Willow trees grow best in moist soil.

When to Plant a Willow Tree

by Tamara Christine Van Hooser

Many species of willow trees (Salix spp.) lend a graceful touch to your yard. Willows are susceptible to wind and winter damage, so careful attention to timing of planting, transplanting or replacing damaged trees gives them the best chances of survival. Given the proper environmental conditions, your willow trees can adorn your yard for many years to come.

1. Growing Season

Willow trees root slowly and so will not winter over well if planted in fall. Newly planted trees have fragile roots and cold weather can destroy the immature roots and kill the tree. Plant after the last expected spring frost, just before new growth appears on the willow. The growing season starts as early as mid-January in some growing areas, but can be up until late March in other areas. Willows generally grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, depending on the species.

2. Succession Planting

Young willow trees are less vulnerable to cold damage during the winter than older trees. To keep your landscape looking fresh and healthy from year to year, plant new saplings to replace the damaged ones on a regular yearly schedule.

3. Starting Indoors

To give your willow trees a head start, especially if you live in an area with a short growing season, you can start your willow tree indoors in a container during late winter. Transplant it when all danger of frost has passed. Keep it cool and shaded until it establishes roots and starts growing.

4. Stem Cutting

Willows start easily from stem cuttings placed in moist soil. Plant the cutting in late winter or early spring and look for root formation in about a month. By fall, the willow tree should have a healthy, functional root system to help it through winter. Keep your willow cuttings at 26 to 28 degrees Fahrenheit until ready to plant to prevent premature budding and rooting. Soak the willow cuttings in water at 60 F for seven to 10 days before expected planting to wake them from dormancy and kick-start the rooting process.

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