The Q&A Archives: Care Of Willow Tree

Question: I just purchased a salix caprea "Kilmarnock" which appears to be a grafted weeping willow tree. Should it be planted outside in a large pot and brought inside in the winter or in the ground? When do you prune and how far back? Will it flower and when? What should I feed it and when? Does it need full or partial sun?

Answer: Goat willows do best in full sun and rich moist soil; a damp or soggy "low spot" is a good place to plant a willow although they will tolerate average soil if watered carefully when young. Nearly all hardy plants, including willows, do best planted in the ground as opposed to a container. Since the tree is grafted you should be careful not to damage the graft during pruning. Remove any root suckers or sprouts that appear below the graft as soon as you see them so they do not draw the tree's energy away from the grafted top. The top should not need much pruning if any on a young tree but you may need to keep it staked in order to maintain the tree form. If you do this, be sure to loosen the ties often to accommodate the tree's growth. Fertilize according to the label instructions with any complete fertilizer in early spring. Be sure the tree is kept well watered and mulched for at least the first year or until it becomes well established. Your tree will bloom but you may not really notice it as flowers: the buds will swell and become "furry" -- the traditional "pussy willows".

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