The Q&A Archives: Cutting Back Shrubs and Hedges.

Question: We currently have a hedge of Dwarf Blue Leaf Artic Willow. It is about 4 years to 5 years old. It is rather sparse and bare at the bottom and nice and full on top. We would like to cut it way back to the ground almost, and let it grow back, to gain some fullness at the bottom. When is the best time of year to do that?

Answer: Willows are different from most other shrubs and trees in that they can be drastically pruned for an entirely different look.

When you see the height listed for a willow, that is the height it will reach if it is not cut back (either coppiced or pollarded). Coppicing a willow (one that is cut back to ground level) will result in numerous rods growing from the crown or stool. The tremendous growth rate of willows results in rods that grow to 4-10' in a season. This type of pruning promotes bushy growth from the ground up to a height of 4-7', depending on the growth rate of the variety, making coppiced or pollarded willows excellent as a screening hedge.

This type of pruning also results in a mass of colorful rods for the winter, as it is only the new growth that is so intensely colored. It is interesting that the rods only take on the color in the fall. If pruned to the ground each spring, the new growth is particularly interesting on your Blue Leaf Arctic Willow.

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