Mulberry Tree Care and Maintenance: Complete Growing Guide

Mulberry trees are well-known for their delectable fruits and stunning foliage. They are commonly cultivated not only for their fruit, but also for their decorative purposes.

Learning how to grow and care for mulberry trees will ensure a healthy tree that can thrive in various conditions.

Mulberry tree care involves selecting the right type of tree, planting it in full sun or partial shade, providing proper watering and fertilization, and pruning the tree as needed. Ensuring ideal growing conditions and addressing any pest or disease problems quickly will lead to a thriving tree.

Continue reading to learn how to grow and care for mulberry trees, including a detailed description of the tree, types, planting instructions, maintenance, and more. 

Key Takeaways

  • Mulberry trees are versatile and can be grown for fruit, shade, or ornamental purposes. Care for mulberry involves proper planting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning.
  • Different types of mulberry trees, including red, black, and white mulberries, offer various characteristics and uses.
  • Propagating mulberry trees can be done through seeds, cuttings, grafting, or air layering, allowing gardeners to multiply their favorite varieties.
  • Regular maintenance, including proper pruning, disease and pest control, and cleanup of fallen fruit, ensures the health and appearance of the mulberry tree.

With so much to learn about caring for mulberry trees, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but there’s no need! I outline all you need to know in one complete guide – Mulberry Trees 101. You don’t want to miss it!

Mulberry Tree Description

The mulberry tree is a deciduous common landscape tree known for its delicious fruit and dark-green leaves (though some varieties can have light green foliage).

The mulberry tree has rough leaves that may vary in shape. Some cultivars can grow up to 40 feet tall; others are more suited as small trees or shrubs.

The fruit varies in color, ranging from white to deep purple, and has a sweet and tangy flavor. The trees are somewhat hardy and can be grown in various climates.

Quick Facts About Mulberry Trees

  • Native to North America and China
  • Grow up to 30-40 feet tall
  • Mulberry fruit can be white, red, or black
  • Often used as shade trees
  • Can be used to feed silkworms
  • Hardy in different growing conditions

Types of Mulberry Trees

Mulberry trees are available in various types, and each type has unique characteristics and qualities. Below, you’ll find a detailed description of the most common types of mulberry trees:

Red Mulberry Tree (Morus rubra)

A red mulberry tree branch with developing fruit in various stages of ripening.

The red mulberry tree is native to North America and known for its large, dark-red-to-black fruit. This type of mulberry tree can grow up to 70 feet tall and prefers rich, moist soil.

Its fruit is sweet and juicy, making it a popular choice for eating fresh or using in jams and jellies.

Black Mulberry Tree (Morus nigra)

Fruits growing on a black mulberry tree.

The black mulberry tree is native to western Asia and is known for its sweet, black fruit. It tends to be a smaller tree, often reaching only 30 feet in height.

Black mulberries are considered one of the tastiest varieties, but they are less hardy than the red or white mulberries, and their cultivation may be restricted to specific regions.

White Mulberry Tree (Morus alba)

Several berries on a white mulberry tree.

White mulberry trees are native to China and have been grown for centuries to feed silkworms in the silk industry.

A white mulberry tree, also known as common mulberry, can grow up to 80 feet tall, but there are dwarf varieties available.

The fruit ranges in color from white to pink and is generally sweeter but less flavorful than the red or black varieties.

This tree is considered an invasive species in some areas due to its rapid growth and ability to spread.

Weeping Mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’)

A row of weeping mulberry trees.

A cultivar of the white mulberry tree, the weeping mulberry has long, drooping branches and a distinctive growth habit.

Often used as an ornamental tree, it produces sweet, light-colored fruit and can be a striking focal point in the landscape.

Fruitless Mulberry (Morus alba ‘Fruitless’)

For those who want the shade and beauty of a mulberry tree without the mess of fallen fruit, fruitless varieties are available.

They are often used as shade or street trees and provide the same attractive foliage without the berries.

Monoecious vs. Dioecious

Some mulberry trees are monoecious, meaning they have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Others are dioecious, with separate male and female trees.

Female trees produce the berries, so it’s essential to choose the right type if you want fruit production.

Choosing a Mulberry Tree

When selecting a mulberry tree, consider factors like fruit color, tree size, and whether you want a fruiting or fruitless cultivar.

The red mulberry tree is native to North America while the white mulberry tree is native to China. The black mulberry is known for its rich, black fruit.

