The Q&A Archives: Pruning Pussy Willows

Question: How and when does one prune pussy willow bushes to keep them neat and to get the best growth of pussy toes?
Should they be pruned in the spring or fall? How much should be cut or should old growth be thinned out? This is my first experience with them and would like to keep them neat and very healthy.

Answer: Since pussy willows produce catkins on new wood, yours should be pruned hard in the early spring to give it time to develop wood that will 'bloom' the following winter. Most gardeners cut their shrubs back to very short stubs every 3-4 years to keep them inbounds and to encourage new wood. If you want to lightly renovate your shrub rather than prune it back hard, you can prune just as the buds begin to swell. Take some of the cuttings indoors to force into bloom. Remove some of the old growth to within a few inches of the base, and cut some of the remaining branches back by one-third to one half. You'll be rewarded with vigorous new shoots which will produce an abundance of catkins the following season.

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