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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Willow

willow tree

Ask the gardener: Willow

Gardening advice for your willow trees...

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.   If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out…… at least that's the theory!

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Natalie Cristofoli asks...

I have a small twisted willow in a pot which has been very happy for the past 3 years. Last year however the bark was stripped and pecked by some of the many sparrows that live in my garden. It has no new leaves developing on the branches but some odd looking green shoots growing out of the trunk. Is there anything I can do to save it?

Bill replies...

I feel Natalie that the sparrows will have been pecking the bark of your Twisted Willow for aphids and that the damage to the new shoots and leaves has been probably caused by the sealing grafts which have worked loose from the main trunk.  I am afraid that if there are no new leaves it could easily be that the new shoots have died but it is well worthwhile, with a pair of secateurs, to cut just one or two of the stems and if the stems are still green and not brown there is a chance that new leaves will appear. 

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Ian Cunningham asks...

I was given a Willow tree, Salix Integra, in September last year which I repotted and placed in my garden. It looked really healthy and blooming however so far this year there is very little growth and the branches appear quite brown with few shoots or leaves. Is this just the time of year or do I have a problem? Please help as I think this is a really informative site and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Bill replies...

Quite often Ian with Salix Integra you do get die back of the shoots during the winter period and any dead shoots need to be pruned back to new growth.  I would, especially if it is growing in a container, give your tree a boost with a general liquid fertiliser which will encourage new growth.  I am afraid that there is not much that you can do at the present time to rectify the problem but hopefully new shoots will appear over the summer period.

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John Gill asks...

First of all what an excellent website and clarity in answers - keep up the great work!
I planted a weeping willow in December 2004 and has now doubled in height to approx 12 feet, but have found that the main trunk branch is bending to the right.
I want the trunk to be taller and straighter, would it be okay if I topped off the main branch as I do not see the tree growing upwards now, instead the main trunk is bending significantly to one side?

Bill replies...

The time John to prune your Weeping Willow is during the winter dormant period and you can prune quite hard back and it will start to shoot again the following spring. I feel that this is what you will need to do with the main trunk of the tree.

Many thanks for your kind comments regarding the web site.

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Thelma Taylor asks...

I have just purchased a Kilmarnock willow quarter standard. It is about 18 inches high. How tall will it grow and does it like sun?

Bill replies...

Your Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea) will have been grafted onto an eighteen inch high standard Thelma and basically that is the height to which it will grow.  It can be grown either in a container or planted in the garden and will tolerate a sunny position.  If you do plant the Willow in a container you would be far better using a soil base compost such as John Innes No 2/3.

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Philip Walker asks...

I have just read all the Qs about Willows and pruning but I still have a question! I have a self seeded common willow (the shoots grow straight up) which is approx. 15 years old. The base of the tree is about 3 feet, 4 branches of 6-8 inches dia. then create the bulk of the heavy boughs up to 10 feet high. I have kept to this height by pruning the years growth back every Spring. I now have several "knots" where the new growth sprouts which is loading the long boughs. Can I cut the "knots" off completely to reduce the bough length or would this be too drastic? I was hoping the  boughs would sprout lower down.

Bill replies...

You can Philip prune the branches of your Willow below the knots where the new growth is shooting but, the time to carry out the pruning is during the dormant winter period.  You will find that you can drastically prune hard back Willows and they will shoot again.

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Dave Norman asks...

My Kilmarnock willow dwarf stock has all the old growth under the new. How and when can I prune it or do something about it as it does not weep properly as all old growth is still underneath the new.

Bill replies...

Although it is a bit late (April) Dave I would prune back all the dead and old growth from underneath your Willow as this will encourage new shoots to appear and be beneficial for your tree.

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Karen Roberts asks...

I have a large willow tree in my garden, I am unsure what type, but it presently has a lot of white furry catkins which are developing into larger yellow ones. I noticed yesterday that, with the wind blowing in the opposite direction to normal, the ground above the roots on one side was lifting with each gust. We placed some large rocks on the area that was lifting but with limited effect. I then set about cutting away any old branches to try and reduce the weight, but unfortunately I found some rot. A thick broken branch came off in my hand and looked like charred driftwood with a lot of woodlice taking advantage. Some of the trunks have holes (approx 1 cm) that I think may have been caused by a woodpecker and peering inside I can see a lot of woodlice.
Another branch I cut through appeared healthy except for the very centre of the heartwood which again was full of woodlice. Can you help me help my tree? We moved into this house last July and in contrast to others the willow was a huge selling factor. It is in an area of the garden that flooded during the winter and is well away from the drains.

Bill replies...

Your large Willow is obviously a beautiful tree Karen but Willows do have a large protruding root system and, if you are worried about root movement on one side of your tree you can prune some of the main shoots back without causing any damage and this pruning will obviously place less pressure on the roots which are lifting.  The time for pruning is during the dormant winter period but, if there are at present any old dead branches, these can be removed now.  If may be worthwhile contacting your Local Council who have their own Tree Experts who I am sure will give you on the spot advice.

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Andrew Fotherby asks...

How do I take willow cuttings for propagation? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Bill replies...

The best time to take cuttings Andrew from Willows is in the autumn time when shoots approximately one foot in length can be inserted into the soil, approximately six inches below and six inches above.  These will root over the winter/spring period and in the spring these can be repotted into pots or transplanted into the garden.  It would be worthwhile to insert some shoots into the ground now (April) but as indicated above the most successful time is the autumn period.

