Musk strawberry plants: Musk strawberries, also known as "Hautbois" (pronounced "ho-boy"), have the scientific classification Fragaria moschata. These have been cultivated for many centuries, but are now only grown commercially for a niche market.
These plants are hexaploid, with six sets of chromosomes. In contrast, modern garden strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) are octoploid, with eight sets of chromosomes.
Musk strawberries have a musky flavor that is preferred by some strawberry connoisseurs. This unusual flavor is the main reason some people purchase strawberry plants from this species.
Wood strawberry plants: Wood strawberries (Fragaria vesca) have been cultivated as garden strawberries for many centuries. Nowadays, however, they have been almost entirely displaced by modern garden strawberry plants (Fragaria x ananassa) due to the modern garden strawberry's larger fruit size and greater breeding potential.
Nevertheless, just as with musk strawberries, there are a relatively few gardeners who still purchase strawberry plants from this species, primarily because of the distinct, intense flavor. Even though the fruits are somewhat small, the strength of their flavor also requires a smaller volume of berries when used in cooking.
The greater breeding potential of F. x ananassa compared to F. vesca is largely due to F. vesca being only diploid (having only two sets of chromosomes), while F. x ananassa is octoploid (having eight sets of chromosomes). With a greater number of chromosomes comes a larger genetic diversity to use in breeding.
Alpine strawberries are a subspecies of the wood strawberry (F. vesca ssp. semperflorens) that is "everbearing". This everbearing quality allows alpines to be harvested more than once a year. The additional berries that are obtained help to offset their relatively small size.
Everbearing strawberry plants: Everbearing strawberries are also known as "long day" strawberries, since these plants produce their flowers during longer daylight hours, and in warmer (but not hot) temperatures. As a result, everbearers generally bloom and fruit 2-3 times per year.
Because of their repeated fruiting, everbearing strawberry plants have the advantage of allowing some berries to be harvested even in years when the first crop is lost due to an unexpectedly late frost. Also, everbearers provide fresh strawberries over a longer season.
There are many everbearing strawberry varieties that produce few, if any, runners (are "runnerless"). This can be an advantage (there are no runners to cut or train) or a disadvantage (there won't be any runner plants if there aren't any runners).
A clear disadvantage of everbearing strawberries is that the total amount of fruit harvested each year from a single everbearer will be less than from a single June-bearing ("short day") strawberry plant.
Day neutral strawberry plants: Day neutral strawberries produce flowers and fruit regardless of how long the daylight hours are. Because of this, fruiting and harvesting continues for as long as the weather is mild.
Day neutrals are similar to everbearers in that they provide some fruit even in years with late frosts, and will make fresh strawberries available for a large portion of the year. However, also like everbearers, day neutrals produce a smaller total yield each year than do June-bearers. Runnering in day neutrals is similar to everbearers as well.
Day neutral strawberries differ from everbearing strawberry plants in a couple of ways. First, day neutrals may actually flower and fruit more than 2-3 times per year. Second, day neutrals typically are even less tolerant of hot weather than everbearers.
June-bearing strawberry plants: June-bearing strawberries, also known as "short-day" strawberries, begin making flower buds when day lengths become short (10-12 hours per day), or when temperatures become relatively cool (roughly 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 5-15 degrees Celsius). Without exposure to such conditions, these plants will not bloom or fruit.
These conditions occur naturally in the autumn in temperate latitudes. The plants are ready for harvesting the following year during the middle to late spring ("June" in the northern hemisphere and December in the southern hemisphere).
June-bearing strawberry plants can also be "forced" (to bloom and fruit) by artificially shielding them from light a few hours each day and/or keeping the plants cooled. "Frigo" strawberry plants are plants that have been artificially exposed to these conditions. They can be planted later in the season, thereby "forcing" a later harvest.
June-bearing strawberries have one short harvest period per year, unlike the multiple harvests of day neutrals and everbearers. This leaves June-bearers at risk of major crop losses due to late frosts.
However, June-bearing strawberry plants typically produce larger individual fruits, and have larger yields per plant than everbearers or day neutrals. As a result, June-bearers provide more strawberries in their 4 to 6 week season than do other strawberry types in 4 to 6 months.
Whatever plants you choose, be sure to get plants that are "certified" disease-free. Certification standards are set by the government to insure that certified plants are not infected with various diseases.
Not only would those diseases harm the plants themselves, but much more importantly, the diseases would infect the soil where the plants grow, thereby almost certainly infecting any plantings in that soil for many years. This is one point that really should not be ignored anytime you purchase strawberry plants.
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