How to prune a weeping mulberry tree

How to Prune Weeping Mulberry Trees | Home Guides

By Cathy Habas Updated November 30, 2020

A well-pruned weeping mulberry tree (Morus alba) features a graceful cascade of drooping branches. Ideally, this small tree will have a uniform, dome-like shape with no awkward limbs in sight. Achieving this design doesn't require much artistry once you understand which limbs to remove and why.

Tips for Pruning Mulberry Trees

Stark Bro's recommends pruning weeping mulberry trees in the winter when they're still dormant. Mulberry trees pruned any other time of year will "bleed." There is one exception: It's easier to identify and cut back old branches in the spring. They'll only have leaves on the end of the branches, and you can cut these branches back to about 4 or 5 inches to encourage new, leafy side branches to form.

To reduce the risk of spreading diseases to the tree, always use clean pruning shears before working on your mulberry tree. A diluted bleach solution is sufficient for sterilizing pruning shears. Be sure to also sharpen them on a whetstone as well; sharp pruning shears create the smoothest cut possible and allow the tree to heal faster. According to the Oregon State Extension Service, mulberry trees do not heal easily, so avoid making cuts any larger than 2 inches in diameter.

Finally, try not to leave a stump when making your cuts. Cut as close to the adjacent branch as possible. This not only looks more attractive, but it also ensures the nodes, which are capable of sprouting additional branches, are removed.

Mulberry Tree Pruning Instructions

Prune your weeping mulberry tree by removing dead wood, rubbing branches, and upright growth, thinning any remaining branches to balance the appearance of the tree and shortening branches that trail the ground.

A weeping mulberry's dead branches may be a little tricky to spot during dormancy, but one tell-tale clue is that dead wood will still have dried leaves clinging to it. It may also have visible signs of damage or fungal growth. If you're not sure whether a branch is truly dead, scrape off the bark with the edge of your pruning shears. If a green tinge is visible along the edges of the scrape, the branch is still alive.

Next, remove any branches that are growing into the center of the tree, crossing other branches, rubbing other branches, or generally impeding the flow of air to the center of the tree. Tree branches that receive plenty of air circulation in the heat of summer are less susceptible to disease. In addition, rubbing branches can suffer bark damage, which makes it easier for pests and pathogens to invade as well.

Shaping the Mulberry Tree

The next stage of pruning a mulberry tree involves removing any upright growth. These spiky branches are unlikely to droop like the others and need to be removed to give the tree its characteristic "umbrella" appearance. In addition, if these upright branches are allowed to sprout side branches, the tree may become more difficult to prune in the future because of the increased height. Keep manageability in mind when pruning a weeping mulberry tree.

Now, take a step back and look at the entire tree from all angles. Identify any clumps of branches that make the tree look "heavy" on one side. Thin these areas by removing entire branches and/or snipping off small side shoots to create one long branch. Next, you can shorten up the tips of all the branches to a height that looks good to you.

This concludes the winter pruning session. After the leaves sprout in spring, take one final inspection of the tree to cut back any old, bare wood. Cut it back far enough for the stump to be hidden by other branches, but leave it long enough for several new branches to sprout from it. Because you're making these cuts in the spring, consider applying a pruning sealer to encourage rapid healing on the cut branches.


  • Oregon State Extension Service: prune a mulberry tree
  • Stark Bro's: Pruning Mulberry Trees


  • Missouri Botanical Garden recommends pruning weeping mulberry trees when the plant is dormant, to prevent it from bleeding sap.

Writer Bio

Cathy Habas has been a full-time freelance writer since 2014. She graduated from Indiana University Southeast with a Bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing content that helps homeowners feel motivated and confident in handling projects around the home. Her work has been published around the web, including on home improvement sites like Ron and Lisa.

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Tired of looking at a scary-thick mass atop a weeping mulberry?

Late winter's a great time to prune it!

1) Take a deep breath. You are going to remove a lot of wood. It is no trouble for the plant, which can grow all you see here in one year, and more if it's in sun!

2) Step under the tree. Most of the dead wood is there, and the framework the tree has or can have is apparent there.


3) Begin cutting out dead wood. It's brittle, gray, and has no leaf buds. Don't be concerned about where you make the cuts -- you'll cut back even further later. Just get all that dead stuff out of the way. Be prepared to be rained upon by flakes and dust and other plant dandruff.