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Andrew Hamilton asks...

I have a small area of very steep hillside land to the rear of my house that I have been clearing of the dreaded Rhododendron Ponticum.  This hillside is very wet, partly shady, north facing, and of windy maritime climate.  On one side there is a high bank on which grow several silver birch trees but these I have had reduced to 1 metre height (just above the lowest crown) because they were potentially unstable and threatening to fall on the house.  I cannot kill these off completely however because their root systems are currently stabilising the banking which, if that collapsed, would bring down a dry stone dyke and would block a small burn.   I am considering replacing these birches with some small willow trees or shrubs because of the “advantage” of their invasive root system qualities, and might have the additional bonus of drying the ground out a bit.  I wouldn’t want these to grow more than a couple of metres high though and have noted that Kilmarnock Willow is a dwarf variety but susceptible to disease and damage.  There are several other varieties that grow to 4 or 5 metres that could perhaps be kept trimmed.  However I am not sure if these smaller varieties would provide the sufficiently strong root systems that I would seek.  Can you recommend something to suit that would be disease free and easily maintained please?  Many thanks, and may I compliment you on such a really useful website.

Bill replies...

With regard to your problem Andrew I have spoken with some of my gardening colleagues and they all sympathise with the problems you are encountering with your very wet shady North facing hillside. Firstly the planting of Willows my colleagues and I are all in agreement that it would be worthwhile trying Salix species such as Alba Vitellina which produces golden yellow shoots or Salix Alba Chermesina and this produces bright scarlet shoots.  Both of these varieties can be coppiced back early springtime approximately every two years to produce new vigorous shoots.  It may also be worthwhile, providing that the ground is not too wet, to plant one or two Holly Trees which tolerate shady and maritime conditions and I would also suggest planting Aucuba Japonica and it may also be worthwhile to try the common Alder (Alnus Glutinosa) which thrives in wet soil and will also tolerate partial shade and can be coppiced back and some of the hardy Ferns.  Also it may be worthwhile trying the rampant shrub Symphoricarpos (Snow Berry) which tolerates shady conditions.  You may also wish to try ground cover plants such as Pulmonaria, Tolmeia, Mahonia Japonica and one or two of the Viburnum species such as Viburnum Opulus.  I do feel that it is going to be a question of trial and error but I do hope that the suggestions from my colleagues and I have given will prove beneficial.

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Harry & Myra Simons asks...

I have a salix in standard form growing at present in a broken patio tub. I want to transplant to a different tub. When and how should this be carried out?

Bill replies...

As it is February, I would repot your Salix as soon as possible Harry/Myra whilst your tree is still dormant and I would use a soil base compost John Innes No 2 or 3.  Whilst your Salix will require regular watering throughout the summer months you will need to place in your new plant container crocks or a layer of gravel for drainage.  Standard Salix love moist conditions but do not want to become waterlogged. The soil base compost which is heavier than a peat multipurpose compost will add more ballast to the pot and stop your standard tree from falling over during windy weather.

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John Clarke asks...

I have a weeping willow tree that a previous owner cut the top off about 10 years ago it appears to have recovered with plenty of branches but is rotten at the base and has a  brown fungal growth. I was thinking of hollowing out the rotten wood which is about 9"x 4" and filling with concrete, any suggestions? I think I have killed the fungal growth off with Jeyes fluid.

Bill replies...

If you decide to cut out the infected growth at the base of your Willow Tree John I would recommend that you carry this out early summertime during a dry period.  The reason being is that you do not want to be sealing moisture into the infected area.  There are plastic compound materials which you can use for filling but I do know of people who have used concrete for this purpose.

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Gaynor asks...

I think I've just identified a small tree in my garden as a flamingo willow. It is near a fence and it's not a very big garden so I want to stop it from getting too big. I'm wondering when the best time to prune it would be. Also I'm wondering how big it will grow. 

Bill replies...

Your Flamingo Willow (Salix Hakuronishika) Gaynor will have been grafted into a three to six foot standard root stock and will not grow into a large tree.  You can however during the winter months trim back some of the longer shoots if required and if you also have abundance of shoots near the grafted crown some of these can also be pruned back.  It is important with your Willow to keep an eye on the watering - drying out of the roots can quite easily cause the leaves to shrivel.

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David asks...

We have a lovely weeping willow in our front garden which is normally a great focal point, first to gain new leaves in the spring and last to lose them in the autumn. This year however it shed its leaves unusually early and is looking a bit worse for wear. Some large limbs fell off without the help or storms or high wind and we also found some black aphid-like creatures in plaques up and down the lower hanging shoots. We are thinking about pruning it back to remove the insects and encourage new growth for the spring but don't want to damage the tree or destroy its current shape. Do you have any advice?

Bill replies...

The correct time David to prune your Weeping Willow back is during the dormant winter period but, it is important not to over prune and spoil the shape of the tree. One of the problems with Willows is that they can attract large amounts of black aphids which is a common pest of Willows and if your tree is not too large you can spray with a systemic insecticide such as Provado.

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Gilly asks...

When and how should I prune back a Japanese Willow (Hakuro-Nishiki) I have as 6ft standards in pots.

Bill replies...

