Grow Your Own Gorgeous Mulberry Trees

All of my childhood summers were marked by lazy days in the mulberry trees, grabbing fistfuls of the tiny, dark fruits for hours of casual snacking.

A close up of ripe purple and red mulberries hanging from the branches of a the tree.

Today, I am delighted to find my current acreage is dotted with the trees. They provide shade in the summer and habitat for a variety of birds, bees, and butterflies.

Four Species, Three Homelands

Part of the moraceae family which also includes figs, four types of mulberry trees are dominant in the United States.

The red mulberry (Morus rubra) is native to this country, and its deep red, almost black fruit was a favorite of indigenous populations, who ate the fruit dried, in sauces, and in dumplings.

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Gardening Solutions, the Timucua people used the tree’s fruit, leaves, and twigs to make dyes, and Seminoles made hunting bows from the tree’s branches.

Many native peoples also used the plant medicinally. We’ll get to more of that in a bit.

Mulberry trees require very little care and make a terrific addition to many landscapes | GardenersPath.com

The white mulberry (M. alba) is native to China, where for thousands of years it was cultivated as the food of choice for silkworms.

As the art of silk-making spread to Japan, India, and Europe, travelers from the latter continent brought the tree to North America in hopes of spawning a silk industry here.

While that industry never quite took hold here, the white mulberry did, spreading rapidly throughout the eastern United States and beyond.

The white variety gets its name from the color of its flowers. Its fruit can be pink, purple, black, or white.

Get expert advice about growing fistfuls of delicious mulberry fruit in your own garden: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-mulberry/

Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is another Asian import that is considered invasive in much of the United States because of its prolific ability to spread. Its name comes from its use as a material to make paper and cloth.

The black mulberry (M. nigra) made its way to our shores from its native Iran. Its fruit is almost always black.

Beware of Polka-Dotted Sheets

All three breeds grow with abandon, producing large clumps of tiny fruit that resemble miniature clusters of grapes.

Red Mulberry, available on Amazon

You can purchase red mulberry trees from Seeds, Bulbs, Plants & More via Amazon.

The fruits are popular with the birds, and you’re sure to see evidence of this – you’ll know they’ve been feasting when the droppings on your car windshield turn from white to a dark purple in early summer. Park carefully!

On that note, you’ll want to guard the clothesline during these weeks, as well. Many a good white bedsheet has been ruined by a bird that gorged on berries earlier in the day.

With culinary and medicinal benefits, it's a good idea to plant a mulberry tree in your garden | GardenersPath.com

Since the berries themselves are too messy for some, often getting tracked into the home where they can permanently stain carpets, fruitless versions of these fast-growing trees have become popular in recent years.

The white fruitless variety, available from Nature Hills, is popular with homeowners who want the shade the tree provides, without the fuss!

If you’re lucky enough to have mulberries on your property, I think you’ll find a number of ways to use them.


Fruitless White Mulberry
Fruitless White Mulberry

Read on for our best tips to bring this beautiful tree to your yard, and to raise it well!

Choosing a Proper Location

What if you don’t already have one (or more) of these fine trees in your yard?

If you’re located in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, you’re in luck! It’s possible to grow this species yourself with relative ease.

Mulberries shoot up quickly, making them a wise choice for locations where you hope to establish a wooded area in five years or less.

They also reseed without much effort; you’ll have more than a few trees without even trying if the conditions are right.

Mulberry trees are easy to grow and care for, and reward you with delicious fruit | GardenersPath.com

For this reason, you’ll want to be certain that the area you choose to plant them is far away from underground utility lines or septic tile. The roots grow fast and relatively unobtrusively, but they will wreak havoc on these systems.

The red and black varieties can grow up to 35 feet tall (or more, depending on the cultivar), and may live to be 100 years old, while the white can reach over 70 feet! Papers can get to be about 30 feet tall.

Do your best to select a spot where the tree will be able to thrive undisturbed while it grows to its full potential.

Mulberries do best in areas that get adequate moisture and drain well.

Get tips and tricks for growing magnificent mulberry trees in your yard, and reap the culinary and medicinal benefits this species offers: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-mulberry/

The black mulberry is especially fond of alkaline soils, and they favor locations alongside river beds. For this reason, it makes sense to amend your soil with a bit of sand, loam, or clay to provide it with the conditions it’s accustomed to.

As for light conditions, it thrives in partial to full sun. We always try to grow ours in a full sun area, but keep in mind that when they grow taller, they will partially block out the light from one another.