4) As you clear out what's dead, notice the tree's main branches. Elect 3 or 4 to be the main framework. Don't ask anyone else to decide -- this is a subjective, artistic choice as much as anything. However, there is one thing we consider that might help you decide: To be eligible to be a main limb, it should radiate from the trunk into its own section of sky, not compete with a sister limb to fill the same air space with leaves.

More help in deciding: These diagrams in Prune to Keep a Tree Small


Arrows point to some of the dead wood. Lighter in color than the yellow-brown live wood, and without buds.

5) Now look at the side branches. We define "side branch" as one that arises from one of the trunks/branches we've designated as "main." Cut side branches back to allow a year's growth. Thin the side branches to leave the main branch with only its best and strongest, spaced out along its length.

6) When you get done, the tree can look like the one at the top of the page, or like this one below. Either way, the tree will be full of foliage and ready to be clipped again in June or July to take out stragglers.

If it weeps, this works

7) This method of working from underneath, beginning with dead wood, designating main limbs and then thinning will work for any weeping tree, from mulberry through cherry and pussy willow to Japanese maple. Mulberries can be cut more severely than the others without qualm, since flower buds are not an issue and the tree grows very quickly. The slower the tree's growth rate, the less severe the annual cut.


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How to prune mulberries, including pruning in spring, as well as a diagram of plant formation, video

For good growth and development of fruit trees, including mulberries, it is necessary to prune from time to time. Check out the main reasons and step-by-step instructions for crown formation for decorative, rejuvenating and sanitary purposes.


  • 1 Reasons and rules for pruning mulberries

  • 2 Formative pruning

    • 2.1 Downtime (to increase yield)

      • 2.1.1 Table: tree crown formation by years

    • 2.2 Decorative (beauty)

      • 2.2.1 Lush spherical crown of mulberry

      • 2. 2.2 Broom pruning for landscaping

      • 2.2.3 Weeping Mulberry Pruning Features

      • 2.2.4 How to shape a bush

      • 2.2.5 Table: shrub pruning rules

  • 3 Mulberry seasonal pruning

    • 3.1 Autumn procedures

      • 3.1.1 Video: features of autumn pruning

    • 3.2 Spring Care

      • 3.2.1 Video: working with the crown in spring

    • 3.3 Rejuvenation treatments for old wood

Reasons and rules for pruning mulberries

Is it possible to set up a mini-version of the English park on the site? What to do if the yield drops sharply? These and other issues are solved with the help of crown trimming.

When and why pruning is done:

  • To rejuvenate the tree and increase its yield. Gardeners prune the plant if the quality and quantity of the crop is noticeably reduced (for example, the fruits fall to the ground before they have ripened, there are few berries or they become small, etc. ). Removing unnecessary infertile branches will “unload” the root system, which means that the mulberry will release new fruitful shoots and direct nutrients to the formation of fruits. In addition, reducing the number of branches will facilitate the pollination of flowers, which will affect the increase in yield (this is more true for young trees).
  • For the purpose of disease prevention. An excessively thickened crown of a tree can provoke the development of a fungus (powdery mildew, brown spot), which also affects other crops. Regular thinning of the crown will allow the branches to receive the necessary amount of sunlight, as well as avoid or significantly reduce the contact of healthy branches with diseased ones.
  • When forming a crown. A properly formed crown will provide the most favorable conditions for development and life activity of the mulberry tree. Pruning is used not only for practical purposes, but also for decorative purposes.

There are several rules, following which, the gardener will save the tree from injuries and damage during the procedures:

  • Keep in mind that the purpose of the pruning affects the timing of the pruning. Sanitary is best done in the fall, and it is advisable to postpone rejuvenating or shaping until spring.
  • If you want to shorten a shoot that has a bud, cut at an angle of 50 o 0.5–1 cm above it.
  • If you are cutting a whole branch, position the blade exactly perpendicular to the surface to get a smooth cut.
  • Use special tools. For cutting thin shoots, not thicker than 2.7 cm, a pruner is suitable, for working with thicker branches (from 2.5 to 3.5 cm in diameter) or shoots located in hard-to-reach places, a delimber, and if you need to remove more larger branches, use a garden saw. Please note that it is impossible to replace it with a regular carpentry, since the blade of the gardener's tool is designed so as not to injure the tree during work.

