Updated: May 28, 2020
Strawberry blooms are primarily white, some are pale pink, such as F. 'Pink Panda', but this “product” by Proven Winners® is strikingly deep pink, almost red. It’s difficult for me to think of a plant as a product, but if you are a grower looking for the next fashion in plants, here we are. Fragaria x ananassa Proven Harvest™Berried Treasure™ Red is eye catching for its flower color, lush foliage and ever-bearing, flavorful fruit. Ever-bearing, meaning it should bloom and bear throughout the warm season.
Admittedly, we did not plant ours as soon as we purchased them last season. Set aside, our poor little plants succumbed to a weedy patch, out of sight out of mind. Not until earlier this month did we recover them from the weeds, realizing they were still alive...this is my way of saying they are hardy souls. I have two fabulous handmade modern Italian terracotta pots where I planted strawberries before. Their monolithic form allows for the strawberries to hang over the side, keeping them free of soil and easy to spot when they are ripe. Given the current state of being home more often, I feel I have the time to care for potted plants again.
Problem (first visible early May 2020): Verticillium dahliae, or verticillium wilt
A disappointing result after enjoying less than a handful of fruit. Of the four planted, two began to wilt, starting with the mature leaves working its way to the center of each plant. As shown, the first plant completely succumbed; it was also the first to show signs. The second appears to be recuperating, but sadly, research suggests that the plants and soil should be safely discarded and the pots sanitized.
Verticillium dahliae, while the name correctly identifies it as something affecting dahlias, is a worldwide problem adversely causing harm to many plant species. Without going down the rabbit hole (actually, the soil around the hole might carry this fungal disease...it can be carried on clothing...you've been warned), verticillium wilt lies dormant in waiting for the next root to kiss it like Sleeping Beauty...only this is no beauty to my gardening eyes. One source claimed it can be dormant for seven years! Anyway, once it inhabits a host, it blocks the flow of water and the plant begins to wilt no matter how much water is given.
The California Strawberry Commission confirmed that V. dahliae not only lasts a long time but is a major problem among California growers. Given that the commission addresses farmers with large yields, there recommendation focuses on extensive fumigating and plastic covering, something I am not willing to do much less have access to it. While there are some cultural remedies, as listed by the Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbook, their last one suites me just fine, "Use resistant cultivars."
The question remains, why did these strawberry plants succumb? We had them in their nursery pots for an entire year before planting them out in the terracotta, therefore it is highly unlikely the plants (as a product) where contaminated. The potting soil I used was a new bag, so unless the supplier did a poor job at sterilizing the soil (which happens but unlikely from good sources), we're left with only two options that I can think of: 1) old soil in the pots had V. dahliae, or 2) my gardening trowel had it...highlighting the reason to sterilize pots and tools between projects. I may attempt to salvage the last strawberry that does not seem to be infected. If I do, I will plant it in a separate, sterilized pot and watch its performance. The Italian pots will receive a scrubbing, but I'll need to decide if I should plant more V. dahliae resistant strawberries...or cacti!
Botanical Name: Fragaria x ananassa Proven Harvest™Berried Treasure™ Red
Common Name: Proven Harvest™Berried Treasure™ Red strawberry
Sunset Zones: 4-24
Plant Type: Perennial
Optimal Height and Spread: 16" and spreading by runner
Exposure: Full sun
Form: Mat, ground cover
Primary Feature: Deep pink to red blooms except times of frost followed by rich fruit