The Q&A Archives: Corkscrew Willow Keeps Winterkilling

Question: I have a Corkscrew Willow that is just starting its fourth season. I planted it in the spring, it grew beautifully. Over the winter, the top winter killed, and a bunch of succers grew from the roots. I cut off all but the strongest, and it grew nicely. That winter it happened again, again I trimmed all but the strongest, then it happened AGAIN! I have seen a number of corkscrew willows in the area that are doing fine, so they should be able to grow here, and they don't have suckers like mine either. Should I keep trying with this one, or dig it out and start over? It hasn't budded out yet this spring, but most of the branches seem pliable at least. I'm getting real tired of clipping suckers. Should I just leave it a bush?

Answer: It's true that corkscrew willow is hardy in some areas around Battle Creek, but most of the county is in USDA Zone 4B, which is marginal territory for the tree. They are truly hardy in Zones 5-8, and can thrive in colder areas when planted in a sheltered place, out of drying winter winds and scorching winter sun. They grow well next to buildings here in Burlington, Vermont; we're in Zone 4B, too, but I've never seen one larger than shrub size. Yours is likely to keep dying back unless you move it to a more protected spot. Or, if you want another option, Ulmus glabra 'Camperdownii' (Camperdown Elm) is a hardier tree with contorted branches that makes a great specimen. If you want other suggestions, please let us know. Good luck!

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