Properly selected tools will simplify the pruning process and protect the tree from injury, the cut point must be treated with garden pitch

Be sure to disinfect garden tools after use with purified alcohol or fire to avoid transferring infections from one tree to another.

Formative pruning of wood

Choose the cropping method according to your purpose. With due patience and diligence, the result will be the same as in the photo illustrations.

Simple (to increase yield)

If you do not pursue the goal of making mulberries a decoration of the site, but only want to get a quality harvest, it is enough just to form the crown of the tree correctly.

Start immediately after planting the seedling in the ground. The crown formation procedure, as a rule, is applied only to one- and two-year-old seedlings. As with other fruit trees, this procedure takes several years for mulberries.

Table: tree crown formation by years
Age at landing on a permanent seat First year Second year Third year Fourth and subsequent years
Annual seedling Description: as a rule, the shoot does not have lateral processes.
Pruning measures:
  1. Cut the plant to a height of 1 m. If the seedling is shorter, leave as is.
  2. If the young tree has shoots, cut them off completely .
Description: shoot has strengthened lateral branches.
Pruning measures:
  1. Leave 3-5 most developed and horizontally located (at an angle of 45 about and more) shoots at a height of 70 cm or more, remove the rest.
  2. Cut the central branch so that it is 4-5 buds longer than the others. If the seedling at the top forks, then remove one of the shoots.
  3. Trim the lateral skeletal shoots so that they are longer than the top ones. The length of the lower branches should not exceed 30 cm.
Mulberry consists of a central shoot (trunk) and several crown-forming (skeletal) branches.
A 3-year-old tree is considered a mature tree, so formative pruning is not necessary.
If necessary, sanitary pruning is carried out, in which non-viable parts of the tree are removed.
2 year old seedling Description: shoot has strengthened lateral branches.
Pruning measures:
  1. Cut all side branches up to 70 cm.
  2. From the higher branches, remove those that grow at a sharp (less than 45 about ) angle with respect to the trunk.
  3. Tame the remaining 3-5 horizontal shoots to the third or fifth bud, counting from the trunk. The upper shoots should be shorter than the lower ones.
  4. If the seedling splits at the top, completely remove one of the shoots.
A three-year-old tree does not need formative pruning, sanitary pruning is sufficient (if necessary). Check for dead branches and shoots and dispose of them promptly Keep your mulberries healthy with sanitation

Regular pruning will allow you to get the kind of mulberry tree (bush) you want

The optimal height of mulberry depends on the region in which it grows. In the southern regions, it is necessary to cut the trunk so that it is no higher than 3 m - firstly, it is more convenient to harvest, and secondly, the tree will not waste energy on further growth, but will direct them to the formation of fruits. Residents of the northern latitudes do not need this: in a cold climate, the plant does not grow more than 2 m.

Decorative (beauty)

There are several ways to create an aesthetic mulberry crown. In this case, it is also better to start events with seedlings no older than two years.

Lush spherical mulberry crown

When forming a spherical crown, you need to leave long branches in the center, and shorter branches above and below: the more work, the better the “ball” looks

  1. Make a trunk by trimming all side shoots to a height of 1–1.5 m.
  2. Shorten the central shoot to 2–4 m, taking into account the height of the trunk. Every 2 years it must be cut to 1/3 .
  3. Side branches are processed as follows: cut the lowest ones by 1/3 of the length, closer to the center - by 1/4, while the longest shoots should remain in the middle. Shorten the branches at the top by 1/3, in the middle - by 1/4. The main thing is that all shoots at the same level are of equal length and do not bulge out of the crown.
Garden broom pruning

Mulberry with a broom-shaped crown will be a spectacular decorative element in the backyard or in the park

  1. Make a trunk by shortening all side branches to a height of 1–1.5 m.
  2. Select 3-4 of the strongest shoots growing horizontally at about the same level (divergence angle - about 120 about ), and cut them to the fourth bud, counting from the trunk.
  3. Equate the central conductor with the upper skeletal branch. This can be done not immediately, but 1-2 years after the main pruning - in this case, the trunk of your mulberry will get stronger better.
  4. In subsequent years, remove all offshoots from side shoots growing inwards.
Weeping Mulberry Pruning Features

If you have planted a weeping mulberry, then you can form its crown of any length, even to the ground, the main thing is to carry out shaping procedures in time and trim the overgrown shoots in a timely manner. Please note that the optimal length of such shoots is approximately 30 cm.

