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Mulberry tree, a great tree for shade in the summer

Mulberry tree leaves and shade.

The mulberry tree is a beautiful tree, both for the leaves themselves and for the cool shade they dispense in summer.

Essential mulberry tree facts

Name – Morus
Family – Moraceae (mulberry family)
Soil – ordinary, well drained

Height – 16 to 50 feet (5 to 15 meters)
Climate – rather warm
Exposure – full sun

Foliage – deciduous
Flowering – June to September

A very easy tree to grow, it will in time become one of the most beautiful shade trees of your garden.

Planting a mulberry tree

Mulberry must be planted in a mix of soil mix and garden soil in a sun-covered spot of the garden. Ideally, this spot is also well sheltered against strong winds.

  • It is recommended to plant your mulberry tree in fall, but planting in spring is still perfectly possible as long as you water well at the beginning.
  • Take care to protect roots from the cold in winter with mulch, especially at the beginning, because they’re vulnerable to freezing.

Pruning mulberry trees

Pruning isn’t necessary at all, all the more that its growth is quite slow…

Your mulberry tree will be most beautiful if you let it grow naturally. The shape it takes on if left unattended is often the shape that suits it best, it will be beautiful!

Mulberry tree species and varieties

There are three main types of mulberry, and each branches out into dozens of sub-varieties and hybrid cultivars.

White, Red and Black Mulberry… and more!

The most famed species are the following:

  • White mulberry – not related to fruit color! Soft young buds are whitish in color, which gives the name. Native to China and SouthEast Asia, now found across the planet. Grows rather shorter than the other mulberry types. Leaves are rarely all identical, ranging in shape from grapevine to only a single, oval shape.
  • Red mulberry – native to the SouthEast of the North American continent, encompassing everywhere from Texas to Florida to the lower Great Lakes. Currently losing its genetic uniqueness because it hybridizes easily with other non-native mulberry tree varieties.
  • Black mulberry – has been cultivated for centuries in the Middle East. Distinctive trait is the the underside of leaves is fuzzy or hairy (similar to downy mildew in appearance). Perhaps the only species with consistently black fruits.

Mulberry cultivars available in garden stores

Mulberry tree leafThese are other cultivars (clones) of species that also belong to the Morus family.

  • Morus australis and the closely related Morus kagayamae Koidz. (short for Koidzumi) – one of the hardiest mulberry varieties, surviving down to -30°F (-34°C). Often called the “plane mulberry” because its leaves and bearing resemble that of the plane tree.
  • Morus bombycis ‘Unryu’ – a small variety that doesn’t grow much taller than a dozen feet (three meters). It’s amazing branches twirl out like a corkscrew, much like those of the Kilmarnock willow.
  • Pakistan mulberry – a hybrid of the Black mulberry. Fruits are about 4 inches (10 cm) long, and tasty delicious!
  • Dwarf mulberry – Many cultivars and hybrids grow small enough to be perfect for container growing.
  • Fruitless mulberry – These are cultivars grown from a mulberry that is consistently male: it won’t bear any fruit. This makes it ideal for roadside settings and such, where people might slip and fall or ruin their clothes.

Learn more about mulberry trees

Surprising mulberry sexuality

Each mulberry tree can be either male or female. Male mulberry trees don’t produce any fruits whereas female trees bear fruits. There are also sterile cultivars that, of course, also don’t bear any fruit.

However, some mulberry species require cross-pollination to bear fruit. Check with your local garden store if purchasing a given variety.

Lastly, some species and varieties change gender in the course of their life. In addition, it may happen that a single tree will carry both male and female branches! Although it sounds odd, it also happens with other common shrubs and plants such as yew.

Delicious mulberry fruit

Mulberry tree fruitsMulberry fruits look similar to those of blackberry bush that often grow in our hinterland, and for sure they stain clothes just as much!

  • Mulberries are edible. They’re very juicy and sweet.
  • Red and Black are sweet, tangy and tasty, although White mulberry is sweet but doesn’t have a special taste.

Be careful! If you’ve purchased a female mulberry tree, avoid planting it near your terrace or deck. With all the falling fruit, you won’t be able to rest under the shade without staining your garden quilt! Better not try dressing a picnic table with your favorite nice tablecloth…

If you select a male mulberry specimen, you’ll be able to relax without any afterthought in under its deep green foliage, and the shade it will offer on hot summer days will feel more than welcome.

Diseases and parasites that frequently attack mulberry trees

Smart tip about the mulberry tree

Although it usually grows inland in warmer climates, a mulberry tree can also grow quite well in coastal areas as long as it is protected from strong winds.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Mulberry tree leaves by Jacqueline Macou ★ under Pixabay license
Grapevine leaf-shaped mulberry leaf by Ryan Hodnett under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Mulberry fruits by Vivan Evans under © CC BY-SA 2.0
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  • Anisia Seeruttun wrote on 11 June 2019 at 8 h 06 min

    Male and female are both in the same tree. The tree can be male then turn into female.
    That’s what I’ve learned, red/dark red mulberry is from my native land here in Mauritius. And we all know that the tree change from male to female then back to male and again and again. It’s a self pollination tree.

    I guess this article is not completely correct, please find proper information before publishing an article.

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 11 June 2019 at 13 h 15 min

      Hi Anisia, that comes as quite a surprise to me. We have mulberry in our own house (the Kagayamae variety, also called Morus bombycis). It sure hasn’t changed gender yet. But you sparked my interest and I’ll look it up.

      Edit: it seems difficult to establish clear rules on this: some mulberry trees switch genders exactly as you describe it, while others may stay the same gender for decades or even forever. It depends on the species, mostly, but also on the climate. Mulberry cultivars react differently, with certain varieties self-pollinating and others requiring a nearby specimen that is, at that point in time, male and blooming.

      I hope to get better information on this soon, I’ll keep you posted.