Gardeners in cold climates will enjoy the corkscrew willow, whose gnarled and twisted branches provide most visual interest in the winter, when the tree's leaves have dropped. Adapted to hardiness zones five to eight, the corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana) has many cultivars that bear different colored bark, ranging from gray-brown to copper.
Choose a location for your corkscrew willow. The trees thrive in full sun and can grow in a range of soils. Mature corkscrew willows reach 20 to 40 feet in height and 15 to 25 feet wide, so choose a site that provides enough room for the tree to grow.
Prepare the site by digging a hole that's twice as large as the corkscrew willow's root ball. Remove any rocks, stones and debris from the site. Jab your shovel at the bottom of the hole to loosen the dirt, which will help the young tree's roots take hold.
Remove your corkscrew willow sapling from its container. Break apart the root ball by massaging it with your fingers, and then untangle any willow roots.
Place the corkscrew willow in the hole at the same depth as it was planted in the container, making sure it's vertically straight. Spread the roots out with your fingers. Fill the hole with soil to cover the plants roots but don't compress the soil.
Water the newly planted willow until the soil becomes saturated and compresses around the tree.
Mulch the soil to help keep moisture near the plant roots. Apply an even layer of mulch in a 2- to 3-foot circle around the young corkscrew willow.
Water the newly planted willow twice monthly from April to September. The Woodland Tree Foundation recommends adding 10 gallons of water for every inch of diameter of your tree's trunk and notes that a hose on low-pressure setting emits 1 gallon of water per minute.
Prune the corkscrew willow every spring, before new growth begins. Use anvil pruners to trim off dead or damaged wood. Thin out the canopy to allow air circulation by removing weak branches. Save the branches for decorative use.
Fertilize the young tree with a well-balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in the mid- to late spring before the tree has started to grow. Sprinkle the fertilizer around the base of the tree then water the soil to spread the fertilizer. Repeat this process annually every spring.
To determine the dosage follow the guidelines on your fertilizer regarding the tree's size and age. Guidelines vary by strength and type of fertilizer.