Pruning Mulberry Trees to Keep Them Small


Mulberry trees are one of my very favorite fruit trees, providing a huge amount of berries for very little work.

However, they also grow like mad and can become a tangled, unruly big mess of a tree if you just let them grow.

With this in mind, Victor wrote me to ask about pruning mulberry trees to keep them small:

“I am feeling very fortunate that I came across your YouTube vid on mulberry pruning as I have been reading through a number of Google sites regarding the matter and they are very discouraging regarding pruning. I dare say you are almost at odds with everything I have been reading online. 

I planted a mulberry tree in one of my gardens 2 autumns ago along with a cherry. The mulberry is of the red/purpleish variety. We experienced a warm winter that first year after planting and she went ballistic by the springtime. The fruit was very tasty but the birds managed to get the majority for themselves. I had intended to keep the tree from getting out of control so that picking wouldn’t become a complete hassle and with an eye on keeping it netted somehow to discourage the birds. 
I was hoping to prune it this winter but then started reading the negative info online regarding consequences, etc.. I just need some pointers how to maintain the girl so it doesn’t run away from me and overwhelm the garden. Would it be possible to send you some shots of the tree and you could explain the do’s and don’ts to me? Would really appreciate it.”
Here are some pictures:
Mulberry2 Mulberry1
As you can see from the first photo, that mulberry tree can’t get too big or it will cause some trouble with the gardens.
As it is, it’s not a bad size; however, they’ll grow 6′ in a year, easily.
If it were my tree and I wanted to keep it small, I’d do something like this:
Take it down to 3-4′ and get rid of a lot of the little tangly branches as well. It should still make a decent amount of mulberries on the new growth this spring. Right now, before it wakes up, is the time to prune. It’s easy to see and shape the structure.
And remember – you can chainsaw a mulberry to the ground and you won’t kill it. They’re amazing.
Here’s an article I wrote back in November with some more ideas on pruning mulberries. That covers “festooning” as well. Here’s a mulberry which I treated that way:
That would still be too sprawling for Victor’s garden space, but it’s a good way to keep the trees shorter and the fruit in reach.
Finally, Victor isn’t just your average gardener. He’s also a highly talented illustrator currently working for Rolling Stone. When I saw his portfolio linked in his signature I thought, “hey, I’ve seen that guy’s work before!”
Just attack those mulberries with a little artistic pruning and they’re going to do great. Unlike some other fruit trees, mulberries can take a ridiculous amount of pruning and shaping.

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  • I was about to ask you about pruning Mulberries, mine is due. Thanks for the info David the G.

  • Super. Thanks a lot. Seems radical but I have seen how rapidly they grow.

    • Yes, you’ll be amazed by the regrowth. I’ve pruned mine during dormancy, then gone back and pruned more during the growing season to thin out branches. And you still get lots of berries!

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