As with regular varieties, seedlings no older than two years are suitable for crown formation.

It is possible to form a crown of weeping mulberries of any length, the main thing is to prevent “shaggyness” (shoots must be the same)

  1. Get a trunk up to 1.5 m long by removing all side shoots.
  2. Cut off the hanging annual shoots located above to the third or fourth bud, counting from the trunk. The kidney remaining on the edge should be turned outward.
  3. In the second and third years, cut the newly formed annual shoots to the fifth or sixth bud, counting from the trunk. As in the previous case, the kidney remaining on the edge should grow outward.
  4. For the fourth and subsequent years trim the branches. Continue this procedure until the crown of the desired length grows.

If you buy a mulberry seedling older than 5-6 years in a nursery, its crown is already formed (this applies to both ordinary and decorative ones). You just have to carry out sanitary pruning from time to time.

How to shape a bush

If you want to get a neat bush, it is advisable to choose seedlings that already have shoots. For an annual plant without shoots, it is better to postpone the event to the next year so that the branches grow over the summer.

Table: shrub pruning rules
First year Second year Third year
Formation activities
  1. Leave 2-4 strong shoots in the crown of the seedling located at the bottom of the trunk. In this case, the branches closest to the ground should be located at a distance of 15 cm from the soil level, the uppermost - 50 cm. Note that the branches are at an angle of 45 about to the trunk.
  2. Cut the selected shoots to the third or fourth bud, counting from the trunk.
  3. Delete all other branches.
  4. Cut the center conductor (trunk) at the level of the topmost shoot.
  1. Again, select 2-4 strong shoots and cut them into third or fourth buds, counting from the trunk.
  2. Shorten last year's shoots by a third or a quarter of the length.
  3. Cut off all other shoots.
The bush is considered fully formed (consists of 4–8 skeletal branches).
To be removed:
  • branches growing inside the crown;
  • weak annual shoots.

Further care is reduced to sanitary pruning (removal of horizontal growth, branches growing close to the ground and shortening to 30 cm of too long shoots).

Mulberry seasonal pruning

Seasonal pruning of mulberries is recommended twice a year - in spring and autumn. At this time, the tree is either at rest or immersed in it, so this procedure will be the least traumatic.

Autumn treatments

Pruning is carried out after the crown has fallen, and the temperature must not be lower than -10 o C, otherwise the cuts will not heal well. The algorithm is as follows:

  1. Inspect the tree and cut out any diseased, dead or twisted branches, and any shoots growing inside the canopy.
  2. If the mulberry has formed a horizontal shoot (young plants growing next to an adult tree), then remove it too.
  3. Coat large sections (more than 1 cm in diameter) with garden pitch or linseed oil paint.

Sanitary pruning should be done every few years. If your mulberry is characterized by the rapid formation of new shoots (as a rule, this applies to trees growing in the southern regions), then such events are held once every 3-4 years. If the formation of shoots is moderate, which is typical for the middle zone and cold northern regions, then this period can be doubled. Remove diseased and dead branches as needed.

Video: autumn pruning features

Spring Care

The best time to prune is when the mulberry tree is dormant, from late February to early March. If you are unable to complete the procedures at this time, then this period can be extended at the very least until mid-April. At this time, rapid sap flow does not yet begin in the mulberry and the buds do not bloom, so the treatment will be the least painless. As well as autumn, spring pruning must be carried out at a temperature not lower than -10 o C. Do not forget that in the spring, activities are usually carried out to form and rejuvenate the tree.

Video: working with the crown in spring

Rejuvenating treatments for old wood

  1. First thin out the crown. To do this, cut out all the diseased branches, and also remove the branches growing vertically, inside the crown, clinging to each other.
  2. Cut off the fourth and fifth order shoots. They tend to be low-yielding, but can draw on nutrients and interfere with the development of fruitful branches.
  3. Cover large cuts with garden pitch or linseed oil paint.

In order not to immediately get rid of a large number of branches, it is advisable to carry out rejuvenating pruning in several stages. In the first year - the oldest and diseased branches, in the second - uncomfortably growing, etc. , continuing until the mulberry takes the desired form.

Summing up, we can say that pruning mulberries does not have any difficulties, and even a beginner can handle this procedure quite well. Following all the recommendations, you will definitely get a healthy beautiful tree and large yields will not keep you waiting.

  • Author: Valeria Akatieva