White Mulberry Trees: Full Care Guide for Abundant Berries

The white mulberry tree is capable of thriving in dry conditions, low light, and different types of soil. Additionally, it adds a touch of beauty and sophistication to any outdoor area.

On paper, it sounds like the perfect fruit tree, but it isn’t without its problems.

White mulberry trees attract various wildlife species, provide a generous crop of edible fruit, and prosper in many conditions. However, the berries have a reputation for staining sidewalks, and the trees are considered invasive and have aggressive root systems that can damage structures.

Though considered a nuisance by some, avoiding fertilizer use and monitoring sprouting seedlings nearby can help to keep unwanted growth under control.

To learn more about this tree — from its care and maintenance to benefits and drawbacks — keep reading our guide to growing the white mulberry tree.

Uncover a world of diverse mulberry varieties and cultivars! Dive into my article on the Best Mulberry Tree Varieties to explore their unique traits today.

White Mulberry Trees

Also known as “silkworm mulberry,” the white mulberry tree is native to China and was cultivated over 4,000 years ago as a food source of silkworms.

The white mulberry has since naturalized and spread rapidly throughout the United States and can be found growing wild on roadsides and in many urban areas. Let’s look at some quick stats about the white mulberry tree…

Botanical nameMorus alba
Mature height20-60 feet
Mature width20-40 feet
Growth rateFast
Light preferencesFull sun to partial shade
Ideal soilWell-draining, loamy medium rich in organic matter
Watering needsDeep weekly watering for first 2 years, supplementary watering during drought afterward
FertilizationNone unless soil lacks macronutrients
Years to bear fruit3-6 years
FlowersPendulous yellow-green spikes (catkins)
Fruit 1-inch blackberry-like clusters, white to pinkish (can be red to dark purple), sharply sweet to honey-like taste depending on variety
Harvest timeJune-August, depending on variety
Fall foliageOrangey-yellow to golden

Appearance

The white mulberry is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree with an upright open canopy, though some varieties can have a weeping habit.

Tree Shape

The canopy has a uniformly rounded crown that is almost equal in spread to its height, and the trunk has a slender, upright form.

White mulberries can have a classic tree silhouette or resemble a large bush depending on the specific variety.

Leaves

White mulberry leaves are wide with a rounded or heart-shaped base and can either be unlobed or feature an odd number of lobes.

The surfaces are glossy and a rich dark green with serrated edges and hairy dull green undersides.

Bark

The bark of white mulberry is a dull grayish-brown on mature trees with furrowed ridges that highlight orangey-brown tones of inner bark.

The root bark of white mulberry is still used in herbal Chinese medicine today in the treatment of swelling and respiratory disorders.

Seasonal Beauty

The foliage appears relatively late once the warmer May weather arrives, covering the branches in glossy dark-green leaves that last into winter before taking on beautiful yellow tones.

Flowers appear earlier alongside the leaves in clusters of long pale green spikes that soon ripen into elongated raspberry-like fruits.

These fruits put on a real color show throughout the season. They start green before changing to white, lavender-pink, and deep purple to red in some white mulberry varieties!

Once the tree is bare of its leaves and fruit, the highly texturized fissure-covered orangey-brown bark can be appreciated, as can the overall tree structure in its upright or weeping shape.

White weeping mulberry (Morus alba ‘Pendula’) branches will spread out before weeping down to ground level over the years, creating a changing silhouette throughout the winters.

Growth Rate & Mature Size

White mulberry trees have a fairly fast growth rate and can reach a mature height of 30-60 feet tall with a 20-40 feet spread.

Flowers

The pendulous yellowish-green flower spikes usually appear in May and bloom until June but can bloom from March to April in warmer regions.

White mulberry blooms have no fragrance, but the leaves can have a subtly spicy scent when crushed.

The flowers and leaves of white mulberry.

White Mulberry Fruit

The fruits, which resemble raspberries or blackberries, are roughly an inch long and normally ripen from white to lavender-pink but can mature to dark purple or red depending on the specific white mulberry variety.

White mulberry fruit has a slightly sharper tart taste compared with red and black mulberries, but the berries may have a peachy or honey-like flavor or a taste of honeydew melon depending on the cultivar.

Their sharp, juicy taste makes them excellent for use in jellies and preserves as well as pies, waffles, cobblers, and even sauces.

Fall Foliage

In fall, the dark-green leaves take on glossy orange-yellow and golden tones, which look stunning on the broad and irregularly lobed foliage.

Life Expectancy

Some wild specimens have been known to live beyond 250 years, and with good care, your domestic white mulberry tree can thrive for over 50 years!

Invasiveness

The original white mulberry tree is, in fact, considered a weedy and invasive species as it is known to re-sprout and disrupt old fields, fence rows, roadsides, and forest edges.

It has also been marked as an ecological threat due to its hybridization with the native red mulberry species (Morus rubra) and the possible transmission of a root disease to the same tree.

To prevent destruction to foundations and established landscapes, urban growers are often advised to consider planting alternatives to the white mulberry (red mulberry, maples, and sassafras are good choices), or control invasive growth by cutting down and painting stumps with herbicide.

White Mulberry Tree Growing Conditions

Make no mistake — this is a fast-growing and capable tree able to tolerate many conditions, but it won’t fare well at all in the wrong conditions.

