Should You Grow a Mulberry Tree in Your Home?

Homeowners plant trees for various reasons.

Some do this to improve the curb appeal of their residential property. Ash trees, for instance, give off spectacular colors during fall.

Others see trees as a food source. These plants offer a range of healthy foods including fruits, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables. Examples include the persimmon tree and the pistachio tree.

If you’re thinking about growing a fruit tree in your home, you could grow a mulberry tree.

What is Special About the Mulberry Tree?

First things first: despite what the childhood song “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” may suggest, the mulberry fruit grows on a tree, not a bush. This particular tree can even grow upwards of 80 feet high, with a big spreading canopy engulfing a suburban lawn in shade.

Besides that, here’s why you should consider planting a mulberry tree on your property:

“Edible” Tree

The fruit produced by a red mulberry tree or white mulberry tree is edible. Just remember to cook the berries first before eating them.

Take note, however, that this isn’t the only part of the plant that you can eat.

The leaves of the mulberry tree are also edible. They come with antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus.

Even the inner bark of the mulberry tree is edible. Some people use this part of the plant in systems of traditional medicine. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, though, you could shred the inner bark and use it to make a cord or twine.

Fast-Growing Plant

­Unlike other productive crop trees, mulberry trees are famous for their ability to shoot up quickly. Most trees take several years to start bearing fruits. Some mulberry varieties, however, begin producing within the second year — and produces more as they near maturity.

Animal-Friendly Tree

Photo by Sue Thompson via Flickr Creative Commons

Given that the fruit of mulberry trees is so abundant and delicious, these plants are highly popular with wildlife, especially birds, insects and silkworms.

If you’re looking to attract birds to your property, planting mulberry is an option for you.

Can I Grow a Mulberry Tree in My Area?

Not all areas in the United States permit the planting of a mulberry tree. Some cities, such as Phoenix, Arizona and El Paso, Texas, have unfortunately banned the planting of this tree due to the pollen it produces.

Check with your community first if you’re allowed to plant weeping mulberry trees or the fruit-bearing variety. That’s not all you need to remember.

Mulberry trees also come with some downsides. These plants have aggressive roots that strangle drains and lift sidewalks. The fruitless kind also needs frequent pruning.

If you live in an area that lets you grow a mulberry tree and if understand the pros and cons involved with this plant, go ahead and plant one in your backyard.

How Can I Grow and Care for a Mulberry Tree?

Choosing a Tree Variety

Start by identifying the mulberry tree variety you’d want for your garden. Opt for the fruit-bearing kind, as you can harvest the fruit and whip up delicious desserts with it.

Planting Location

The next step is to purchase a young tree from a nursery. Put the young mulberry tree in an open position in well-manured soil, exercising extra care not to damage the roots. Don’t place the plant near paths, as the fruit can stain them.

Soil and Fertilizer

A mulberry tree requires well-drained, loamy and slightly acidic soil (pH level should be between 6 and 6.5). They usually need little fertilizer if the soil conditions are ok.

If you are going to give this tree fertilizer, consider feeding it in late winter. Use a balanced 10-10-10 mixture and measure a pound of fertilizer for every inch in the trunk’s diameter.

Light

Mulberry trees flourish in both partial shade and full sun. Just other fruit trees, more light equals more fruit. Don’t worry about giving this plant too much light, as your plant will eventually become one of the tallest specimens in your landscape once the tree reaches maturity.

Humidity and Temperature

Many mulberry tree species are cold-hardy. They can withstand temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit during dormancy. They, however, produce the optimal amount of mulberry fruit when the temperature ranges from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water

During the first year, water your mulberry tree regularly and deeply. This will help establish a strong root system. Once established, this plant becomes fairly drought-tolerant. Take note, though, that prolonged dry weather can result in a decrease in fruiting or early dropping of berries (before they ripen).

Pruning

Prune this tree judiciously. Your goal should be to get rid of dead or overcrowded branches.

Never trim a mulberry tree heavily, as mulberries are susceptible to bleeding at the cuts. Cuts that exceed two inches will not heal.

Pest Control

Bugs, such as mealybugs, scale and whitefly, don’t do much damage to mature trees. They’re tough enough to withstand these pests. If you’re taking care of a young sapling, though, apply a horticultural oil like neem oil.

Harvesting

Photo by Joegoauk Goa via Flickr Creative Commons

You have two options when harvesting a mulberry tree. The first is to pick the ripe fruits by hand. Be warned, though, that mulberries are tender and will crush easily.

The second is to spread a large sheet of plastic or huge cloth beneath the branches. Then, gently shake the tree. Don’t worry about the unripe fruits that are still hanging from the tree — you can harvest them at a later time.

Growing a mulberry tree may be worth the effort if your city or town doesn’t see this plant as a nuisance. If you’re going to pursue growing this plant, take good care of it and the tree will provide you and the surrounding wildlife with lots of food.

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