How to Grow Mulberry Bushes

Mulberry bush species are from the Moraceae family. This family consists of species of a variety of deciduous trees commonly called mulberries. These trees grow abundantly in various temperate regions around the planet. Even though farmers cultivate them domestically, you can find them in abundance in the wild.

This article focuses on growing mulberry bush in the garden, its varieties, and uses.

Table Of Contents

Mulberry Bush – Types

Generally, there are three main species of the mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) – white mulberry (Morus alba), red mulberry (Morus rubra), and black mulberry (Morus nigra). Some people believe the experts named the species ostensibly based on the fruit color.

In fact, the botanists have discovered more than 200 species. Out of them, Broussonetia papyrifera is the closely related genus to these well-known cultivars. So, you can consider them as the fourth common variety.

Red Mulberry

Mulberry bush - Red mulberry

Photo by LeonAdler (Wikimedia Commons) (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Red mulberry (Morus rubra) has its native roots in the United States. Its fruit is somewhat reddish-black mostly. Some native American indigenous tribes loved this fruit as their favorite food. They consumed it both in raw and dried forms. They also used it in dumplings and sauces.

White Mulberry

white mulberry

Photo by Andre Abrahami (Wikimedia Commons) (CC BY-SA 2.5)

The European taxonomists named the cultivated mutations based on the fruit color. However, the wild versions of these trees have black, purple, or pink-colored fruits like other members.

This variety of mulberry bush (White mulberry) has its origin in South Asia. But you can also find them across Europe, North America, South America, and Southern Africa. Due to its spreading ability, the US and brazil population consider these species as invasive plants.

Black Mulberry

This specie (black mulberry – Morus nigra) is native to Iran and some parts of Iraq. It bears mostly black color fruits.

Mulberry bush - Black mulberry

Photo by Miloslav Bahna (Wikimedia Commons)(CC BY-SA 4.0)

Paper Mulberry

Mulberry bush - Paper mulberry

Photo by Archaeodontosaurus (Wikimedia Commons) (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) has many common names including tapa cloth tree. These species are native to Asia. You can find this tree spread across China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Burma, and India.

In fact, these mulberry bush cultivars are introduced species in some parts of Europe, the US, and Africa. In spite of it, this variety of plants neutralize themselves and spread vigorously. The US population considers these species to be invasive.

Generally, this variety of trees cater to the production of cloths and paper. Hence experts named it “Paper mulberries”.

Mulberry Bush – Characteristics

Normally, Mulberry bush or (Mulberry trees) grow well in USDA classified Hardiness Zones 5-9.

In general, Mulberry bush (or Mulberry Tree) grows vigorously. These trees can spread very quickly by reseeding effectively. Just plant a tree, you can find them spreading without any extra effort! In addition, these trees are known for their cool shades.

This particular characteristic of these trees will be helpful if you opt to produce your own woodlands within a short span of 4-5 years. But make sure, to plant them in faraway lands, free from underground utilities. Otherwise, their fast spreading roots may destroy the utility lines underground.

Generally, if you plant them in unutilized far away areas, they can grow to their full potential. They can form an ecosystem of their own serving flora and fauna.

The Black mulberry trees and Red mulberry trees can grow almost 35 feet in height. The white mulberry trees can grow almost double comparatively, up to 70 feet tall. The Paper mulberry trees can shoot up to 30 feet in height. The lifetime of these trees can exceed a century!

Once established, they can serve you as lifetime assets, as their fruits are commercially valuable. They usually bear fruits within two years of propagation.

The mature mulberry fruits change texture and color. They become juicy, plum, and sort of succulent resembling blackberry fruits.

White mulberries may be black, lavender, or white in color, with a sweet taste. Similarly, red mulberries are sweet and juicy, with usually deep red color. Black mulberries are usually black in color with balanced sweet and tart (citrus) taste.

Propagation – Mulberry Bush

You can propagate mulberry bush from seeds or plants. You can also grow them from cuttings. Make sure to purchase them from reputed vendors.

Growing From Seeds

Mulberry bush - growing from seeds

Mulberry bush (or Mulberry trees) prefer to grow in well-draining alkaline soils with adequate moisture. Hence, you can find black mulberry trees growing abundantly along the river beds.

So, make sure to amend your soil with clay, sand or loam, before planting the seeds. This facilitates the seeds, especially black mulberry seeds to germinate in an accustomed location.

Select a space that is airy and receives full sunlight. As a matter of fact, these trees can thrive in partial shades also. When the trees grow taller, their cool shades do partially block sunlight from reaching one another. Hence, plant the seeds several meters apart

It is advisable to plant them in blocks with a spacing of at least 1.8 by 1.8 m (6 by 6 ft). However, if you increase the spacing by 2.4 by 2.4 m (8 by 8 ft), the trees will have enough air passage.

Make sure to sow the seeds at least half-inch deep in the soil. You can find more specific instructions in the seed package. It is also advisable to start the sowing process after the frost season.

Water the plant almost daily so as to keep the soil moist, at least in the initial stages. Later when the Mulberry bush establishes itself, you can decrease the watering frequency.

