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Mulberry trees have long been popular as a shade tree, and fruitless mulberry trees are the perfect answer to the fruited variety’s major flaws: messy fruit everywhere and an invasive growing habit because of the seed-filled droppings of birds that eat the berries.
The fruitless mulberry tree, botanically known as morus alba, boasts some 15 species. The tree is deciduous, except in tropical climates, where it is evergreen.
The tree’s advantages make it popular as a shade-producing landscape tree:
The tree also has its disadvantages that should be taken into account before planting
Growing fruitless mulberry trees
The tree is easily propagated from cuttings of young or even mature wood. Although it tolerates most soils, quickest growth comes from a soil with a pH of 6.1 to 6.5 that is loamy and well-drained.
Fruitless mulberry trees grow best in full sun and, because of their invasive roots, should be planted well away from pipes and sidewalks. The tree appreciates deep, frequent watering, and should be staked for the first year.
In the second year, start applying fertilizer, preferably with a 2-inch layer of compost or 3:1:1 granular fertilizer in spring. Spread the compost under the canopy and a few feet beyond it.
Some landscapers actively prune mulberry trees to keep them from overtaking the space they’re planted in, but this practice can result in weak branches that are dangerous if they break off.
This pruning, known as pollarding, is also labor-intensive. It’s best to plant a fruitless mulberry tree in a space where it can grow unhindered. If necessary, you can prune off unusually long or low branches once the tree is two or three years old.
If a mulberry’s leaves start to turn yellow before fall, it’s most likely the result of root rot, or a lack of water. There are other funguses that affect the trees, but they’re largely benign for a fruitless mulberry, and can be treated with fungicide.
If root rot takes hold, however, the tree will likely die within a year or so. This can be prevented by using a fertilizer high in nitrogen.
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