Pruning mulberry trees in free-standing shape is similar to the procedure for pruning free-standing apple trees. There are two types of mulberry: black mulberry and white mulberry. Black mulberries are tastier. The fruits are blackish-red in colour and ripen in late August-mid September. For cooking, pick the fruit slightly under-ripe.

Protection against birds is essential. Black mulberry fruit has a high staining power if it falls onto paving slabs. Mulberry trees grow quickly, but pruning wounds heal slowly and are subject to infection. For this reason it is best to prune as economically as possible. Mulberry trees are usually free from pests and diseases and therefore they are very suitable for organic growing practices.

mulberry
Photo by İsmet Şahina on Pixabay

How to prune a free-standing mulberry tree

If you have inherited a free-standing bush-type mulberry tree whose function is to look good, create shade, and provide food for birds, you can prune every 2-3 years, removing just dead, diseased or damaged branches, crossing branches, and some of the smaller branches, in order to encourage the entry of light into the heart of the tree. Prune towards the end of dormancy, in early March.

How to prune a pollarded mulberry tree

Mulberry trees were once extensively cultivated in Europe to produce shoots and leaves that were cut and fed to silkworms. Pollarding was performed to keep the tree at a manageable size so that the new growth could be cut off regularly. To create a pollarded mulberry tree, in its early years the main branches were cut hard back to just one or two buds. Over the years, the branches become large and develop knobby terminals. When the tree is mature, the big main branches have a leafy dome of 1 and 2-year old above them. All the new growth is cut right back every 1-2 years, pruning in early March.

How to prune a free-standing mulberry tree grown primarily as a landscape feature

Free-standing mulberry trees can be pruned in winter every 2-3 years to control size and reduce excess old wood. Winter pruning can be performed from November to early March, though we recommend pruning in early March, just before growth recommences. Here are the tips on winter pruning mulberry trees:

  1. First, remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches.
  2. Remove crossing branches.
  3. Then look at the overall structure. Make as few cuts as possible. If necessary, cut a couple of lateral branches back to a younger branch growing in the right direction.
  4. Cut back some of the 1-2 year old wood.
Charlton mulberry London
The black mulberry at Charlton House, London, possibly one of the country’s oldest mulberries at over 400 years. Photo by Matt Brown on Flickr.com

How to prune a free-standing mulberry tree grown for fruit

In this case, pruning mulberries is necessary to keep the tree to a size at which fruit can be harvested easily. Mulberries as a fruit are gaining attention because they contain anti-oxidants including resveratrol which, according to some studies, has positive effects on ageing and longevity. They also contain alkaloids that are believed to activate macrophages, helping the immune system.

pruning mulberry tree
Image by Adgery, courtesy of Pixabay

Winter pruning on mulberry trees can be performed from November to early March, though we recommend pruning in early March, just before growth recommences. Here are the tips on winter pruning mulberry trees for fruit production:

  1. First, remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches.
  2. Remove crossing branches.
  3. Then look at the overall structure. Make as few cuts as possible. If necessary, cut a couple of lateral branches back to a younger branch growing in the right direction.
  4. Cut back some of the 1-2 year old wood, leaving enough for cropping.
  5. It may be necessary to remove some long young shoots in July in order to permit light to enter the tree and encourage satisfactory fruit maturation.
  6. Nets or other forms of protection against birds will be necessary as fruit ripens.

How to prune a wall-trained mulberry tree

Training a mulberry against a wall or fence is a good choice, because it enables control of tree size and ensures that all fruit is within reach. Netting is also easier. Here are our tips on pruning wall-trained mulberry trees.

  1. In July, prune back long side shoots to 4 leaves.
  2. The shoots that you want to retain should be tied down to the wire in late summer (September)
  3. Any major structural pruning should be performed towards the end of dormancy, in early March.

Do you need some expert help in pruning your mulberry tree? Contact Dan Neuteboom by email (enquiries@realenglishfruit.co.uk) or by using this web form.

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