Growing from Cuttings or Live trees

You can also grow mulberry bush (or mulberry trees) from cuttings or transplant purchased live plants. USDA guides recommend to cut out at least 8-12 inch long branches for successful propagation.

Make sure that, each branch has at least 3 buds developed. It is also advisable to start this process during June or July months, avoiding the frost season as a whole.

Cut out the leaves and remove other debris from the bottom portion of the cuttings. Dip the bottom end of the branch in a good quality rooting gel. This will promote new root growth.

Place the cuttings in a hole dug at least 3-4 inches, in an upright position. After that cover the hole completely by refilling the soil. In the case of live plants, make sure to bury the root ball portion fully underground.

Water this arrangement daily at least in the initial stages. When the plant becomes established, you can decrease the watering frequency.

Pruning Mulberry Bush

Mulberry bush - Pruing mulberry bush

Generally, mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) is one of a few trees on earth that requires very minimal caring. It needs only occasional trimming, especially during the dormant months. You just have to trim the sick, damaged or dead branches. Remove the debris from the spot.

Make sure not to prune them during the sap production periods. This simply means, do not prune the tree, if the liquid oozes out of the branches. Just wait for a few days until the liquid oozing stops fully. After that, start pruning the tree. Always use good quality pruning shears.

When the mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) matures, keep checking its surroundings. It can spread like a weed in any area. If it does so, the nuisance will grow with time. Its strong rooting network can damage any underground utility on its path. It can even damage the old, unhealthy foundation of buildings.

So, make sure to pull out the nuisance saplings at their initial stages itself. Always use good quality Garden Gear while performing any garden-related activity.

Harvesting Mulberry Bush

The harvesting process of mulberry is one of the easiest jobs on earth. Normally, if you just touch the ripen fruit or apply minimum pressure, it will radially fall down to the ground.

To start the harvest, first, place a sheet or cloth around the tree. Then, shake the above branches lightly. The ripened fruits fall down radially in large numbers. You can collect them in a bucket and rinse them in water for further processing.

The fruits are usually juicy and messy. So, they may stain the used sheets, buckets, or storage areas in your home. Sometimes, the stains remain permanent in some mediums like carpets.

Due to these reasons, some gardeners prefer to grow fruitless versions of mulberry bushes (or mulberry trees)

Mulberry fruits usually do not last long after harvest. So, plan to eat, cook, or preserve them after harvesting as soon as possible. You can also eat them raw! These juicy fruits taste sweeter, sometimes citrus, depending on the variety.

Nutrition Facts of Mulberry Bush

Mulberry bush (or Mulberry tree) sprouts out mulberry fruits, within a couple of years. These fruits contain essential nutrients in large numbers. For example, every 100 g (3.5 oz) of mulberry fruit, contains vitamin C (44% of the Daily Value), iron (14% of the Daily Value), and other essential micronutrients in large quantities.

Raw mulberries contain 10% carbohydrates, 1% protein, 88% water, and less than 1% fat.

Mulberry Bush – Uses

Diet Supplement

The leaves and fruits of the mulberry bush cater as dietary supplements in the food industry. However, the white sap of mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) may be stimulating, toxic, and slightly hallucinogenic. Hence, it is advisable not to consume the sap in its raw form.

Silk Industry

Photo by Archaeodontosaurus (Wikimedia Commons)(CC BY-SA 4.0)

The leaves of the mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) play an important role in the silk industry. The Bombyx mori (silkworm) feeds on Mulberry leaves, especially those of white mulberry bush. The industries produce silk from the cocoons of these silkworms.

In addition, the wild silk moth and other Lepidoptera larvae also feed on mulberry leaves.

Pigments

Generally, the mulberry bush (or mulberry tree) sprouts out numerous fruits. These fruits derive their color from anthocyanins. These anthocyanins produce water-soluble rich fruit colors. Hence, they serve as natural food colorants in food industries. There is a huge demand in the food market for these natural food colorants.

Paper Industry

During the Khmer Empire era (Angkorian age) of Southeast Asia, Buddhist monks manufactured papers from the mulberry tree barks. They used these papers to make books (kraing).

Japan produces the thinnest paper (Tengujo) in the world. Hidaka Washi company started the production of this paper in 1949. It uses stems of mulberry bushes (kozo ), tororo-aoi plant liquid (neri), and alkaline water to produce this almost transparent paper.

This paper is useful in many ways. Some of the examples include Lighting design and archival conservation.

Final Thoughts

Mulberry bush - Final thoughts

Photo by Kokai (Wikimedia Commons) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The mulberry bush or (mulberry trees) attracts birds. The birds love its sweet fruits. You can also use mulberries in your lemonade or cocktails. Make sure to take care of the clothesline under these trees, as the fruits may cause permanent strain on the clothes.

Mulberry trees can be an asset, providing you food and cool shades for about a century. Their beautiful flowers and foliage can add beauty to your landscapes. If you have enough space, you will never regret growing them in your garden.

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