The curly willow tree (Salix matsudana) maintains a relatively small size compared with other willows. It attains a height of around 30 feet with a 15-foot spread. Grown as an ornamental for its twisted and curly unique branches, the tree offers winter interest in landscapes. The twisted wood breaks easily in intense wind. The tree offers pleasing yellow fall colors.
The curly willow tree grows best in moist soil and is a popular tree when grown beside ponds, creeks or other bodies of water. Once established, the tree will sustain short periods of drought. Choose a planting location with at least six hours of sunlight per day for optimum growth. The curly willow will grow in a wide range of soils with a pH of 5.6 to 7.8. The tree is mildly salt-tolerant, according to the University of Connecticut. Plant curly willow trees in USDA zones 5 to 8.
The tree has a shallow root system that grows vigorously and quite large. The roots often heave upward out of the soil, so plant the tree away from concrete, fence lines, sidewalks and building foundations. Choose a shallow location to offer wind protection. Young trees can be uprooted in intense wind storms or sustain breakage.
The curly willow tree requires only moderate pruning in fall and winter to maintain its overall appearance. Weeping varieties are allowed to grow to the ground or trimmed up regularly to allow ease of mowing and cultivation underneath. Upright growing varieties require pruning to remove old or diseased branches. Seal all pruning wounds with a tree sealant to prevent bacteria from entering the wounds. The curly willow is extremely susceptible to rot and decay from cultivation injury, according to the University of Florida.
Aphids often form large colonies on the lower branches of curly willow trees. The aphids secrete a honeydew substance that molds easily, producing an unsightly black substance on the tree's foliage. Regular spraying with water easily removes the aphid colonies. Lace bugs cause the tree's leaves to turn yellow and drop to the ground. Control with insecticides.
The curly willow tree is a relatvively short-lived tree. Its average life span is 10 to 15 years. Propagation is attained through woody stem cuttings.
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