The Japanese Willow (Hakuro-Nishiki) is becoming a very popular species of the Willow family planted in people's gardens Gilly.  The shoots are grafted onto three to six feet standard root stocks and very little pruning is required until there is an abundance of shoots near the grafted crown, when some of the shoots can be pruned back.  You will also find with Willows that you tend to get die back to some of the shoots over the winter period and these do need to be cut back to living material.  It is also important that when the Willow comes into leaf in the springtime that the plant is kept well watered, drying out of the roots can quite easily cause the leaves to shrivel.  Your Willow Tree will need to be kept in a sheltered spot away from prevailing winds which, again, can quite easily cause wind burn.  The Japanese Willow is also called the Flamingo Willow and produces an abundance of variegated leaves through the growing season.

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Melanie Marshall asks...

When is the best time to prune my twisted willow? I'd like to give it a trim and tidy up before it gets too big.

Bill replies...

The time to prune your Willow is during the dormant period over the winter months Melanie when the Willow can be trimmed and tidied up.  But, I would try and avoid hard pruning.

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Carla Hartin asks...

I have lately purchased a flamingo willow. The leaves have curled and died and the petals are covered in dark spots.  There was greenfly, so I sprayed with a soapy solution, this made it worse.  I have pruned the willow and removed all the dead foliage.  What could be the matter and will it flourish again?

Bill replies...

The Flamingo Willow is temperamental Carla and any sudden change in temperature and cold winds will cause the leaves to brown and curl. Flamingo Willows need to be situated in a sheltered position.  Regarding the greenfly you will need to spray early morning or evening, if you spray midday in direct sunlight this can quite easily cause the leaves to scorch and turn brown.  You will usually find with Flamingo Willows that they will start to produce new leaves.

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Debbie asks...

I have a dwarf weeping willow which appears to be dying. I have noticed small yellow patches mainly on the branches that have died. Is this moss? and if so could this be killing the tree?

Bill replies...

The dwarf Weeping Willow which is grown in the majority of gardens Debbie is the Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea) and they can be quite tempermental.  What quite often happens is that the grafted branches sometimes work loose and this will cause the branches to die back and they are prone to drought conditions during hot weather.  You mention yellow patches of moss on the branches and this can quite easily happen if your willow is growing in a very shaded part of the garden or if the roots have been damaged which has occurred to a number of species due to last year's hot summer.

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Lucy Smith asks...

The living willow dome that I built last year for my children is infested with willow beetle.  Firstly, are these creatures poisonous?  Secondly, how do I get rid of them?  I would prefer to use organic or biological controls if possible.

Bill replies...

The Beetle and the Larvae of the Beetle Lucy do a tremendous amount of damage to the shoots and leaves of Willows but the Beetles are not poisonous and will not harm your children.  With regard to spraying I am afraid that there are no products available to kill the adult Beetles but the Larva which appear early Springtime can be controlled by using an organic spray such as Savona - which is obtainable from Garden Centres and DIY Stores.

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Graham asks...

We are currently looking at purchasing a house with a large yellow willow tree in the next plot. The trunk is some 10 metres away but it over hangs beautifully into the garden to within one or two metres of the house. The trunk is about 5 metres from the canal that runs across the back. Our question Bill is Would the tree take the easier option of moisture from the canal and so not be so invasive of the drains and house foundations?

Bill replies...

It is very difficult to give you a concise answer to your question Graham, but the Willow in the next garden (which will be the Golden Weeping Willow) can grow to a height of forty feet and will undoubtedly have a very vigorous root system and the roots will be spread all over the garden.  I feel that you do need to seek the advice of a reputable tree surgeon in your area.

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Lorraine asks...

I have just purchased a Kilmarnock Willow for the front garden which is south facing, I have been told that I can plant this tree in a pot, is this right and if so what size of pot would I need to allow for full growth? The tree is now 5ft tall. Also could you recommend a Clematis that would grow in a tub in a north facing garden. Thank you

Bill replies...

Your Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea) can be easily grown in a large container Lorraine but you will need to choose a container which has quite a large base - this will stop your Willow falling over during windy weather - and there are now available some lovely wooden rustic and hardwood planters, and I would use when planting a mixture of a soil base compost - John Innes No 2/3 and a general multi purpose compost two parts soil based to one part multi purpose.  With reference to a Clematis for a north facing wall I would recommend Clematis Alpina.

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Dan Church asks...

I have a lovely weeping willow which sadly has grown so large that it shades much of our house from early afternoon to sunset. If I were to pollard it severely, would the new branches adopt the weeping form? Thank you.

Bill replies...

The Weeping Willow is a majestic tree Dan but it does need space to grow and I feel that once you cut back/pollard your tree it will never look the same again, though the new branches once large enough will start to weep again.  The time to pollard your Willow is during the dormant period and I would paint the cut branches with a tree sealant such as Arbrex to avoid fungal infection.

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John Cheslett asks...

I have purchased willow whips which I planned to weave into a live willow fence. At a recent planning meeting an objection was raised stating it would cause problems with the drains. The fence/hedge would be controlled @ 2m high each spring. How far would the roots be likely to spread? I am digging a 3ft deep trench to build a concrete planter in for bamboo to contain it, would you recmomend a similar planter for the willow?

Bill replies...

It is very difficult John to say how far the roots from your Willow fence will spread and it will also depend to a certain extent to the type of soil your Willows are growing in.  But as you will be aware Willows do have a very vigorous root system and the roots will make a beeline for the drains.  Regarding your concrete planter this will help to retain the roots.

