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How to Prune Chinese Willow Shrubs

By D.C. Winston ; Updated September 21, 2017

Chinese willow--or salix matsudana, as it is known botanically--is a large shrub or small deciduous tree native to China. It is hardy down to USDA Zone 4b and is most commonly planted in moist to wet soil sites or those areas with increased salinity in the soil or water table. Chinese willow is fast-growing and can reach up to 50 feet at maturity. It should be pruned in the summer or fall to preserve optimal flowering and fruiting. While more of a rounded shrub in natural shape, the lower trunk can be stripped to present a tree form.

Inspect your Chinese willow regularly during watering maintenance. Prune away any damaged, broken, dying or diseased limbs or foliage as you see them.

Remove any water sprouts or suckers that emerge from the lower trunk area or the soil surface. Prune away all lower branches to maintain a classic tree form, instead of a shrub form, if desired.

Conduct annual or biennial pruning to remove crossing or abrading branches, increase sunlight penetration into the canopy and improve air flow through the tree. Never remove more than one-third of the bulk of the tree canopy in any one pruning session in order to limit stress and reduce the threat of shock.


Things You Will Need

  • Pole saw
  • Hand saw
  • Loppers


  • Water your Chinese willow deeply after planting to fortify the roots to produce new growth and limit drought stress.