How To Care For A Mulberry Tree?

There are many different types of mulberry trees available, from standard trees to weeping and dwarf varieties. Some are suitable for fruit-bearing, while others are purely ornamental. Here we will look at how to care for the most common types of mulberry trees found in the United States.

How Do You Take Care Of A Mulberry Tree?

how do you take care of a mulberry tree

Mulberry trees are relatively easy to take care of. By following the tips given here, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty keeping your mulberry tree strong and healthy.

There are various different types of mulberry trees. The red mulberry is the only one native to North America. It grows in the southeast from Ontario to Florida and as far west as Central Texas and South Dakota. 

Other types are the white mulberry from China and South East Asia and the black mulberry from the Middle East. 

Of these three main species, hundreds of different cultivars have been produced. They have similar preferences when it comes to growing conditions and general care.

Soil

Mulberries prefer rich, loamy soil that is well-drained and holds moisture without becoming waterlogged. They will, however, tolerate a variety of other soil types, but sandy soils tend to dry out too quickly, putting stress on the tree and reducing fruit quantity and quality.

Clay soil that becomes waterlogged can rot the tree’s roots as they are easily damaged.

Clay or sandy soils are helped with the addition of compost and plenty of plant matter. Regular mulching is also beneficial.

You can find out about the type of soil you typically have in your state here.

If you live in an area with low rainfall and the soil is quite dry, you will need to provide additional water, preferably using an irrigation system to maintain the health of the tree.

Mulberry trees generally prefer slightly acidic soil of around 6 to 6.5, but the black mulberry will be happy in soil that is 5.5, while the red mulberry will tolerate a soil pH as high as 8.5.

Fruiting

Water is of key importance to mulberry fruits. The tree requires sufficient water not only to produce big, juicy mulberries but also to allow the tree to get enough nourishment to hold onto the heavy fruits until they are fully ripe. 

Insufficient water can result in fruit drop as moisture-starved stems cannot support the heavy fruit.

Mulberry fruit develops on new growth or from the nodes of year-old wood, so you must be careful when pruning not to be too severe. 

Feeding

You don’t need to feed your mulberry tree with fertilizer more than once or twice per year unless you have very poor soil. 

A once a year application of 10-10-10 (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) fertilizer applied after pruning in late winter is good. If you want to encourage good blossom growth, feed your tree a high phosphorus food in early spring. 

Fertilizer should be applied at a rate of approximately one lb. for every inch diameter of the trunk. 

It can be wise to test your soil and see where it may be deficient, as soils already high in a particular element won’t need more. 

Adding mulch and compost is another good way of not only holding in moisture for the roots during summer but also feeding the tree more naturally.

If the leaves of your mulberry are turning brown and you can’t see any other signs of disease, then it may need an application of nitrogen. 

Pruning

The type of mulberry tree you have, and its use, will dictate the amount of pruning you need to do.

If you’re growing mulberry trees for fruit, then you’ll need to prune them into an open shape so fruits can access sunlight, and you the fruits when they are young.

Ornamental mulberry trees such as weeping varieties or pollarded ones will require fairy substantial pruning each winter to keep them in shape. Other types of mulberry really need very little pruning other than to remove dead or diseased branches or tidy them up.

Pruning of mulberry trees should be avoided while the tree is actively growing. In spring and summer, the tree is prone to bleeding sap when cut. The ideal time to prune is during winter, when the tree is dormant.

Heat

Most mulberry trees are relatively cold tolerant and handle temperatures dropping to -25°F in winter. In the summertime, they prefer the temperature to be between 68°F and 86°F. However, they can stand more heat for short periods, providing they are kept well watered.

Pests And Diseases

The most common diseases found in mulberry trees are cankers, dieback, and bacterial leaf spot. White and red mulberries may also be affected by popcorn disease, where the fruits swell up in a popcorn fashion. 

The best way of treating these diseases is by the removal of affected foliage, fruits, and branches. These should be burned to prevent further spread. Leaves should also be raked up and burned in the fall. 

How Much Water Does A Mulberry Tree Need?

how much water does a mulberry tree need

Large mulberry trees require a substantial quantity of water. Whether you’ll need to provide water for your tree depends on the climate, weather conditions, and soil type. 

Remember that mulberries like damp, well-drained soil. They don’t like their roots to get too dry or soggy. 

To achieve this balance, water your tree deeply every few days during dry spells. Young trees require regular watering too, until they’ve had time to develop a robust root system. 

Water young trees with two to three gallons a week for the first year as a rough guide. More when it’s dry, less when wet.

During long dry spells, it’s better to use an irrigation system for your mature mulberry tree to prevent fruit drop. 

To water mature trees effectively, lay a drip line in a spiral pattern, from the trunk, right out as far as the edge of the tree’s canopy.

Deep watering every few days is better than shallow daily watering because deep watering helps encourage roots to dive down deep, while shallow watering is more likely to encourage root growth on the surface.

By watering the tree well as it grows and develops, you’ll ensure it becomes strong and healthy with a deep root system that can keep the tree in place during strong winds and hydrated during droughts. 

It’s important to keep the leaves as dry as possible because wet leaves encourage fungal and bacterial infections to take hold. For this reason, ensure your water system only wets the soil and not the leaves.

By keeping the area around the base of your tree free from other vegetation, you can help prevent competition for water. Mulching helps hold moisture in.

How Much Space Does A Mulberry Tree Need?

Different cultivars of mulberry grow to varying heights.

White mulberry is fast-growing and will reach between 30 and 50 feet in height. Red mulberry is also quite fast-growing and is capable of reaching 70 feet when mature. Black mulberry is the slowest growing and may grow to around 45 feet. 

There are much smaller dwarf and weeping varieties, too, although some people use heavy pruning or pollarding to reduce the height and spread of the tree.

Standard size mulberry trees should be given a minimum of 15 feet of room around their base; 25 to 30 feet is preferable for a red mulberry. Black mulberry has a more sprawling habit and can grow even wider than they do tall. 

Be careful to avoid planting trees too close to buildings or where there are pipes and utility lines as the roots are fast-growing, and this can cause havoc. 

In this video, you can see the difference between a dwarf and a standard mulberry tree:

Does A Mulberry Tree Need A Pollinator?

Different mulberry tree varieties have different requirements when it comes to flower pollination. Some are dioecious and can be either female and male trees but not both, while others are monoecious, which means they have both male and female flowers on the same tree.

Mulberry trees that are single-sex will usually require a tree of the opposite sex to produce fruit. 

Insect pollinators are not necessary for mulberry trees as they are wind-pollinated. They produce prolific amounts of pollen which is easily carried in the breeze. 

Some mulberry trees don’t require pollination at all!

Does A Mulberry Tree Need A Full Sun?

On average, a mulberry tree requires a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive during the summer. 

They do best in a full sun position but will also tolerate partial shade. If you want lots of lovely ripe fruit, then you need plenty of sun. 

If you’re planting a standard-type mulberry tree, then it will grow very tall, so you shouldn’t need to worry too much about its position as it will likely become one of the tallest specimens you have. 

Conclusion

Providing you ensure your mulberry tree has good soil, is protected from too much wind, and you have selected the right variety for your location, then they are quite easy to look after.

Most standard trees need little by way of pruning once you have established their general shape when young.

To thrive, mulberry trees require:

  • Rich, moist, well-drained soil
  • Sufficient water, especially when young
  • Fertilizer once per year in winter
  • Light pruning to remove dead, diseased wood and reshape the tree in winter

We have more articles on mulberry trees and other fruit trees available on our website. Check out our guide on how to make mulberry jam, and here is a guide to mulberry wine.

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