Different species and cultivars have different Hardiness Zones, soil preferences, and growth habits, so it’s essential to choose a tree that will thrive in your specific location and meet your needs and preferences.

Grow Mulberry Trees: Mulberry Landscaping Ideas

Mulberry trees offer more than just delicious fruit; their attractive appearance and versatility make them valuable additions to various landscaping and garden designs.

Whether you want to create a focal point, provide shade, or add unique textures, mulberry trees can play different roles in enhancing your outdoor space.

Focal Point

The weeping mulberry’s graceful, drooping branches make it an excellent focal point in a garden, drawing attention and adding elegance.

The distinct silhouette of a weeping mulberry can create visual interest, especially when paired with contrasting plants.

Shade Trees

Many mulberry tree varieties grow large and dense, providing ample shade for outdoor areas.

Planting a mulberry tree near a patio, bench, or other relaxation spots can create a comfortable and shaded oasis, perfect for enjoying on hot summer days.

Ornamental Use

The fruitless mulberry varieties are especially useful for ornamental purposes as they offer the tree’s beauty without the potential mess from dropped fruit.

Their dark-green leaves with serrated edges create a lush canopy, enhancing the aesthetics of your landscape.

Mixed Borders and Hedging

With careful pruning and shaping, mulberry trees can be grown as hedges or used to define borders.

The red mulberry tree, with its attractive dark-green foliage, can create a dense and appealing hedge that offers privacy and a natural barrier.

Wildlife Attraction

Mulberry trees produce berries that are attractive to various birds and wildlife. Planting a mulberry tree can create a hub of activity, drawing birds and creating a more dynamic and lively garden environment.

Culinary Garden

For those interested in edible landscaping, mulberry trees are a must-have. Planting a black mulberry tree can provide a bountiful harvest of sweet, black fruit that can be used in cooking and baking or eaten fresh.

Complementary Planting

Mulberry trees can be paired with other fruit trees, flowering trees, and perennial plants to create layered and complementary garden designs.

Mixing mulberries with other fruit-bearing plants like apple, cherry, or blackberry can create an attractive and productive edible garden.

Planting Mulberry Trees – How-To Guide

Planting a mulberry tree is an exciting endeavor that can bring years of fruitful rewards.

Careful planning and proper planting techniques are vital for ensuring a healthy and thriving tree. Here’s a detailed guide:

Site Selection

Before planting your mulberry tree, it’s essential to choose an appropriate site that fulfills the tree’s specific requirements:

  • Sun Requirements: Mulberry trees thrive in full sun, needing at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Planting in a location with adequate sunlight will enhance fruit production and overall health.
  • Soil Preferences: Mulberry trees prefer well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. A soil pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal. Although mulberry trees are somewhat adaptable to various soil types, including clay and sandy soil, proper preparation can ensure optimal growth.
  • Climate: Be sure your chosen variety is known to thrive in your area. Most varieties are quite hardy and can tolerate temperatures as low as -25℉, but you should consider an area that provides protection from harsh extremes and damaging winds.

Step-by-Step Planting Instructions

  1. Conduct a soil test to determine pH and nutrient levels, adjusting with lime or sulfur as needed to reach the desired pH.
  2. Dig a hole twice the width and the same depth as the root system. If planting a young mulberry tree, be mindful of the eventual size as mature trees can spread widely.
  3. Mix in compost or well-rotted manure with the removed soil to enhance fertility and drainage.
  4. Gently place the tree in the hole, ensuring that the base of the trunk is level with the ground surface. If planting a grafted tree, ensure that the graft union is above soil level.
  5. Backfill the hole with the amended soil, gently firming down to remove air pockets without compacting the soil excessively. The root system should be entirely covered but not buried too deep.
  6. Water the newly planted tree generously to settle the soil and establish good contact with the roots.
  7. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree, keeping it a few inches away from the trunk. Mulching helps retain moisture and suppress weeds.
  8. Young trees may require staking to provide stability during their first growing season. Secure with soft ties, and monitor regularly.

Spacing Mulberry Trees

Spacing is crucial when planting mulberry trees as it allows enough room for each tree to grow and flourish.

Small tree varieties might be planted 10-15 feet apart while larger species may require 20-30 feet of spacing. Always consult specific guidelines for the variety you are planting as requirements may vary.

Colorful white, red, and black mulberries growing on a tree.

Mulberry Tree Care

Caring for a mulberry tree is a process that involves proper planting, regular maintenance, and protection against pests and diseases.

