How to grow & care for mulberry
Mulberry trees are a fast and easy to fruiting plant for every home garden! You’ll rarely find mulberries at the supermarket because the fruit is so soft, it doesn’t transport and store well. Instead grow them in your own garden and stand under the tree enjoying their fresh and juicy fruit in late spring and summer. Mulberries can be eaten raw or cooked.
Mulberries can be grown in most areas of Australia, including areas with milder winters - just look for a “low-chill” variety. Dwarf varieties that are suited to growing in pots or smaller gardens are also available. Some non-dwarf varieties can reach up to 12 metres tall by the same or more across, so if you don’t have space for a tree of this size choose a smaller or dwarf growing variety.
Mulberry trees are deciduous and love a full sun spot in a free draining soil with a slightly acidic pH. They produce oval or elongated berry-like fruit in red, black or white that’s sweet and slightly tart. The red and black fruit will stain fingers when you pick them, but they’ll also stain pavers or hard surfaces beneath the tree - if you don’t want either mess choose a white mulberry variety instead, many people find the white varieties sweetest.
Top 5 steps to growing mulberry trees
- Choose a full sun position in a free draining soil with a slightly acidic soil pH or look for dwarf varieties that can be grown in large pots.
- Give your mulberry tree the best start possible by enriching the soil with Scotts Osmocote Compost Premium Soil Improver before planting or if you’re growing in pots choose a top quality potting mix like Scotts Osmocote Rose, Gardenia, Azalea & Camellia Mix
- Mulberry trees are deciduous and will lose their leaves in winter - prune to shape and encourage new growth in autumn or winter.
- Mulberries are a favourite of birds - you’ll need to net your tree once fruit have formed and before they begin to ripen so you don’t have to share the crop! Interestingly though white varieties are not favoured by birds as much as the red or black, so if netting is too tricky consider a white variety instead.
- Mulberries will not ripen off the tree, so only pick completely ripe fruit.
- A mulberry tree
- Scotts Osmocote Compost Premium Soil Improver
- If you soil is already acidic soil choose:
- Scotts Performance Naturals Citrus & Fruit Organic Based Fertiliser
- If your soil is neutral or alkaline choose:
- Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics Roses, Gardenias & Azaleas Plant Food & Soil Improver that will alter the soil pH to be slightly more acidic which mulberries prefer.
- If growing in pots, Scotts Osmocote Rose, Gardenia, Azalea & Camellia Mix & Scotts Osmocote Controlled Release Fertiliser: Roses, Gardenias, Azaleas & Camellias
- Garden shovel
- Wildlife safe crop protection netting
Mulberry trees prefer a full sun spot with a free draining soil - they hate wet roots and can rot if planted into soil that gets waterlogged.
Prepare the soil for planting by digging a hole that’s twice as wide as the root ball of your tree and the same depth.
Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and mix in some Scotts Osmocote Compost Premium Soil Improver. If you already have an acidic soil add some Scotts Performance Naturals Citrus & Fruit Organic Based Fertiliser through the original soil at the base of the planting hole. However if you have a neutral to alkaline soil choose Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics Roses, Gardenias & Azaleas Plant Food & Soil Improver that will alter the soil pH to be slightly more acidic which mulberries prefer.
Planting in the garden
Growing from potted trees
Potted mulberry trees can be purchased year round and barerooted trees can be found in winter when they are dormant.
Plant your mulberry tree at the same depth it was in the pot into prepared soil. If needed, create a mound in your prepared planting hole to sit the root ball on so it’s at the correct height.
Firm down the soil around the roots of your newly planted mulberry tree and water in well. Top dress around the tree with an open organic mulch (but avoid touching the trunk) to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
Planting in pots
Choose dwarf or compact mulberry tree varieties to grow in pots. Find a pot or container with good drainage that’s at least 50-60cm wide and the same deep. An old half-wine barrel with drainage holes added is an ideal size. Fill your pot with a premium potting mix like Scotts Osmocote Rose, Gardenia, Azalea & Camellia Mix before planting your mulberry tree into the centre of it.
Firm down the soil around your new tree and water it in well to settle its roots in.
Mulch the top of the soil in the pot to retain moisture and ensure the pot can be easily watered during the hot summer months.
Mulberries are fast growing trees and should begin to produce a crop within 2-3 years from planting. Red or black varieties of mulberry are ready to pick when the fruit darkens in colour and softens slightly. White mulberries are ready to pick once they’ve completely changed from green to white and are slightly soft.
Mulberries will not ripen once picked. So pick the fruit as you need them. Remember red or black varieties will stain hands, clothes or paving red! Choose a white variety if you don’t want this.
You may need to securely net your trees to protect the crop from hungry birds and other animals. Once the fruits have formed, use a wildlife safe, 4mm hole or smaller white netting that’s pulled tightly over the tree and secured around the truck or set up a frame structure over the tree so you can easily place the net over this. Interestingly birds tend not to bother eating white varieties of mulberries, so go for one of these if you don’t want to net your tree.
Pests & Diseases & General Care Advice
If Queensland Fruit Fly are a pest in your area you may need to net with insect exclusion netting once the fruit have started to form.
Lightly prune mulberry trees in autumn (after they’ve finished fruiting) to keep their shape - aim to remove any broken, crossing or diseased branches and then lightly prune the whole tree to keep it compact. If your mulberry tree needs a harder prune, do this in winter when the tree is dormant.
Fertilise in spring and again in autumn with Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics Citrus & Fruit Plant Food & Soil Improver or Scotts Osmocote Plus Organics Roses, Gardenias & Azaleas Plant Food & Soil Improver.