Trimming a Willow Tree

By Brandt Miller , last updated February 14, 2011

Willow trees stand proud and suspend carelessly; the routes journey far underground, while the branches float through the air; needless to say, they aren't the easiest trees to trim. There are over 400 species of willows, from the shrub-like and slender pussy willow, to the towering and embracing weeping willow, to the many hybrid forms due to their cross-fertile nature.

Willows can ornament any temperate landscape—both residential and natural—as they have few parameters for taking root other than moisture, and subsequently require light maintenance. Willows are robust and can withstand vigorous pruning to provide the desired appearance, though many people are content with its natural form. Trimming willows when they are young ensures the ideal shape as the tree matures. Weeds and grass near the trunk’s base must be kept minimal, especially in the early years of growth.

Removing broken and decaying branches adds to the tree’s overall health and prevents a buildup of debris. With a mechanical or electrical saw, cut the unwanted branches toward the thick base. Cuts should be made at the joints of a branch, where it is connected to other extending limbs. Mature trees tend to be infested by fronds, or large leaves, that hang toward the ground. Trimming the fronds each season increases the likelihood of healthy growth the following season. Suckers may grow up the trunk and should be removed to eliminate undue stress.

When pruning a willow, it is best to avoid cutting the sturdy horizontal branches, as they provide strength in varying weather conditions. The focus should be the underlying foliage. By removing the bottom branches, an ideal space for shade can be obtained, causing no harm to the tree’s overall health. It is best to prune willows in the late winter, to ensure a healthy growing season.

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