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Salix (Willow) Stems at Bluestem Nursery

Salix (Willow)

How to Start Willow Cuttings

We want to emphasize that willows root very easily! Nonetheless, we are providing some instructions to ensure success.

The weather needs to be warming up (daffodils blooming), before it is time to plant outdoors. So please keep them in the fridge until that time. Our cuttings have not been sprayed with anything, so they can be kept in your vegetable crisper, in a loose plastic bag.

When you receive the cuttings:

The cuttings should be dealt with immediately. Your choices include:

  • put into the fridge in a loose plastic bag until ready to plant
    • This is only appropriate if the cuttings experienced cool temperatures during transit.
    • If the weather is hot they will be breaking dormancy and will not do well if put back into cool temperatures. These cuttings need to be planted immediately. You may place in water for a day, but no longer, as the sticks will start to grow roots, which are very brittle and fragile. They will break off when pushed into soil.
  • plant in pots, for future planting into the landscape
  • plant directly into the ground

 

To start cuttings in pots:


For best results, start the willow cuttings in one gallon size pots until well rooted. The soil mix should contain 50% sharp sand (builders sand). Rich soil mixes are not necessary and sometimes cause the cuttings to rot. Good drainage is essential. When growth starts, a light application of organic fertilizer is recommended.

IMPORTANT: To plant simply push the pointed end into the soil (buds pointing upwards), leaving two or three buds visible. Firm the soil. Water. The soil must not be allowed to dry out.

The cutting will initiate roots all along its length, wherever it is in contact with the soil. Keep the pots evenly moist, in light shade and out of the wind until established. The soil must not be allowed to dry out.

The plants are ready to plant in the ground when the roots hold the potting soil in place. To test this, turn the potted plant upside down carefully separate the pot. If the soil/root ball is firm with no chunks of soil wanting to fall off, then it is ready to plant.

Before planting, soak the plant (in the pot) in a bucket of water. Hold it under the surface of the water until air bubbles stop rising to the surface. Now all the soil is soaking wet.

Dig your hole, put the plant in the ground, firm the soil around it and water thoroughly. It must not be allowed to dry out, particularly the first year.

To start cuttings directly in the ground:


Note: This is easy if you can keep the soil moist.

Note: The soil should not be soaking wet and remain that way for any length of time. This can result in failure to grow, particularly if the weather is cool.

Prepare the planting area:

  • if you have clay soil:

    • the cuttings may be kept too wet and therefore may rot before roots can form. So dig holes of about 2" in diameter and fill with sand. That allows the water to drain away. Plant the cutting in the middle of the hole. They should be happy in the clay soil, but they need to grow roots first.

  • no need to add compost to the planting hole, nor to heavily amend the soil with organic materials. That would keep the area immediately around the cutting too wet, and in cool weather it may rot.
  • the soil should be soft for ease of pushing the cutting down into it, and to ensure that the bark of the cutting is not damaged
  • weeds need to be kept away from the cutting for the entire first season. Grass is a weed. Use of a weed-suppressing mulch or woven landscape cloth is recommended.

Timing of planting:

  • the ground must not be frozen nor should it be very cold (the cuttings may rot)
  • plant when it "feels like spring is in the air"

IMPORTANT: To plant simply push the pointed end into the soil (buds pointing upwards), leaving two or three buds visible. Firm the soil around the cutting. Water. The soil must not be allowed to dry out.

The cutting will initiate roots all along its length, wherever it is in contact with the soil. The soil must not be allowed to dry out.