Whether you are caring for a young mulberry tree or a mature one, following these guidelines will ensure a healthy and productive tree.

Growing Conditions

Mulberry trees thrive in full sun and well-drained soil. They prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil but are generally adaptable. These trees are fairly drought-tolerant and can thrive in various climates.

Watering

Water young mulberry trees regularly during the first growing season. Once established, they require less watering. In extremely dry conditions, a deep watering every 2-3 weeks is beneficial.

Mulching

Mulch around the base of the tree helps retain moisture and prevents weed growth. Using organic mulch can also enrich the soil as it breaks down.

Fertilizing

Feed your mulberry tree once in late winter with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer or something similar (this one is excellent). Apply 1 pound of fertilizer for every inch of trunk diameter at the base of the tree.

If the tree is growing in rich soil, you might not need to feed your mulberry at all.

How To Get Mulberry Trees To Bloom

Mulberry trees are often prolific bloomers without any outside assistance. If you’re seeing few blooms, know that getting mulberry trees to bloom requires proper care and attention to sunlight, pruning, and soil health.

Providing full sun and adequate nutrients and pruning in late winter can promote flowering and subsequent fruit production.

Mulberry Tree Maintenance

Mulberry trees are large trees that are easy to grow, and these hardy trees require minimal care. Maintaining a mulberry tree simply requires regular attention to its growth, appearance, and overall health. 

From pruning to cleaning up fallen leaves and fruit, maintaining your mulberry tree will enhance its appearance and vitality.

Pruning and Training

Pruning is essential for shaping the tree and removing dead or diseased branches. Prune mulberry trees in late winter when they are dormant.

Training young mulberry trees helps develop a strong structure and can be beneficial for controlling size.

Watching for Problems

Regularly inspect the tree for signs of disease or pest infestations. Early detection and treatment are key to addressing any issues that may arise.

Cleanup of Fruit and Fallen Leaves

Regular cleanup of fallen mulberries and leaves helps prevent disease and keeps the area neat. The berries that drop from the tree can stain surfaces, so prompt removal is essential.

A close look at the red and black berries growing on a mulberry tree.

Common Pests & Diseases

Like many trees, mulberry trees are susceptible to certain pests and diseases that can affect their health and productivity.

Recognizing these common issues and understanding how to manage them is an essential aspect of mulberry tree care.

Pests

  • Whiteflies: These tiny insects can infest mulberry leaves, sucking the sap and leading to a weakened tree. They often leave a sticky residue called honeydew, which may lead to the growth of sooty mold.
  • Scale Insects: These pests attach to the branches and leaves, feeding on plant juices. They can stunt growth and cause leaf discoloration.
  • Aphids: Aphids can cause distorted and yellowed leaves. Like whiteflies, they excrete honeydew, attracting other insects and leading to mold growth.
  • Birds: Though not considered a pest in the traditional sense, birds may flock to mulberry trees to feast on the ripe berries. Bird netting or other deterrents can be used to protect the fruit.

Diseases

  • Canker Disease: Canker disease can cause sunken, dead areas on branches and stems. Infected parts should be pruned away to prevent the disease from spreading.
  • Leaf Spot: Caused by a fungal infection, leaf spot appears as dark spots on the leaves. Good airflow and avoiding wet leaves can minimize this disease.
  • Powdery Mildew: This fungal disease looks like a white powdery substance on leaves and stems. It can be treated with fungicides and by pruning to increase air circulation.
  • Root Rot: If mulberry trees are planted in poorly draining soil, they can suffer from root rot. This condition can be prevented by ensuring the tree is planted in well-draining soil and not overwatered.

Prevention and Treatment

Effective pest and disease management in mulberry trees starts with proper planting, care, and regular monitoring. Here are some general strategies:

  • Planting: Choose disease-resistant cultivars, and ensure proper spacing and planting depth.
  • Pruning: Regular pruning to remove dead or infected branches helps prevent the spread of disease and enhances air circulation.
  • Watering: Watering at the base of the tree rather than overhead minimizes leaf moisture, which can foster fungal growth.
  • Fertilizing: Adequate nutrition helps the tree resist pests and diseases. A balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 can support overall health.
  • Pesticides and Fungicides: Use them as needed, following manufacturer instructions and guidelines for organic care if applicable.

Common Problems With Mulberry Trees

Once established, mulberry trees are nearly self-sufficient, but the tree is still not immune to problems.