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Kerry asks...

Our school has a willow structure and it is now my job to look after it, what is the best time to prune a willow and also to weave it?

Bill replies...

Willow structures are becoming very popular Kerry especially in schools and you will be able to weave your Willow shoots into the structure when they are actively growing during the Spring and Summer months and if you do need to thin out or prune any shoots this can be done during the dormant period.  However do not be afraid of cutting any unwanted shoots back during the summer months.

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Dawn Pearson asks...

We have a willow tree in our garden approx 7 metres high.  As we live on an estate I am concerned this could cause damage to other properties - the nearest house from the tree is also approx 7 - 8 metres. Also our exterior wall fell down in the high winds and the builders believe it was due to the roots from the willow tree.  We cut it down every year but this is obviously not making any difference. Is there any way we can keep this tree or do we have to kill the roots. I really love this tree and the garden want be the same without it but it looks like we have little option. The neighbours are not complaining as they have tall trees (unidentified in their garden too). I would really appreciate your advice on this.

Bill replies...

I am afraid Willows do produce a very vigorous root system Dawn and love moist damp conditions and the roots do tend to make a beeline to drainage systems and, also house foundations.  You say that you are cutting down/pollarding your Willow every year but, this will not stop the roots growing.  It is a difficult decision for you to make - 7 to 8 metres is, in my opinion quite close to the house but, what I would suggest you do is contact a Tree Surgeon who will give you an on-site inspection and a second opinion.

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Amena King asks...

I am planning on planting a weeping form of a willow, either salix alba trists or salix babylonica.  The site will be a ground level ex-slurry pit 5m by 4m (12' deep concrete block) we have dug part of it out and have lined it as a pond, the salix we plan to plant within the sub terrainian block pit surrounding the pond.  My concern is that my septic tank and soakaway are situated just outside the block wall! Am I going to cause myself a major headache, will the roots seek out the soakaway or will they prefer to stay within the pretty much continualy damp ex slurry pit?  Would you advise me to avoid buying one?

Bill replies...

Salix Babylonica and Salix Alba Trista are both beautiful trees but both need space to grow as they will produce a very vigorous root system and I am afraid Amena the roots do make a beeline for drains and soak aways and they will find a way through your concrete block wall. To be better safe than sorry I would avoid planting any Willows near to a soak away.

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John Carr asks...

Sunday was such a nice sunny day that I decided to give my contorted-willow some surgery. Being close to a stream it had flourished to a height of some 6 mtrs I have taken it down to around 3 mtrs -  how much closer to the ground can I pollard it?

Bill replies...

You can cut some of the stems further back than three metres - some to two and the stems near the stream one to one and a half metres.  It would then look far better than having all the main stems cut at one height.  What you need to do is to try and create a balanced framework and one of the problems when cutting back stems of willows is that they are vulnerable to attacks from canker and I would be inclined to paint the stems with a tree sealant such as Arbrex.

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Nick asks...

I am going to plant a living willow archway. What type of willow do you suggest I use and how much will it cost on average?

Bill replies...

The two Willows widely used Nickare Salix Viminalis and the White Willow Salix Alba and both these species can be easily rooted from hardwood cuttings.  If you live near a Country Park these Parks usually have an information centre and I would talk to the one of the Park Rangers who will be able to give you more information on Willow Arches and where you can obtain the raw materials. Quite a number of the Centres run courses on this subject.

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Sue Houston asks...

We have had two weeping willows for about three years.  Both are planted in the same area of the garden and have never been pruned.  One is doing well, but the other has had much less foliage this year, with half of the branches seeming to be dead.  What could be causing the difference as there is no sign of pest or disease?  Also is now the right time to prune them and how do I do this?

Bill replies...

It is going to be difficult Sue to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with your Weeping Willow.  It could be shortage of water caused by this year's long hot summer which has caused die back of some of the branches.  If your tree is the Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea Pendula) it could be that one of the grafted shoots has worked loose which has caused dieback.  Kilmarnock Willows are also susceptible to rust disease which causes leaves to drop prematurely and, last but by no means least, they are quite a temperamental tree and will suddenly start to die back for no specific reason.  On the question or pruning the time to prune is during the dormant period.  I personally would prune early Spring before the willow comes into leaf.

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Diane Burton asks...

Could you please give me some info on the 'golden curl' willow tree.  We purchased one from our local garden centre about 18 months ago and it has has now grown to around 10 foot.  Very eye catching tree and we really love having it in the garden.  We live in a semi-detached and the willow is situated on the dividing fence between ourselves and our neighbour.  Could you also please give advise us on this particular willow's root size and if and when it can be trimmed down!  Many thanks to you.  P.S. Excellent website, full of very interesting information.

Bill replies...

Many thanks Diane for your kinds words regarding the website, which are greatly appreciated.  Regarding your question re your Golden Willow Tree which is certainly a beautiful and majestic tree, but it is quite a vigorous growing tree and you will need to keep an eye on its size.  The time to prune your Willow is during the winter months.  Willows love moist/damp conditions and have a vigorous root system which has a tendency to make a 'bee line' for drainage systems and you will therefore to check your house drains from time to time.

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Barry Cuff asks...

I have a very large willow tree and at the base of the trunk where the bark has eroded there are quite a few large holes that some type of insect has caused. Should I spray insecticide over the affected area? Any suggestions to save the tree would be appreciated.

