How to Root Pussywillows


Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

Ask Henry

Melinda wants to know how to root pussywillows, writing, “I bought some pussywillows at a local flower show and have them in big urns by the back door for interest. In past years I've not had success, though, when trying to transplant those that have rooted out. I have a boggy part of the garden, where it sounds like they'd do well. Any suggestions for success?

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Well, Melinda, there are several kinds of pussywillows sold at flower shows, and not all are easy to get established – and not all are hardy here in New England. I suspect some sold at flower shows are greenhouse grown, or come up from the south. For those that will grow here the key, I think, is to wait until the ground is quite warm – say mid-May. You can keep them in water for months without any problem.  And as you know, having good moist soil is important. Full sun is good, too, though they will take partial shade.

Pussywillows are male flowers. These are showing pollen

Do you have some pussywillows growing already? I’ve had great luck rooting willows in spring. Here’s what I do: I cut 12-inch pieces of willow branch that are the thickness of pencils. If they already have leaves, I strip off the leaves. I push the stems into moist soil so that most of the twig is buried, leaving just a 3-inch stub poking up. If need be, use a long screwdriver to make a hole in the ground for the twig.It's important to keep track of which end is up – don’t plant the twig upside down.  

I built this willow screen 2 or 3 years after rooting small willow twigs in the ground

Using that technique you can grow a hedge or cluster of willows for no cost at all. In France I once volunteered on a willow farm through a program called Willing Workers on Organic Farms and the woman in charge used that technique to get lots of willow growing. Willow grows fast, so she was able to weave the long stems into living walls, tunnels and sculpture in year two of their growing life. And you can use longer stems to start willows. A few years ago at Sculpture Fest in Woodstock, VT an artist created living art using long willow stems pushed into the ground and rooted. The willows still look good. 

Willow installation at Sculpture Fest in Woodstock, VT

Have you had luck rooting any of those fancy willows sold at flower shows? If so, please tell us how in the comments section below. And send your questions to me at henry.homeyer@comcast.net 

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