In addition to pest and disease problems, some common problems with mulberry trees include poor fruit production, yellowing leaves, or growth issues.

These problems often result from poor soil, inadequate watering, or improper pruning.

Propagating Mulberry Trees

Propagating mulberry trees allows gardeners to multiply their plants and share them with others.

If you have the space to grow multiple mulberry trees, propagation can save you a significant amount of money.

It is possible to grow mulberries through various methods, including growing from seed, cuttings, air layering, and grafting.

Below, you’ll find a brief introduction followed by detailed instructions for each method.

How To Grow Mulberry Trees From Seed

  1. Collect ripe mulberries, and extract the seeds by crushing the fruit and rinsing away the pulp.
  2. Store the seeds in a sealed container with moist sand or peat moss in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.
  3. Sow the stratified seeds in pots filled with commercial potting soil, lightly covering them with soil.
  4. Keep the soil moist, and place the pots in a bright location. Seeds should germinate within 2-4 weeks.
  5. Once the seedlings are several inches tall, transplant them to their permanent location or larger pots until fall.

How To Grow Mulberry Trees From Cuttings

  1. Take a 6-12 inch cutting from a healthy branch during the growing season or late winter.
  2. Remove the lower leaves, leaving 2-4 leaves at the top.
  3. Dip the cut end into rooting hormone (optional but can enhance rooting).
  4. Insert the cutting into a pot filled with a mixture of sand and peat or commercial potting soil.
  5. Keep the soil moist, and place the cutting in a bright location but out of direct sunlight.
  6. The cutting should root within 6-8 weeks. Transplant to the desired location once established.

How To Air Layer Mulberry Trees

  1. Choose a healthy branch, and make an upward cut about one-third through the branch.
  2. Pack moist sphagnum moss around the cut.
  3. Wrap the moss with plastic, securing it with twine or tape.
  4. Allow several months for roots to form within the moss.
  5. Cut the rooted branch below the moss, and plant in potting soil.

Grafting Mulberry Trees

  1. Choose a healthy branch (scion) from the desired mulberry tree and a compatible rootstock.
  2. Cut both the scion and rootstock at matching angles.
  3. Fit the scion onto the rootstock, ensuring that the cut surfaces match well.
  4. Wrap the graft with grafting tape or twine to hold it together.
  5. Allow the graft to heal and grow, keeping it well watered and protected from extreme weather.

Potting and Repotting Mulberry Trees

Growing mulberry trees in pots offers flexibility and several benefits, particularly when space is limited or specific growing conditions are desired.

Certain varieties are more suitable for container growing, and knowing when and how to repot can ensure a thriving mulberry tree.

Here’s a closer look at the aspects of potting and repotting mulberry trees.

Benefits of Growing Mulberries in Pots

  • Space Efficiency: Container growing allows for cultivating mulberries in small gardens, balconies, or patios.
  • Controlled Environment: Potted mulberries can benefit from tailored soil and environmental conditions, making it easier to control factors like pH and moisture.
  • Mobility: Potted trees can be moved to take advantage of sunlight or be brought indoors to protect from harsh weather.
  • Preventing Spread: Container growing may control the spread of a tree’s root system, particularly important for species that may become invasive.

Suitable Varieties for Container Growing

  • Dwarf Mulberries: Certain dwarf varieties are perfect for pots due to their compact growth.
  • Weeping Mulberry: Weeping mulberry trees can be a beautiful and manageable choice for container growing.
  • Black Mulberry Trees: Some black mulberry cultivars adapt well to pot growing, providing delicious fruit in a confined space.
  • Texas and Korean Mulberry: These specific varieties are known for their suitability in containers.

How To Pot Mulberry Trees

  1. Choose a large container with good drainage.
  2. Fill the pot with a mixture of commercial potting soil and organic matter.
  3. Place the young mulberry tree in the pot, ensuring that it is at the same soil level as it was in the nursery pot.
  4. Water well, and use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer according to package directions.

Recognizing When Repotting Is Needed

  • Root Crowding: If the roots are visibly crowded or growing out of the drainage holes, it may be time to repot.
  • Stunted Growth: A lack of growth or reduced vigor could signal the need for more space and fresh soil.
  • Soil Degradation: If the soil has compacted or degraded, repotting with fresh commercial potting soil can rejuvenate the tree.

