Willows are normally found growing in moist soil in the northern hemisphere. Willows do well in cold to temperate climates and are adaptable to all kinds of conditions. They are fast-growing shade trees, sprouting up 10 feet per year. This can cause them to get out of control without routine pruning. Cut branches to improve the health of the tree and make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Climb the ladder and examine the willow tree's canopy. Look for diseased, damaged and dead branches, as well as those that are crossing each other.
Use a saw to cut unwanted branches at the collar, which is the thick section at the base of the limb. Place the cut as close to the collar as possible, without leaving much of a stump.
Look for groups of several branches growing from the same spot. Cut off all but two or three of them.
Do extreme pruning on weeping willows that have heavy damage or those which have grown out of control. Willows can handle being cut down to their trunks--they will re-grow. Cut them down to their base during dormancy (winter) and they will sprout back up.
Trim the oldest branches every few years to keep the tree healthy and in the best shape possible. Make all cuts at the V-shaped joint they share with other limbs.