As long as most of the tree gets full sun at some point in the day, it will grow without issue.

If you are planting a sapling, you’ll want to wait until the frost season is completely over. Use the instructions on your plant’s packaging to determine the appropriate depth to plant the tree.

It’s Like Magic!

It is also possible to plant cuttings from established trees. The USDA’s growing guide recommends that you remove 8- to 12-inch-long branches from a healthy tree at its normal pruning time. Make sure there are at least 3 buds on each branch.

Get information about growing beautiful and productive mulberry trees in your yard | GardenersPath.com

Bury the cuttings right away by covering them completely in soil at a depth of 3 to 4 inches, preferably in June or July.

Water daily, or as needed to keep them moist, for at least a month. The buds will then form shoots, which can be taken out and planted as small trees.

Some Trimming, Some Birth Control

The mulberry tree is one of the easiest to care for, and it only needs very minimal trimming in the dormant months. Only remove the most damaged or sickly branches, and never cut trees during sap production.

How can you figure out when this is? If you see the tree “weeping” with liquid coming out at any location, wait to prune until this stops completely.

Once mature, the mulberry can easily transition from delight to nuisance if it’s not kept in check. They have attained the status of “weed” in many areas, as they do spread without effort and can grow in between sidewalk squares or along the foundation of houses.

If nuisance saplings are not pulled while small, their root systems will damage anything in their path.

Berry Harvest and Serving Suggestions

The beautiful thing about the mulberry fruits is that they are easy to pick – too easy, in fact.

While you’re just barely touching the fruit or a nearby branch, the ripe fruits will just drop to the ground.

Grow a mulberry tree in your yard and make delicious beverages from its fruit: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-mulberry/

For this reason, the best method of harvesting involves placing an old sheet or blanket (one you won’t mind getting purple with stains) around the base of the tree, and gently shaking the branches above. You’ll have buckets of fruits from just one tree with little effort this way.

Mulberries do not keep well, so plan to eat, preserve, or cook with them right away.

It is pretty much impossible to remove the stems and seeds, and the berries are consumed whole. A perfectly ripe fruit can be enjoyed raw — just give it a gentle rinse first.

What can you do with these culinary delights?

Mulberries can make a tasty addition to any recipe requiring berries. Remember that mulberries can be very juicy and may cause your creations to be a bit watery. Unlike other berries, however, they do not hold up well to drying.

Mulberry Tart with Cardamom and Black Pepper

Get expert information about growing mulberry trees and create culinary delights with your harvest | GardenersPath.com
Photo by Charity Beth Long, © Vintage Kitty. Used with permission.

With the distinct taste of cardamom added, this tart tastes like an old-fashioned summer day! Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s truly divine.

Get the recipe from Vintage Kitty.

Fresh mulberries also make a nice substitute for raisins in many recipes. Toss them into a salad, add them to pancakes or muffins, and give them a starring role in your next smoothie or shake.

I also love to serve them frozen in cocktails or lemonade.

Mulberry Lemon Gin Fizz

Grow delicious mulberry fruit in your own garden and enjoy the many culinary rewards: https://gardenerspath.com/plants/fruit/grow-mulberry/
Photo by Charity Beth Long, © Vintage Kitty. Used with permission.

This refreshing summer beverage is a modern take on the sloe gin fizz, a classic cocktail that, sadly, isn’t made much anymore.

The recipe for this sweet sparkler is available from Vintage Kitty.

You can also make your own mulberry wine. While this is a rather involved process, the results are truly tasty!

Nothing quite compares to homemade wine made with the fruits of your trees, and you really must try it at least once.

Numerous Healing Properties

As we mentioned above, resourceful indigenous peoples made good use of the red mulberry. They also used the plant to treat numerous medical ailments.

The sap was used to treat ringworm. Tea made from the leaves was used for dysentery, weakness, and difficulty urinating.

Learn how to grow magnificent mulberry trees in your own yard | GardenersPath.com

Today, many continue to use the trees medicinally.

The entire plant — leaves, stems, and fruit — contains antioxidants, which work against cell-damaging substances in your body.

Korean researchers SB Kim, BY Chang, et al found that mulberries contain alkaloids that activate white blood cells and stimulate the immune system.

Natural medicine adherents have ingested white mulberry leaves to help cure a sore throat. Others have used mulberry leaves to support balanced blood sugar levels. And practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine use mulberry as a remedy for redness and swelling.