Bill replies...

What I would do Barry is when your Willow Tree is completely dormant spray the trunk of your tree with a tar oil winter wash which will control both pests and predators. Also, to minimise the risk of infection from bacterial canker it would be worthwhile to fill in the holes with a plastic/bituman filler.

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Ruth Wauh asks...

Last year I purchased a Kilmarnock Willow, it appeared healthy enough up until it developed rust. I treated with fungus treatment as was recommended and all was well. This year there appeared to be growth which has now come to a sudden halt with no further growth. Had a lot of dead branches which I removed. Will it come back or should I just get rid of it?

Bill replies...

One of the problems with the Kilmarnck Willow is that quite a number are prone to being infected with rust and I find the best fungicide to use is Dithane.  Again Ruth when spraying this should be carried out early morning/late evening not in direct sunlight.  On the question of the die-back of the dead branches it could be that the root system is not vigorous enough to sustain the new shoots and, this could have quite easily caused dieback of quite a number of the branches.  If you have removed all of the dead branches it maybe worthwhile waiting to see if any new shoots appear from the crown of the tree.

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Mary Browne asks...

I have a willow in my small garden, which has doubled in size since we moved in three years ago.  It grows in an upward manner and doesn't seem to weep!  I like the tree and it acts as a screen, but it is also getting too big and making my flower/veg beds too shady.  Can I prune it?  And if so, when and how much?  Thanks Mary

Bill replies...

One of the problems with Willow Mary is they do grow very quickly and also produce a vigorous root system and the roots tend to make a 'beeline' for the moisture in the drains.  On the question of pruning the best time is early Spring when you can prune your Willow hard ie. pollarding or coppicing.  Or, you can lightly prune some of the main branches.  Spring is the ideal time Mary but, if your plants are suffering from heavy shading of the Willow there is no reason why you cannot prune back some of the branches now.

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Jean Hull asks...

I have a contorted willow tree which appears to be dying off, it seemed ok last Sunday but by Wednesday it has mostly shrivelled brown leaves and some dead branches. It is approximately 4-5 years old and has been perfectly ok till now.

Bill replies...

It could well be Jean that the very hot weather and the dry soil conditions has been the main cause for your leaves to shrivel and dry up.  I feel though that if you give your tree a good watering you will usually find that new shoots and leaves will appear.

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J. Cunliffe asks...

We have a Kilmarnock willow that was planted two years ago and is doing very well.  We are due to move house in approximately 10 weeks - will we be able to successfully move and replant the willow?

Bill replies...

You will be moving early October and by then your Willow will be semi-dormant which will make it far easier for lifting and transplanting.  I would suggest that you leave it as late as possible before lifting your Willow - do try to ensure that you get a good root ball  - wrap the roots in hessian sacking.  I would suspect that the last thing on your mind when moving will be your Willow Tree but, it would be ideal if you could replant the tree as soon as possible.

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Mary Browne asks...

I have a willow in my small garden, which has doubled in size since we moved in three years ago.  It grows in an upward manner and doesn't seem to weep!  I like the tree and it acts as a screen, but it is also getting too big and making my flower/veg beds too shady.  Can I prune it?  And if so, when and how much?  Thanks Mary

Bill replies...

One of the problems with Willow Mary is they do grow very quickly and also produce a vigorous root system and the roots tend to make a 'beeline' for the moisture in the drains.  On the question of pruning the best time is early Spring when you can prune your Willow hard ie. pollarding or coppicing.  Or, you can lightly prune some of the main branches.  Spring is the ideal time Mary but, if your plants are suffering from heavy shading of the Willow there is no reason why you cannot prune back some of the branches now.

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Phyllis Caruana asks...

I have a miniature willow tree approx. 2 years old. I want to replant it in my back garden as it has grown too big for my front, and I want it to hang over my pond. Thank you.

Bill replies...

The time to replant your Willow Phyllis is in the Autumn time when your tree is dormant.  You may find due to transplanting die back of some of the shoots when they come into leaf in the Spring but I would not worry too much - all you need to do is cut these shoots back.

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Anne Taylor asks...

I purchased a willow (Kilmarnock) with this heat a lot of the leaves have dried, curled and died. I have cut it back, little pussy willows are coming on but it seems to be sprouting from the bottom of the tree as though it is going to seed, I was advised I could keep this in a large pot which I do.

Bill replies...

Kilmarnock Willows do not like the very hot temperatures we have had recently and quite a number this year are suffering - not only are the leaves curling but quite a number of the leaves are dropping off.  You will need to keep your Willow well watered Anne and I would also recommend feeding with a general liquid fertiliser to encourage new shoots.  It would also be advisable to move your plant into a slightly shaded spot in the garden.  The small shoots which are appearing from the base of the plant will be young suckers and I would recommend removing these.

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L Hughes asks...

Two years ago my daughter planted a salix dark snake bush about 8 feet from the house and a few feet from the drainage system.  The bush was 6 ft when planted as in now 7 ft.  It has four or five 'stems' rather than a single trunk. She has been told that this is a willow and may cause problems with the foundations and/or drains in due course.  Should she dig it up?

Bill replies...

Salix (Willow) loves moisture and the roots will certainly make a beeline for the drains. I would recommend moving your daughter's tree Mr Hughes and the time to move the Salix will be in the Autumn time when the tree is dormant.

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Peter Balls asks...