Steps for Repotting Mulberry Trees

  1. Select a new container that is several inches larger in diameter.
  2. Gently remove the tree from its current pot, carefully untangling any crowded roots.
  3. Fill with fresh potting soil, leaving space for the root system.
  4. Place the tree in the new pot and fill in with soil, watering well after planting.

Harvesting and Storing Mulberry Fruit

Harvesting and storing mulberries properly ensures that you can enjoy the delicious fruit at its best.

Here’s a concise guide on how to determine the ripeness of mulberries, the techniques for harvesting, and the best ways to store these berries.

Determining Ripeness

  • Color Change: Ripeness in mulberries is often indicated by a change in color. Black mulberries will turn a deep, dark shade; red mulberries will have a bright red hue; and white mulberries will become a pale golden color.
  • Softness: Gently squeezing the berry can indicate ripeness. If it feels soft to the touch, it’s likely ready to pick.
  • Ease of Picking: Ripe mulberries will come off the tree easily. If you have to tug hard, they might need more time.

Harvesting Techniques

Gently grasp the berry and twist it off. Be cautious as mulberries can stain hands and clothing.

Alternatively, you can place a clean sheet or tarp under the tree and shake branches lightly. Ripe berries will fall off.

Special Note: Wear protective clothing. Since mulberries can stain, wearing gloves, clothes, and shoes that can be stained without concern is advisable.

Storing Mulberries

Store freshly picked mulberries in the refrigerator in a breathable container. They will usually keep for up to 3-4 days.

For longer storage, mulberries can be frozen. Place them in a single layer on a tray to freeze initially, and then transfer to airtight bags. They can be kept frozen for up to one year.

Drying mulberries is another storage option, resulting in a sweet and chewy snack that can be kept at room temperature in a sealed container.

A glass bowl of fresh mulberries being poured onto a wooden table.

Mulberry Uses and Serving Suggestions

Mulberries are not only delicious but versatile in culinary applications. Whether fresh or processed, they can add unique flavors and colors to various dishes.

Below are the ways to use mulberries and some serving suggestions to enjoy this delightful berry.

Fresh Mulberries

  • Eating Raw: Fresh mulberries can be enjoyed right off the tree or washed and added to fruit salads.
  • Smoothies and Juices: Add them to smoothies or juices for a vibrant color and distinct flavor.
  • Toppings: Fresh mulberries are great as toppings on yogurt, ice cream, or cereal.

Cooked and Processed Mulberries

  • Jams and Jellies: Mulberries can be cooked down with sugar to make homemade jams and jellies.
  • Baking: Incorporate them into muffins, pies, or other baked goods for a fruity twist.
  • Sauces and Syrups: Mulberries can be made into sauces or syrups to drizzle over pancakes, waffles, or savory dishes.
  • Wine: Mulberry wine will have the same sweet notes as the fresh berries with a hint of tartness.

Dried Mulberries

  • Snacking: Dried mulberries make a tasty, nutritious snack on their own or mixed with nuts and other dried fruits.
  • Cooking: Rehydrate dried mulberries and use in recipes where fresh ones are called for.

Health Drinks and Teas

  • Teas: The leaves of the mulberry tree can be dried and used to brew herbal teas with various health benefits.
  • Health Tonics: Mulberries can be incorporated into health drinks for a nutritious boost.

Serving Suggestions

  • Salads: Mix fresh mulberries with arugula, feta, and a balsamic glaze for a gourmet salad.
  • Desserts: Create a mulberry compote to serve with cheesecake or panna cotta.
  • Cocktails: Use mulberry juice or syrup as a base for refreshing cocktails or mocktails.
  • Savory Dishes: Incorporate mulberry sauces into meat dishes like duck or pork for a sweet and tangy flavor.

Related Questions:

Are Mulberry Trees Self-Pollinating?

Most mulberry trees are self-pollinating, meaning they do not require another tree for fertilization.

As long as it is not a male tree, a single mulberry tree can thrive and produce heavily without another pollinator nearby.

Are Mulberry Trees Deciduous?

Yes, mulberry trees are deciduous, shedding their leaves in the fall and going dormant in the winter.

Conclusion

Mulberry trees are a delightful addition to any garden or landscape, providing shade, beauty, and delicious fruit.

By understanding how to care for mulberry trees and taking proper steps for planting, maintenance, and protection against pests and diseases, you can enjoy a thriving and productive tree.

Whether you prefer the native red mulberry, the sweet black varieties, or the exotic white mulberry tree, this growing guide offers comprehensive insights to help your tree flourish.