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How to Start Curly Willow Branches

to cut image by Anton Gvozdikov from

A curly willow tree, also called corkscrew willow or pekin willow, is a tall tree that reaches up to 30 feet in height and produces curly branches that are desired for decorative purposes. The tree is easily propagated by taking softwood cuttings in late spring through midsummer. Cut softwood stems in the early morning when they are hydrated and the temperatures are cooler. Choose healthy new-growth branches from the upper portion of the tree as this will increase the success rate for root development.

Cut a 6-inch softwood stem section of the curly willow with a clean, sharp knife or pruning clipper. A softwood cutting is soft current year growth that is green in color. Place the cutting in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to keep it moist until planting.

Cut to remove all leaves from the lower one-half of the stem. Clip all leaves in half vertically on the upper one-half of the stem to reduce moisture loss. Wound the cut end of the stem to assist with root development.

Treat the cut end of the stem by dipping it in rooting hormone. Gently tap the stem to remove excess hormone. This will stimulate root production.

Fill a rooting tray with a medium that is equal parts sterile peat moss, course sand and perlite. Lightly moisten the medium and stick the stems to a depth of one-third the length of the cutting.

Mist the cuttings and medium with water and cover the tray with a plastic bag. Monitor the moisture level in the tray until the stems produce roots. Mist the medium regularly to maintain high humidity and moist soil for the cuttings. Place the tray in a warm location with indirect light until roots form.

Gently tug on the cuttings approximately four to six weeks after starting the rooting process. Resistance when pulling on the stems signifies root development.

Transplant the cuttings once the roots reach a length of 1 inch. Plant each cutting into an individual 4-inch potting container filled with sterile potting medium. Continue to grow the cuttings indoors or in a protected outdoor area for the first year.


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