Strawberry-bush, hearts-a-burstin', bursting heart
American strawberry bush is a shrub with narrow, opposite leaves, green stems and tiny, inconspicuous flowers that become crimson red fruits that look like strawberries bursting out of their red winter coats. The bush usually gets no more than 4-6 ft and has a loose, sprawling structure with thin, wiry, spreading branches and an open, airy form. Several main upright stems arise in a stoloniferous clump. The twigs are distinctive, four-angled and green. The deciduous leaves are 2-3 in long with fine teeth on the margins. The springtime flowers are very inconspicuous, only about a third of an inch across, with five greenish yellow petals. The fruit is a warty red capsule about 1 in across that looks a little like a strawberry. When ripe, the capsule splits open to reveal four or five orange-red seeds framed by the persistent scarlet husks.
Strawberry bush prefers a well-drained, humus rich soil, slightly on the acid side.
Easily propagate from greenwood cuttings in summer. The seeds germinate after three months of cold treatment. The root clumps also can be divided to make more plants. This is best done in the winter.
American strawberry bush is best used in naturalistic settings, in the shade of larger shrubs and trees. Plant close to the path where the interesting and beautiful fruits can be appreciated! In autumn, the leaves turn shades of orange and red before falling. In the winter, the leafless green twigs and stems are structurally interesting. Strawberry bush will naturalize under ideal conditions, forming loose, open clumps of sprawling green stems. The bush is never considered invasive or even moderately aggressive. Two words of warning; white-tailed deer love this plant and the fruits, though beautiful to look at, are reported to be poisonous if ingested.