I have an Aerican/purple willow in a large pot in my garden. I got it at the start of the summer it has come on very well but the last few days the inner leaves have started to go yellow and fall. I have been told its because I am over watering can you help please?

Bill replies...

There are Peter a number of reasons why the leaves of your Willow are starting to go yellow.  It is a classic symptom of your plants being over-watered but it could also be your Willow is suffering from nutrient deficiency and it may just require a top dressing with a balanced organic fertiliser.  It could also be a sudden change in temperature - when you take into account the extreme high temperatures during July and the temperatures this month (August) this does quite often cause premature leaf fall.

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Stephen McGowan asks...

I have a Kilmarnock Willow planted in the back garden and recently the leaves have started to develop bright yellow/orange spots with what looks like powder underneath the leaves. Do you have any idea what this could be and is there anything I can do to stop this ? I have looked online to try and identify this but with no success.

Bill replies...

Your Kilmarnock Willow Stephen has been infected with rust - an airborne fungi disease which, as you describe causes yellow orange spots/postules on the leaves.  You can spray the leaves with a fungal spray such as Dithane or Systhane Fungus Fighter which will help to keep the disease in check.  You will also need to ensure that when the tree has shed all its leaves the these are removed and destroyed.  It would also be worthwhile during the winter months to spray the stem and branches and also the soil around the tree with a fungal spray to kill any harbouring spores.

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Gill Hill asks...

I have a small weeping willow by our pond and five branches have suddenly grown upwards to the sky from the middle with no sign of 'weeping'.  Why is this and should I cut them off?

Bill replies...

This is a regular occurrence with Weeping Willows Gill which have been grafted and the five upright shoots can be cut back and the correct time of year to do this is in the Autumn.

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Trudi asks...

My potted (grafted) miniature willow is being eaten alive by tiny grubs! They have devoured all of the lower leaves and are now moving up the tree. Now even the uneaten leaves are looking very sorry for themselves. The bugs look like little caterpillars. Help!

Bill replies...

It is tiny caterpillars which are doing the damage Trudi to your Willow and you will need to spray your Willow with an insecticide spray.  The one I use is Sprayday Greenfly Killer Plus - which kills a wide range of aphids and also caterpillars.  You will need to give your Willow a complete spray to run off.  Although your Willow at the moment looks 'worse for wear' it will recover.

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James McShane asks...

I have a Kilmarnock willow about five years old in my front lawn. After the recent heavy rain it has come loose. Is it a good idea to replant it in my very boggy back garden? Will it take as I think I'd prefer it there.

Bill replies...

I would play safe James and keep your Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea Pendula) in the front garden, unlike other Willow species your Kilmarnock Willow does not have a very vigorous root system and will not stand growing in a very boggy garden.

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David Proudfoot asks...

I have a weeping willow and every year the leaves come out and twist and curl and look brown.  Something is getting to it... pest, fungus or something.  Someone suggested that I should cut off all the branches and burn them.  This seems a bit drastic to me.  Is he right or is he having a laugh?

Bill replies...

One of the most common diseases of the Weeping Willow David is Rust.  The disease will cause the leaves to brown and premature leaf drop.  What I would suggest you do before your Willow comes into leaf in the Spring time is to spray the branches and stems with a fungicide such as Dithane or Systhane Fungus Fighter.  These will kill any spores which are harbouring on the branches of your Willow. After your Willow comes into leaf you will have to spray at regular intervals throughout the summer months again with one of the fungicide sprays to keep the Rust Spores under control

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Susan Bishop asks...

I have a weeping willow about 12m from my neighbour's house.  It is about 4m high.  They say it is too close to their house but I got an arborist round to look at it.  He said it would not be a problem.  The ground slopes down about 1.5m from the house to the tree.  If I were to pollard it would that restrict its root growth? Does it make any difference if the tree is grafted?  I do not know whether it is or how to tell. This appears to be a lot of questions but I hope you can help.

Bill replies...

With your Willow being only four metres high I agree with the arborist comments that the roots of the tree do not pose a problem to your neighbour's house but the downside is Susan if your Willow is the Golden Weeping Willow (Salix Chrysocama or Bablonica) it can grow to a height of approximately 12 to 15 metres and I feel that the roots could then pose a problem to your neighbour's house - taking into account that the Willows produce a very vigorous root system and will make a 'beeline' for drainage systems.  You mention pollarding your Willows but I feel this will not drastically reduce the root growth.

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Rosemany Wright asks...

Regarding a willow tree which has been in my garden for 10 years or more. Last year we cut it back and this year all the leaves shrivelled and fell off - leaving the new branches bare - I presumed it was rust and sprayed the tree with dithane. Now, the ends of the thick older branches that we cut off have fungus growing - pink/grey around each area - not on the bark but on the cut off ends of the branches - I have no idea what it is or how to treat it. Please can you help? Thank you

Bill replies...

Regarding pruning your Willow Tree Rosemany the time to prune is during the dormant period and to avoid infection from diseases such a Coral Spot and Bacterial Canker you would be far better treating the cut branches with a tree preservative such as Arbrex This will prevent any fungal growth which is now appearing on your pruned branches.  I also feel it would be worthwhile to cut the ends of the branches off again and treat with Arbrex tree sealant.  It is difficult to say what the fungal growth is without seeing a photograph.  With reference to your problems with rust and the shrivelled leaves this does happen very frequently with Willows and you will need to keep spraying with a fungicide - Dithane is a good one to use but I would also alternate with another fungicide such as Systhane Fungus Fighter.  Both products can be obtained from Garden Centres.

