The Q&A Archives: Weeping willow

Question: We live in TX where the past week has been around 100*, we planted a weeping willow last weekend. It is going through major stress, leaves and many branches are brown. We have watered it several times, is there anything else we can do to save it?

Answer: I apologize for the delay in answering your question. Transplanting in the heat of summer is always stresful on plants and their defense mechanism is to scale back top growth to what the roots can support. Watering is critical. Make sure you are watering slowly, thoroughly, and deeply so it soaks down to the deepest roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water went, sometimes it is surprising. Your goal in watering is to supplement rain as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, at least as damp as a wrung out sponge. Willows like plenty of water, but evenly damp should be adequate. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger and check it. If it is still quite damp do not water yet. Using several inches of organic mulch over the root area can help keep the soil cooler and moister. Place it in a flat layer and do not allow it to touch the bark. Sometimes a tree going through transplant shock will appreciate a little shade at the middle of the day for a few weeks, shade from say a sun umbrella or a tarp suspended to block the most intense noon sun. Apart from that, patience is about all you can do. The branches may defoliate and tips may die back a bit, but assuming it is watered and begins rooting it should recover once it starts back into growth next spring. In spring you may need to prune off any dead tips -- live wood is supple and has green under the bark and the buds are plump and firm; dead wood will be off color, duller brown or gray and brittle, it will snap off in your hand. Good luck with your willow.

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