This summer, I am loving the mulberry trees in the back yard! The ripe fruit is sweet, juicy, and lightly tart, making it an irresistible summer afternoon snack, and the lush trees turn my back yard into a summertime rainforest. The birds and squirrels seem to like them, too, and as I look out my office window this morning, I can see them swooping, hopping, and feasting from branch to branch.
Mulberry trees are quite drought-tolerant and cold-hardy, and many varieties grow in poor soil. In some areas, they’re even known as “weed trees” because they show up uninvited in neglected areas. Below are some tips for growing mulberry trees, although it must be said that my own trees are tucked into a small, semi-shady back yard, with no supplemental care whatsoever, and they are absolutely dripping with berries.
About Mulberry Trees
- Species: include White Mulberry (Morus alba), Black Mulberry (Morus nigra), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), and hybrids, with numerous named cultivars. The Red Mulberry, also called American Mulberry, is the only species native to North America.
- Hardiness: Hardy to Zones 3-7, depending on the variety. Black Mulberry is the least cold hardy.
- Size: Red and White Mulberries to 70-80 feet. Black Mulberries are smaller and more bushlike, growing to 30 feet.
- Flowers: Green and not very distinctive.
- Fruit: Edible blackberry-shaped fruits in late spring or early summer. Fruits are white, black, dark red, or lavender. Fruit is deliciously sweet and tart and ripens slowly over time, for an extended harvest. Harvest carefully by hand, or spread a sheet on the ground and lightly shake the branches. Fruits are used fresh and in desserts, preserves, and wines, but be prepared to fight the birds and squirrels for them!
Mulberry Tree Growing Tips
- Light: Full sun for best fruiting.
- Location: Mulberry trees are great for attracting a variety of birds and wildlife to your yard, so plant where you can enjoy them. Don’t plant near sidewalks, structures, or parking areas – the berries will stain (as will the droppings of the feasting birds).
- Soil: Well-draining and deep, although these trees are tolerant of many soil types.
- Water: Although fairly drought-tolerant, it will not fruit well if too dry.
- Nutrient needs: Minimal to no fertilization is needed.
- Pruning and care: Prune lightly to keep a tidy shape. Heavy or regular pruning is not needed. Branches tend to bleed if heavily pruned.
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