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Anita asks...

I have a upright growing willow tree that I want to reduce in height. How and where on the branches should I prune as the growth seems to be at the end of the main branches and I am worried about being left with a bare tree this year? Also when is the best time to prune?

Bill replies...

The time Anita to prune your Willow is during the dormant period or early Spring time and you can cut back/pollard the main branches and these will shoot again but, you will usually find that it does have a tendency to produce new growth at the end of the main branches.  What I would try to do is to build an asthetic framework when pollarding your tree.

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Ian asks...

How come my local BBC website doesn't have such a useful page? Anyway, I need to cut down our weeping willow, which is getting too large; I have a self-seeded sapling, but can I grow this in a large pot to restrict its size? If it is possible, will it weep eventually?

Bill replies...

The Weeping Willow is a beautiful tree Ian but it does need space to grow and one of the problems with Weeping Willows is that they love moisture and will make a bee line for house drains.  Regarding the self-seeded sapling you will be able to grow it in a large pot/container but as I have said previously Willows love moisture and will require a lot of watering. Many thanks for your kind words regarding the web site.

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Glenys asks...

My weeping willow tree doesn't look as lush this year. It is about 8 years old and the trunk is about 10 metres high. Is there a way that I can feed it?

Bill replies...

Your Willow could be suffering from the effects of last year's hot summer Glenys which has restricted the lush growth in Willows.  The main requirements for your Willow is an adequate supply of water - they do require very moist conditions - but it is worth bearing in mind with your Willow - which is ten metres high - that it will have a vigorous root system and will make a bee line for drainage systems.  It is going to take an enormous amount of fertiliser to feed your Willow and providing that your tree receives an adequate amount of water it will again produce new lush shoots without the need for feeding.

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Martin Maddra asks...

We are considering buying a house, which has a Willow about 3 metres from the corner of the house. The house is approximately 30 years old, and the tree was planted at the same time. We have contacted a couple of arborists (including one who has been out to this tree before). They both said they would not let the tree put us off buying. However, one also estimated approx £10,000 for a root screen around the house!! (is it not too late anyway?) Other options are treating the tree to retard its growth or (as the tree has been removed from the conservation list due to being hit by lightning some years ago) removing it. The latter option would be a real shame as it is a beautiful tree, however we would replant an alternative (to prevent us being lynched by the rest of the village!) Does removing a tree like this present its own problems? The ground structure is clay, would this subsequently 'remoisturise' and cause damage in itself? Do the roots have to be removed as well? If so, could the support under the house weaken?

Bill replies...

Although I am not a qualified Aboriculturist Martin I will try and put myself in your position and look at both the positives and negatives.  The positives are that it is obviously to you and your family a beautiful house with congenial surroundings and the Weeping Willow is a feature of the garden.  The negatives are three metres from the corner of the house is quite close for a Willow which has a rampant root system also, I would check your House Insurance Policy to see if it covers subsidence damage caused by the Willow Tree.  Damaged caused by the roots of Willows quite often occur during the summer months when the roots are searching for available water which, in turn, can cause cracking of soil - especially clay soil.  Pollarding the tree and using a growth retardent - will obviously cut down the leaf area and water requirements for the tree.  I also feel that you need to ask if the tree has put off potential house buyers - it is a difficult predicament you are in Martin and as mentioned above I am not a qualified Arborist but I do feel that you need written guarantees.

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Peter asks...

I have a kilmarnock willow in my front yard that snapped on the main trunk about December. I was told to support it and cover the break as it may heal but it hasn't seemed to heal nor have any leaves appeared although there are buds. Do you think it's dead?

Bill replies...

Your Kilmarnock Willow Peter will have been grafted onto the main trunk and if the main trunk has not healed together I am afraid that there is not much chance that the actual weeping shoots producing leaves.  Your Willow should now be in full leaf and it may be worth checking to see if the main trunk which you repaired has calloused over. If this has not happened there is very little chance of your Willow surviving.

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Sue B asks...

We have inherited a pussy willow, some 12 feet or more tall in our small garden.  It's probably only 20 ft from the back of the house and a new drains system we've had to have installed and only 6ft from a soakaway.  It's beautiful but we've been advised by a tree surgeon that it ought to go.  Is there a small tree you would recommend to take its place?  Without it the garden will be totally bare of trees.  We'd like someting safer for the small garden, drains and house.  We sit on clay soil, very wet in winter and parched in summer.  Thanks.

Bill replies...

Listed below Sue are some species of small trees which should be fine for your garden.

Amelanchier Lamarckii (a multi stemmed upright deciduous shrub which has beautiful bronze leaves when young and maturing to dark green through the summer and in early springtime produces masses of white flowers and also purple black fruits).

Magnolia Stellata (produces beautiful star shaped flowers in the spring and is an ideal Magnolia for the small garden) as a contrast you could also plant the Ornamental Crab Apples such as varieties Golden Hornet and John Downey.

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Rachel asks...

Hi there - love this site!!  I recently bought a twisted willow tree from Homebase, which stands about 6ft.  I have put it in a large container and placed against our house where it is sheltered from day-long sunshine and wind.

