Willow trees are prevalent in cool and moist environments, typically in the Northern Hemisphere. They come in a variety of distinct species, from the huge trees seen beside riverbanks to small, wispy shrubs in your garden.
If you are caring for a willow tree, you must be wondering whether you can trim them during the summer and how to do it correctly--so we have researched the answers for you.
You can technically prune and trim your willow tree any time of the year. During summer, there is a risk that the new growth after pruning would be damaged during the winter.
If you want the growth to be healthier, it is best to trim your willow tree during late winter or early spring when it is dormant.
Seeing a willow tree or shrub growing to its full form can be a satisfying experience, especially for amateur gardeners. Keep reading below to learn more about caring for willow trees.
The 'Weeping' Willow
Willow trees are sometimes called "weeping willows" since the tree can look as if it is weeping, especially when raindrops fall on their long, downturned leaves. Because of this, the tree is often associated with mourning. They can often be spotted in cemeteries around Asia and the US.
Willow trees can grow rapidly, so it's important that they are taken care of before they take over an entire plot of land. If they are near your house, they could block out your house entirely and make your surroundings darker during nighttime.
These trees can also be a cause of structural damage. When the branches are pruned too many times, the limbs are exposed and can decay. When this happens, the heavy branches can fall off to damage a structure or injure a person or pet.
This is one of the reasons why most people prefer to have willow trees away from their houses. Without any risk of property damage, willow trees can grow beautifully and accentuate the surroundings.
How Should You Prune your Willow Tree?
The right way to prune your willow tree depends on what kind of willow you have. If you have a shrub, all you need to do is to trim back the branches to the initial point of growth during late winter. The result will be a bushier, healthier plant.
Willow grows very quickly, its growth rate is comparable to a weed, so you don't have to be careful when trimming or pruning the shrub.
If you have a willow tree, prune it by cutting back the branches about 40 feet away from the trunk. This method is called pollarding, and you should expect them to grow back with a little more steep height compared to before.
Usually, the larger and older the willow tree, the more frequent the pruning since their branches are more prone to rotting and falling.
Younger willow trees will need to be shaped so that they can develop a strong core which will later become the trunk.
- Cut where the branch meets the trunk
- Assign a tall stem at the top to become the trunk. Remove competing stems.
- Even out the branches by cutting out some that crowd together.
- Don't let the branches grow on the lower area of the trunk.
When should you prune your willow tree?
The best time to prune a weeping willow is during the fall and winter, especially if the willow tree is young. If you prune it while it is still growing during the summer when they are actively growing, it will bleed sap.
Pruning it during fall and winter is also easier since the leaves have already fallen, and you won't have to struggle to reach the branches.
The tree will also thrive better since the climate will be better once they start recovering and growing, unlike when you prune them during the summer when the cold and frost might stunt the growth of new branches.
However, willows do grow quickly, so you may still need to cut back the branches during the summer especially if the tree is near your property. You wouldn't want their branches causing property damage or any accident.
What soil do willow trees thrive in?
As long as the soil is maintained, Willow trees thrive in many soil types including clay soil, sandy soil, alkaline, or loamy soil. They prefer moist soil packed with nutrients, but also well-drained and slightly acidic.
How to Grow a Willow Tree
If you want a willow tree in your garden, start with small, pot-grown willows. They are easier to plant, and they are malleable so you can shape them any way you want.
Plant the willow in an area where it can receive both full sunlight during the morning and partial shade during the afternoon.
Before you take the willow out of the pot, prepare a hole twice the size of the root ball. Place the roots inside the hole--make sure it is fully submerged in the soil. Fill it back up with soil then water afterward.
Maintain the soil to be well-drained, fertilized, and slightly acidic, and make sure there are no drains, pipes, or power lines under the soil. The roots of the willow tree grow long and will most likely pierce underground structures.
Once it's planted, you'll need to water it weekly during its first year. Then when it starts to mature, you'll only need to water the soil to prevent it from drying out. Shape the young willow tree in the way you want, and make sure to prune during early winter to make the leaves bushier during the spring.
Types of Willow Trees
Although willow trees are often seen in empty spaces, you can also have them in your landscape as long as you have enough space. Here are different types of willow trees and shrubs that you can grow.
Dappled willows or Salix Integra is the shrub variety of willow trees. They grow white and pink blooms and thin green leaves that become bushier as you trim them back. Cutting back their branches will make them more lush over time.
These bushes provide year-round appeal by changing colors in the fall, giving a magical appearance to your landscape.
Purple Osier Willow
Purple osier willows are deciduous shrubs that can grow up to 16 feet tall. They can grow purple or red flowers, and their leaves are only .5-3 inches long. They can be shaped into a hedge or kept as a lone tree that you can make bushier by pruning.
White willows have slender leaves. They are dioecious, meaning both male and female flowers grow on them. These flowers pollinate, then grow small light-brown capsules that contain seeds. It is not recommended to consume them since they are bitter and not palatable.
Willow trees have a mystical look that can elevate your landscape's look, but you'll need to pay close attention to them so they'll thrive well. Make sure you have enough time and resources to dedicate to this tree since it needs a lot of maintenance even when it grows old.