of Meliaceae.

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