Over the last couple of days I've noticed some of the leaves turning yellow and seen the ends of a few of the smaller branches drying up, turning brown and dying.  It's watered reguarly - is there something I am doing wrong?  Help please, I dont want to be a willow murderer!

Bill replies...

It could just be the change in conditions which has caused some of the leaves to dry up.  Being placed in a slightly sheltered position is fine Rachel and with you recently repotting your tree into a large container, you will need to keep an eye on watering your plant but, I would try to avoid over watering with your tree being newly planted - it needs time to produce new roots in the new container. Twisted Willows can be temperamental but I feel that when the weather improves your Willow will produce new leaves. Many thanks for your comments regarding the web site - greatly appreciated.

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Jan Fisher asks...

I've been given a quarter size Kilmarnock willow which should grow to 2 ft.  Please tell me what size pot I should plant into, width and height.  Thankyou

Bill replies...

I would use a clay or ceramic container Jan which will keep the roots of your Kilmarnock Willow slightly warmer during the winter months and I would use quite a large container at least 18 inches in diameter which will help to keep you Willow stable.  You will need to ensure that your container is well drained and I would use a soil based compost - John Innes No 2 or No 3.

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Joanne asks...

We have a miniature willow tree which after reading your answers seems to have rust.
Also there appear to be some sort of larvae embedded in the leaves, can you tell me what these might be and what we can do to kill them before they do any damage? The tree is 3 years old and is very bushy this year, is it OK to thin out some of the branches? I am afraid of it falling over.

Bill replies...

The larvae embedded in the leaves Joanne of your Willow Tree could quite easily be the larvae of the Willow Beetle/Weevil and you will be able to spray with a systemic insecticide to control the larvae.  You will need to spray early in the morning or late evening - do not spray midday in direct sunlight as this could quite easily scorch the leaves.  Regarding the bushy appearance you can thin out some of the lower branches and I would do this in the Autumn time.

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Joanne Rowlings asks...

I have a tranquil garden with the most majestic weeping willow that gracefully shades one corner and have noticed this week that some of the inner leaves have turned brown and died, I would be so desperately upset if I weren't able to save the tree having lost a beautiful blossom tree this year that is now riddled with holes and did not flower (is it too late for this tree also?).

Can you please advise what the cause of the willow problem is and how can I save this wonderful tree?  The tree is much taller than our house and been established for a great many years, the top branches look as though they are now yellowing please tell me we won't lose it. Thank you so much.

Bill replies...

The Golden Weeping Willow is a beautiful tree Joanne but it does suffer from rust disease and in contrasting temperatures which we have experienced recently you will find that quite a number of leaves will suddenly drop off and this is quite common with Willows. Providing that you have no die back of main branches I am sure that everything will be fine with your tree.  If your Blossom Tree is a Flowering Cherry the holes in the leaves could quite easily be caused by Shot Hole Disease the symptoms of which are brown spots on the leaves which then turn into small holes. I am afraid that there is no cure for the disease but applying a general base fertiliser will help to keep your tree healthy.  Again I feel that you need to check and see if there is any die back of the main shoots.

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Roy Williams asks...

Planted willow tree from nursery 2 years ago. Recently I have noticed a pinkish brown blotchy covering on 80% of the plants leaves and stems. What is it and is it harmful to the tree?

Bill replies...

Willows Roy do suffer badly from rust disease and the symptoms are brown patches on the leaves with leaves dropping prematurely.  You usually find that Willows do recover and produce new leaves but, it is well worthwhile to spray your tree with a general fungicide such as Dithane and it is also worthwhile to remove all fallen leaves which will contain the spores of the fungi.  These need to be collected in a poly bag and dispersed of.  It is also advisable to spray the soil around your tree to kill any harbouring spores of the fungi.

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Raymond Dunford asks...

I have a clay soil and in the south facing front garden would like to plant a small half standard weeping willow I would not want it to grow any more than six foot high

Bill replies...

The most popular Weeping Willow for a small garden Raymond is the Kilmarnock Willow (Salix Caprea Pendula) but there is also the American Weeping Willow (Salix Purpurea Pendula) which has purplish branches.  Both of these Willows will thrive well in deep loamy soil but before planting it would be worthwhile incorporating well rotted farm manure or any organic material into your clay soil and I would plant your Willow early springtime before it comes into leaf.

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Colin Neil asks...

We have just moved house and now have a garden that is 73x60 ft in size. Is this big enough for a weeping willow? I loved playing under them as a child and would love to plant one for my kids to play under.

Bill replies...

The weeping willow tree you have in mind Lindsay is the golden weeping willow and the popular variety grown is Salix Chrysocoma, and this tree will grow to a height of forty five to fifty feet and, as you will most probably be aware weeping willows do produce very vigorous root systems.  They love moist conditions and will make a bee line for your drains and along with the Populars it is one of the trees that need to be grown in an open space and a very large garden.  The unwritten rule when planting trees is that the height the trees grows is the height it should be planted away from the house and taking this into account if you can plant your willow fifty to sixty feet away from your house you may not have any problems but I will again stress that willows do make a bee line for field and house drains.

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Lindsay Abraham asks...

I planted willow cuttings in May -  can they be moved?

Bill replies...

I would Colin be inclined to move your Willow cuttings early springtime - before they come into leaf - and obviously until they get established you will need to keep an eye on the watering over the summer period.

last updated: 02/06/2008 at 14:36
created: 08/01/2008

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