100 Years of Shade

The mulberry tree is one of my favorites, as it provides shelter and fruit for generations. Unlike other fruit trees, it starts producing within its first two years, and it grows quickly to create a wind block for your residence.

A close up photo of mulberries hanging on tree branches along with green leaves | Gardener's Path

If you’ve cast aside the idea of adding it to your yard, won’t you reconsider? With the fruitless versions available now, there’s no need to fear purple footprints on your rug.

The beautiful foliage and flowers are reason enough to welcome it into your landscape design, and its low-maintenance attributes mean you can keep caring for it long after your desire to work hard has waned.

Do you have mulberries? What are your favorite ways to enjoy the fruits? Please share in the comments section! And don’t forget to check out our article on how to grow elderberries, for something a little different that we think will be right up your alley.


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of mulberries and the tree that fruits them.

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

With additional writing and editing by Gretchen Heber. Photo credit: Shutterstock, unless otherwise noted.

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About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

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Maria Raquel Ayala Fariña
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Maria Raquel Ayala Fariña

What a nice work. Thank you. I am from Paraguay and this country is a big garden… so much to learn.

Stacy Jett
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Stacy Jett

Thank you for the article- I love my mulberries- just wish the birds didn’t love them as much as I do – it’s a race to get to them. I can’t imagine wanting a “non fruit bearing” tree.

Jason
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Jason

I got beautiful mulberry trees from BayLeaf nursery on Amazon. They arrived quickly and were very healthy despite being in the mail for a few days, very well packaged. They had very thick stems for their size. They must have been cut back. They already made fruit after just a few weeks. I chose the dwarf everbearing mulberry. I got 4 trees since they sell them in bundles of 2. I can’t wait til next summer. I may have sweet fruit every day.

Liz
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Liz

Do mulberry trees only fruit when more than one tree is around? I’d love one in my yard, but im not sure I would have room for two. I grew up eating these berries and would love to be able to provide that experience for my son.

Allison Sidhu
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Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

What a lovely experience to pass along to your son, Liz. They’re so delicious, aren’t they?

Some types of black mulberry are monoecious, so you’ll only need one plant to get harvestable berries. But keep in mind that even with self-pollinating plants that produce both male and female flowers, you’re likely to get a larger harvest with multiple plants in the area, and higher pollination rates as a result. Wishing you the best of luck!

Katie Olsen
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Katie Olsen

You don’t need more than one to have them fruit. They’re like figs in the sense the just create fruit without flowering if you get a fruiting type. The non fruiting has flowers and reaps havoc for people with allergies. Some states have banned the non fruiting types. I have a Shangrila, ever bearing, and black Pakistani. So delicious and they love deep watering. Im in las vegas. So far so good 💖

Cécile Stelzer-Johnson
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Cécile Stelzer-Johnson

Thank you for all your encouragements to try mulberries. They are indeed a most generous tree with wonderful, sweet berries. I have 26.[ Yes, I know, I went a little bit overboard]. Not at all like blackberries that taste odd after freezing or with seeds that get caught in your teeth: The seeds are tiny and unobtrusive. My honey bees like them and birds do too. The trick of placing a painter’s cloth underneath will help. If you see rain coming, wait till after the rain: The berries will be partially washed off bugs for you. Mine are just starting… Read more »

Nan Schiller
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Nan Schiller

Hello Cécile –

We’re so happy to hear of your success with mulberries in Zone 4. Twenty-six, wow! Thanks for sharing, we’ll be right over for ice cream with mulberry syrup!

Laura
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Laura

Can a tree be kept smaller by keeping it pruned?

Bob barker
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Bob barker

I dissagree, mullberries dry beautifully. Like candy.

penny
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penny

How are you drying them?

Enedina
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Enedina

Hi my house has a tree that suddenly started to grow mulberries at least i think they are. It used to be a tree that would bloom these beautiful white puffy flowers until my father cut it down halfway and hadn’t grown new branches for a while. Is this possible? Im wondering if it would be safe to eat since they look quite smaller than pictures ive seen, we live in metro Denver and the soil at our house might be bad where the tree is located.

Allison Sidhu
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Trusted Member
Allison Sidhu

That does sound rather unusual, and you should always err on the side of caution when experimenting with new wild edibles. Changes in weather patterns, availability of nutrients, and pruning can cause sudden changes in the ability to produce a harvest from year to year, for various types of trees. What do the leaves look like? What do the berries look like while they’re growing, and when they ripen? Can you send a photo? Mulberries don’t have any common poisonous lookalikes, and different types can vary a bit in appearance, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! If… Read more »