Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

Hardly any other wood can be cut as rigorously as willow. Nevertheless, a few tips and tricks for the perfect willow cut don't hurt.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

Willows can be severely shortened [Photo: Animaflora PicsStock / Shutterstock.com]

Willows ( Salix ) are suitable both as decorative eye-catchers in parks and gardens and are more diverse than you might think. In addition to the popular harlequin willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki'), hanging willow such as the weeping willow ( Salix alba 'Tristis') or the hanging kitten willow (Salix caprea 'Pendula') are in demand. A positive property of willows is their extreme insensitivity to any kind of cuts, so that they can be shortened without any problems. We show you what to look out for when pruning willow.

Cutting pastures: the right time

In addition to the right time for the pasture itself, nature conservation must also be observed here, because radical prunings are not possible all year round to protect breeding birds.

When is willow cutting allowed?

When cutting willow, as with all woody plants, the following applies: only make heavy cuts on the tree between October 1st and February 28th . Due to nature conservation, no radical prunings may be carried out in the summer, as birds need the trees as breeding and nesting sites. In addition, the flowering of the willow trees in early spring is an important source of food for insects and should therefore not be cut away. On the other hand, light shaped cuts are possible all year round.

  • If you want to carry out a stronger pruning measure, then this should be done in winter between 1.10. and 28.2. happen. However, the late pruning removes a lot of flower buds and you have to do without abundant flowering in spring.
  • Topiary pruning is best done after flowering, around June.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

Heavy pruning is well tolerated in spring [Photo: R. Maximiliane / Shutterstock.com] These products are ideal for cutting your shrubs, hedges and trees:

  • Felco Secateurs: Manual pruning shears, pruning shears and garden shears recommended for all types of cutting. In addition to plastic-coated handles, it has a precision adjustment system for the blade and anvil blade.
  • Felco fruit tree and secateurs: Robust fruit tree and secateurs with wire cutter, juice groove and micrometer adjustment.
  • Gardena telescopic arm scissors: Practical secateurs for effortless cutting of tall trees and dense shrubs from the ground.

Cutting willows: instructions on how to proceed

The optimal pruning for willows is quite simple and we will explain it below.

Cut pollarded willows

Pollard willows have a characteristic shape with a straight trunk, a thickened head part and the shoots arising from it. Actually, all types and varieties of willow can be cut as pollard willow, but it is particularly common with the white willow ( Salix alba ), the basket willow ( Salix viminalis ) and the harlequin willow (Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki'). In order to achieve the shape, the willow is regularly placed on the cane at the crown. This complete removal of the shoots is called “snowing”. The thickened “head” of the willow then arises through regular snowfall over many years. Historically, the shoots were then used to extract building materials, to weave baskets or as animal feed. Today the shape is mostly only used for decoration in private gardens. In addition, it ensures that the tree does not cast so much shade on its surroundings.

Tip: You can build living fences as well as playhouses and tunnels for children from the sections of the pollarded willows. The willow shoots are stuck deep into the ground, kept moist. They then form roots and just keep growing.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

A near-natural fence can be built from the cut willow branches [Photo: Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock.com]

When tending to the popular polluted willows, a cut every six to eight years has proven its worth. Cut off all shoots right at the base close to the trunk. Make sure you cut it at an angle so that rainwater can run off properly and it does not rot. The tree will later sprout again with fresh shoots. In addition to cutting at the crown, side shoots on the trunk should be removed.

Cut hanging willow and weeping willow

The hanging willow includes, for example, the weeping willow ( Salix alba 'Tristis') or the hanging kitten willow (Salix caprea 'Pendula'). Cutting the weeping willow is not absolutely necessary. If some branches are in danger of breaking off or are dead, they can easily be removed by making a cut at the base. Excessively long or disturbing shoots may also be cut off at the base. The shoots can also only be cut back by a third of the length. The cut should best be made above a sleeping eye, i.e. a small thickening in the branch, as the willow will sprout again here. With young weeping willows, you can create harmonious growth with a topiary. All branches are cut back by two thirds.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

Weeping willows with their overhanging growth do not necessarily have to be cut [Photo: Isogood_patrick / Shutterstock.com]

Cut corkscrew willow

You should cut the corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa') in order to maintain the dense habit and to counteract aging. Cutting back every four to five years is sufficient. The best time to cut willow is around February, before the growing season. Then remove dead or crossing branches. Every two years you can prune back a little more courageously and then remove a third of the older shoots by cutting them right at the base.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

The corkscrew willow is cut before the growing season [Photo: fukume / Shutterstock.com]

The same applies to the Japanese dragon willow (Salix sachalinensis 'Sekka'), which is a very special ornament due to its wide and twisted shoots.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

The dragon willow has strikingly wide and beautifully colored shoots [Photo: Edita Medeina / Shutterstock.com]

Cut willow

Since the numerous catkins of the common willow (Salix caprea ) are particularly valuable for bees and other insects, it makes sense to prune them only after flowering. The male kitten willow (Salix caprea 'Mas') in particular produces many flowers and should not be cut in spring. This also applies to other kitten-bearing willows. You can enjoy the pussy willow in spring and receive numerous new flowers in the following year. However, the prohibition of radical cuts in the Federal Nature Conservation Act will take effect in April. You must not cut back the willow completely, but only shorten the long shoots.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

If you want to offer the bees an early source of food, the cut should only be made after flowering [Photo: Virafotografin / Shutterstock.com]

Tip : There are also very low and bushy growing types of willow, such as the lavender willow ( Salix rosmarinifolia ) and the creeping willow (Salix repens ssp. Argentea ). These can be cut back almost to the ground.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

The lavender willow grows crawling and can be pruned deep [Photo: Vitaliy Hrabar / Shutterstock.com]

Can you cut pussy willow?

Pussy willow is initially understood to mean the flowers of all types of willow. Some species, such as the common willow (Salix caprea ), develop particularly large and beautiful kittens. It is also often referred to as the kitten pasture. If you want to cut flowering shoots for decorative purposes, this is no problem with your own willow in the garden. Unless you are in a protected area, you are also allowed to cut a few branches from wild kitten willow for private use.

If you want to cut pussy willow in your own garden, a maintenance or topiary cut is also allowed after the flowering period in April. According to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, however, more radical cutbacks are prohibited.

Cutting willow: timing, procedure & expert tips

Willow twigs can be cut as decoration [Photo: Simon Kadula / Shutterstock.com]

Tip: You should replenish the nutrients that are lost through the pruning through fertilization in the spring. Organic fertilizers, such as our Plantura organic universal fertilizer, are particularly suitable for this.

In addition to the pastures, there are more bee-friendly trees for the garden. We have put together the most beautiful ones for you.

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