Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Rooting and Planting Willow Branches

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer,Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa', Curly Willow

Hello fellow readers, Gloria from Columbia, NJ, wrote in part two of an inquiry she made back in September about rooting a branch from a “curly willow bush” used as part of her daughter’s wedding centerpieces in 2008. She wishes to start a baby willow to give to her daughter and son-in-law when they move into a new home. She managed to root a branch, “but while waiting for them to find a home, the branch has grown into a 13-foot tree,” Gloria said. “Since I couldn’t uproot and transport it to Baltimore, I decided to try another branch.”

About Corkscrew Willow

I think Gloria refers to Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa,’ also known as a Corkscrew Willow, which is considered a medium-sized tree. It grows to about 30 feet high and 15 feet wide. Its curly branches are showy in winter, which makes it popular, though considered messy in terms of litter from leaf drop, fallen branches, and catkins (their flowers).

picture of a large weeping willow next to a pond

“Peking-willow” by Montrealais at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

How to root and plant willow branches

Gloria started another branch in water which rooted, but once she transplanted it, her bouncing baby willow died. I suggested she wait until spring as willows are easily rooted directly in the soil, especially when coming out of dormancy.

In her part-two email, she wrote, “I took the chance and started to root another branch. It grew many roots, so I transferred it to a pot of dirt. Just when I was about to give up on it (all the leaves turned brown and died), I noticed tiny green shoots coming out on the branch. I feel like a new grandmother!”

Gloria asked how best to keep her grandbaby branch alive. “Is there any special soil I should use? Is there any plant food that I should give it? How often do I water it?”

It’s best to use a 50/50 sand and soil mix.

It’s true that plants rooted in water then transferred to the soil can go into shock and lose leaves. Essentially when planted, they’ll put energy into the roots, which will allow the plant to recover and push out new growth. Once the new growth begins, you can use a light application of organic fertilizer.

Whether you are starting willows in soil or transplanting them from being rooted in water, it’s best to use a 50/50 sand-to-soil mix; if the soil is too heavy, it can cause the cuttings to rot. Good drainage is essential also. Most important is to not let the soil dry out as willows like moist feet.

Congratulations, ‘Grandma’ on your bouncing baby willow. Please send baby pictures! Garden Dilemmas?

Rob’s Plants has some nifty pictures of Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa,’ you can look at for now. I hope Gloria sends me pictures of her bouncing baby willow and the Momma plant. Stay tuned!

And if you are in the mood to giggle. Visit a previous column about Craig’s dilemma:  Willows Gone Wild! and Willows Gone Wild Part 2

Updated 4/13/22




Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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