Keep reading to see what your white mulberry needs in terms of sun, soil, and ideal climate.

Grow Zones and Hardiness

White mulberry trees grow best in USDA Zones 4 to 9, and despite the weak wood, they hold up relatively well to drought and winds and are regarded as the most cold-tolerant mulberry species.

As a growing sapling, your young white mulberry will benefit from wind and frost protection though, particularly in regions where heavy snow and ice can build up on the weak branches, so consider some protective measures ahead of time.

Sun Requirements

White mulberry prefers a full-sun location (6 hours of direct sunlight daily) and will produce the largest and most flavorful fruit yield in these conditions. However, it can adapt to partial shade.

Soil Preferences

Though this tree isn’t overly fussy about soil types (it can even grow in empty lots filled with construction debris!), it will thrive in fertile loamy soil that drains well and has a neutral to alkaline pH.

Consider having your soil tested before planting. This can usually be done at no cost or for a small fee through your local county extension office.

White mulberry trees cannot survive in consistently waterlogged soil, so be sure to amend and aerate compacted soil mediums with compost and other organic matter to produce the best quality fruit.

White Mulberry Tree Maintenance and Care

Now that you have the basics covered, let’s look at how to help your white mulberry tree thrive from watering requirements to pruning methods and good harvesting practices.

Watering

To keep your tree in good shape and prevent stress, thorough weekly watering for its first two growing seasons is best, providing roughly 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter.

Once it has established its root system, your white mulberry can cope fine with rainfall, but you can provide supplementary water in fast-draining soil or extended drought periods.

Check to see if the top few inches of soil feel dry as a guide.

Fertilization

Because this tree grows at a vigorous rate at best (and an invasive rate at worst), it’s best not to use fertilizer. In fact, feeding the white mulberry risks weakening the wood further, making it more susceptible to weather damage.

The only instance to use fertilizer is if your tree is lacking certain macronutrients, so use a nutrient analysis kit to see what your soil may need.

Pruning

Mulberry trees can be prone to bleeding sap when pruned too early, so when it’s dormant during the winter, prune out any broken, diseased, or crossing/rubbing branches to increase sunlight exposure and airflow to the canopy.

In addition to yearly pruning to maintain the tree’s shape and health, it’s important to look for and remove any nuisance seedlings or saplings that may have sprouted nearby.

You can remove small suckers by hand, but larger sproutings may require chemical control or girdling.

Harvesting

White mulberry fruit is normally ripe for picking between June and August depending on the specific variety, and most ripe mulberries will fall readily to the ground.

White mulberry also tends to bear its entire supply of fruit all at once, creating a mess and encouraging volunteer weeds to sprout nearby, so be quick to pick them!

You should be looking for either pinkish-white or dark purple berries that are plump and sweet (not bland and watery).

As they can easily stain every surface they touch, it’s best to collect them in a wide shallow container so the weight of the fruits on top doesn’t squish the others.

A man's hand holding fresh white mulberries.

Pests & Diseases 

White mulberry trees are mostly free of pest problems, but they may be targeted by whiteflies and borers from time to time, especially in warmer climates.

Insects are mostly attracted to the sweet, juicy mess left beneath the tree after berry ripening, so it’s important to keep the base and vicinity free of fallen fruit and debris.

Compared to other mulberry species, white mulberry trees are most susceptible to “popcorn disease,” a fungal disease causing the fruit to swell and resemble yellowish popcorn.

If this occurs, prune any infected fruits, and place these and fallen diseased fruit into the trash to prevent the fungus from overwintering into the next year.

A fungicide can also be applied if you wish.

Landscape Uses & Wildlife Value

The white mulberry is often grown as a specimen tree. They are also a popular choice for container growing or training up against a sunny wall.

Due to the mess from berry staining, however, some opt to grow the male trees, which are fruitless, for a no-fuss ornamental shade tree.

Speaking of those juicy berries, these will lure plenty of bird species to your lawn along with squirrels, raccoons, and possums!

Companion Plants

To improve soil quality and invite extra pollinators to your white mulberry tree, it’s well worth considering the addition of certain flowering plants and herbs. Here are some of the best pairings for its Growing Zone range:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Allium (chives, garlic, onion)
  • Thyme
  • Comfrey
  • Yarrow
  • Daisies
  • Poppies
  • Purple coneflower
  • Marigold
  • Dandelion
  • Strawberries

Where To Buy

The original fruiting white mulberry tree is widely available in many online nurseries, but bear in mind that because it is considered an invasive species, retailers may be unable to ship to certain states like California due to agricultural restrictions.

Closing Thoughts

White mulberry trees add multi-season interest to your space with their color-changing berries, foliage, and textured bark.

The blackberry-like fruit is produced in an abundant simultaneous crop that can make things messy, but the main concern with this tree is its invasiveness.

The white mulberry tree is listed as weedy in many areas due to its fast growth and prolific sprouting. This can be managed by removing suckers annually and avoiding fertilizer use.

Overall, this is a fairly low-maintenance tree with stunning ornamental value and a tasty heap of fruit to keep your kitchen and freezer well-stocked!

If you enjoyed learning about the white mulberry tree, you’re sure to enjoy reading about these varieties next: