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How to Grow a Curly Willow Tree

twisted willow image by Alison Bowden from

A curly willow tree (Salix matsudana) is also sometimes known as pekin willow, hankow willow and corkscrew willow. It is a medium growing, decidious tree usually reaching a height of 25 to 35 feet with a spread of approximately 15 feet. It is an easy to recognize willow tree thanks to its twisty, 2- to 4-inch long curly foliage and twisted branches. It is hardy in the USDA zones 5 to 8.

Set the bare-root curly willow into a bucket of water to soak for three to four hours to help plump up the roots in case they have dried out.

Dig a planting hole for the curly willow that is three times the diameter of its root ball and 1-1/2 times its depth. Mix into the soil that was excavated from the planting hole 1 to 1-1/2 cubic feet of dehydrated manure or aged compost.

Scoop in a few shovelfuls of the soil and organic matter mixture until the soil is approximately ½ filled with soil. Remove the bare-root curly willow tree from the bucket of water and set it into the planting hole. Spread out the roots in the planting hole. Make sure the tree is sitting vertically in its planting hole while you scoop in garden soil to fill the hole about ½ way.

Pour water into the planting hole to about ½ full. Fill the hole with soil after the water has dissipated, tamping down the soil as you go.

Create a 2- to 3-inch high circular dam of dirt approximately 20 to 24 inches in diameter around the curly willow tree. Water the curly willow tree, letting the basin you created with dirt fill up with water.

Place a 5- to 6-foot high planting stake about 5 to 6 inches from the curly willow. Make sure the planting stake is well-secured. Secure the trunk of the tree to the stake with strips of burlap or gardener's twine.


Choose the planting location for the curly willow carefully. According to the University of Florida, curly willows can be problematic due to their aggressive root system.

Prune back all dead or broken branches from the curly willow tree during the winter.

Fertilize curly willow trees regularly during their growing season using a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer. Use 15-15-15 or similar type fertilizer. Read the manufacturer's instructions.

Water curly willows at least once a week during the summer season. Particularly while the trees are being established.

Plant bare root curly willows during late winter to early spring. From January through February.


Curly willow trees are known for having weak wood, and a planting state can help prevent the trunk from splitting or breaking if there is a high wind.

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