Growing Mulberries: A Complete Guide on How to Plant, Grow, & Harvest Mulberries
The marvelous mulberry is a highly underrated plant. It’s easy to grow, with mouthwatering fruit that tastes good in everything from wine to sorbet. If you’re hoping to add a fruit tree to your garden, you should give them a look.
Some people avoid mulberries because they have a reputation for being messy and invasive. That’s not entirely deserved, since it’s all about where you plant and what your goals are. If you’re considering growing mulberries, we’ll show you how to make them work for your space.
The fruit of the mulberry tree looks similar to an elongated blackberry and comes in sweet and tart species. They’re hardy, fast growers and dependable producers. Mulberries have medicinal qualities, and you can use the fruit as a dye. You can also use the wood in fencing and furniture making.
Mulberries are part of the Moraceae family, which includes figs and breadfruits. In North America, we have both native and Asian varieties. The red varieties are native to North America, and the purple and white ones are native to Asia. Industrious settlers brought mulberries over from China in 1621 in the hopes of starting a silk trade in Virginia. The industry never took off, but the trees stuck around.
Read on for our tips on growing mulberries to find the best type of tree for your yard, the best place to plant it and how to care for your mulberry.
Best Mulberry Varieties
Mulberries come in a variety of colors – white, red, black or purple. In general, black mulberries are the most flavorful, while red varieties are hardier and can grow in some shade. White mulberries have a milder, more bitter flavor. Whatever you decide to grow, look for varieties that aren’t invasive, like one of the options below.
This is my favorite variety. The sweet black fruit ripens in July and August. It is hardy down to -25 degrees and will survive in zone 4. I had one blow over in a tornado and still produced fruit the next year while lying flat on the ground.
Oscar is a red/purple variety. It isn’t quite as hardy as the Illinois. It thrives in zone 5-9. Oscar is prolific, and a favorite for jam since it bears early and well.
As the name suggests, this is a sweet white variety that is coveted by chefs. Hopeful cooks will line up at markets to get their hands on them. The fruit is a bit smaller, about the size of a black raspberry. The tree is correspondingly smaller and withstands drought and sandy soils. This variety won’t stain, so you have more options for where you can plant it.
Dwarf Black is a smart choice if you have limited space and fits nicely in an orchard with dwarf trees or in containers. These hardy trees grow 8–10 feet tall. They’re not as sweet as some varieties.
Weeping mulberries are attractive landscaping plants. They may or may not produce fruit. To add the weeping mulberry to your edible landscaping design, make sure to get a female plant.
Beautiful Day is a large tree that won’t become invasive and take over your yard. Grows intensely sweet, white, 1-inch fruits. This variety won’t stain.
How To Plant Mulberries
Growing mulberries isn’t tricky, but there are a few things you need to know to get started.
When to Plant
Mulberries can be planted in the spring or fall.
Where to Plant
Part of the reason mulberries get a bad rap is that people plant them in the wrong place. Some varieties drop berries that stain, and the roots can spread up to 100-feet or more, so don’t put them near your sidewalk, driveway, irrigation or patio. The trees can grow quite large – some white varieties get up to 80-feet tall – so plan ahead.
The branches can be brittle and drop in heavy wind. That’s why it’s smart to plant a mulberry near a livestock enclosure. Chickens, hogs, and goats love to snack on the fallen twigs and berries.
They prefer full sun, but some varieties also thrive in part shade.
Mulberry trees grow in zones 4-9.
Space your trees 20-25 feet apart for regular trees or 10 feet for dwarfs.
Mulberries like moist, well-drained soil and prefer a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Plant as you would any other fruit tree. Dig a large hole at least twice the size of the root ball and provide plenty of compost and peat mixed in with the dirt.
You can plant mulberries in a pot if you are lacking garden space. Purchase a dwarf option and make sure to use a roomy container.