Illinois everbearing mulberry as a bush?

Hello everyone,
This question can really relate to any non dwarf mulberry but I was wondering, is it feasble to “top” a young Illinois everbearing mulberry and force it to bush out?

Girardi can be grown as a bush. Issue with the other mulberries is they grow so fast that you will have to prune all the old growth off making it not ever fruit.


This lady whom ive gotten alot of my cuttings from grows alot of mulberries… and almost all of hers are bush like. She prunes the heck out of hers which makes them bushy (and very productive)… kind of like a butterfly bush… you can train it to be a tree or bushy.


You can train them anyway you like. It is time consuming but I like training them to a weep- requires annual taping of uprights to below horizontal. Because they are the rare fruit (figs do it too) that bears on this years wood (shoots) you can prune it hard and still get fruit- even if you pollard it.


I have seen a guy on youtube that had a IE Mulberry trained as low and he could get it to go… about 4’ tall… but the growth that shoots up from that will go easily 10-12’ high in a year. He had a cage with bird netting over the entire thing… but man I am sure it was a FIGHT to keep it under control there. Doable but still you would have to get serious with it to keep it under control.

It wants to be a 30-35 ft tree.

I watch Jan Doolins vids quite often, she has lots of different varieties of mulberries.
She is down in Florida, so some that do really well for her may not go up north.

I know she has Gerardi, Jans Best, Worlds Best, Pakistan and probably lots of others.


Sometimes after they fruit you can prune them hard and they will produce new shoots and fruits again. The more you prune the more shoots you will get. Tying the branches down to form the umbrella is another method. I’m kind of using a combo of both.


With IE, the best you can do is force it to spread, top it when it reaches about 7-8 feet high and keep pruning it to make the growth spread over about a 30’-40’ diameter, this training is intensive and every year you must cut off those limbs that grow toward the sky. But after several years you can pick the majority of fruit as you walk under the tree.


It’s a major project as @TNHunter and @DennisD said. I’ve tried creating a bush out of IE. When it was small I pruned it so it developed 5 trunks. To keep it sort of under control it required heavy pruning several times a summer when branches grow 8 ft. Last summer 4 times I brought large bundles of branches to my neighbor for his chickens to eat. Geradi makes more sense for a bushy mulberry unless someone has a lot of free time and a large space.


Years ago, someone on the old NAFEX discussion list likened trying to control size of IE by pruning to trying to drink from a firehose. Probably not far from the truth.


Thank you for all the replies! It sounds like trying to properly train IE is more work that it may be worth. I do have a dwarf everbearing mulberry, would using it as a rootstock possibly be an option to limit IEs growth?

If I remember correctly someone on this forum tried that and it didn’t work.
Edit: I think it was @BobVance how tried some varieties on Gerardi and it didn’t dwarf them.

You may try by top working the rootstock with IE; I suspect you could run into an incompatible graft situation so you could lose your rootstock if this occurs. The character of IE is the growth of the wood between bud nodes is simply not conducive to fitting a compact pattern you are seeking. Typical growth between bud nodes is 6-8”! So getting it to take on a bush character is not realistic. Again, If you have the space for a 30’-40’ diameter crown, probably the best way to grow IE will be to top it early and frequently until you have enough limbs just above your head height to train it to a spreading pattern. I trained mine thru the school of hard knocks by waiting too long to top it. Once I understood this tree can grow to be 60-70’ Giant, By the time I realized I needed to top the tree, the central leader was about 10” in diameter where I topped it with my chainsaw. Actually I was worried about killing the tree, but I sealed the wound with pruning sealer and using strong cords to tie each remaining scaffold down to prevent skyward growth. I managed to achieve a weeping willow type growth, that makes picking fruit a joy. However I still need to occasionally cut off the higher growing limbs.
Good luck, let me know if you use your dwarf.
Kent, wa

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Thank you for this reply, very informative!

I will send you a pic of my IE tomorrow Adam, you can create a much better pattern if you top it in first year of growth forcing it to put out about 4-5 lateral shoots between 5-7’ above ground, all within easy picking height.
Kent, wa

Yes, the short answer is that grafting to a Gerardi does NOT dwarf the top. They keep shooting up at ~10’ per year.

The long answer:

I’ve also got a multi-graft “bush” mulberry which I’ve been trying to keep bushy through pruning. I gave up last year after it kept getting out of control.

So, last May I tried to graft a bunch of Gerardi scions to it, about 5-6’ up. Main problem was that I didn’t plan ahead, so I was harvesting partially leafed out scions and immediately grafting them. A few worked (very swollen bud was fine, but actual leaves was bad…), but it looks like I’ll have to re-graft some this year.

I’m not even sure this will be enough- it may be that grafting 6’ up is too high to start, as I’ll need to keep an eye out for any non-Gerardi waterspouts.

The metaphor is far from precise. It really isn’t that difficult to manage a single tree as a hedge. It is easier than trying to manage kiwis. You literally could use a hedge shear and just cut it about once a month, I bet, even 3 times during summer would be adequate to maintain a low and productive tree.

My weep training only requires a single session of pruning and bending down uprights a year. I have to admit, I’ve never started early enough to keep the tree under 10’, but I see no reason I couldn’t accomplish that if I started the second season. On my own property I keep trees inbounds (15’ tall and wide) with two prunes- one in mid-summer and one in late dormancy- no taping down of vigorous shoots. I bend a few quickly that can be pushed below existing branches to help keep trees vital. .Training them to a weep is a bit more laborious.

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I’ve done Illinois Everbearing and Kiwis . Kiwis are much easier to keep pruned.

I like to keep my trees small and I know mulberries this is hard to do. So I decided the best way was to limit root growth. So I tried a few in containers. That pretty much stopped them from growing fast. So much so I’m not getting very much growth at all. Last year about 6 inches only.

If you want more rapid growth, set the containers a bit into the ground and break the roots and lift pots every early spring. The extra work will be compensated by much less need to water.

That’s a good idea. Often done with figs.