Rooting Tree Branches, topiary, Uncategorized
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How to Root Curly Willow Branches in Water and When to Plant them in Soil

Some curly willow branches that I rooted in water, and then planted in a terra cotta container.

In May of 2018, my mom and I hosted our 4th #diggingfordiabetes plant sale to raise money for Type 1 Diabetes research.  The sale was a success, and curly willow branches were one of our biggest sellers!

Mom and I divide up perennials from our gardens for the sale, with 100% of the proceeds going to JDRF.  This normally works really well, but this year, spring seemed to take FOR….EEEEEVER to, well, spring!  With a looming deadline of May 3 to have all of our plants ready to sell, we were really sweating it.

So this year, my husband, the other horticulturist in the family, helped me prune back our two curly willow trees, and I saved some of the curliest branches, bundled them, and put them in a bucket of water.  I posted the pictures on Facebook for the plant sale, and had a lot of interest!  I was so thankful, as my perennials were taking their time emerging, and were not as sales worthy as they were for past plant sales.

DIY NOTES: If you’d like to try cutting some curly willow branches yourself for rooting, here are a few tips!

  • If branches are too big to cut with your  HAND PRUNERS , the branches are probably too thick for rooting.
  • I try to shoot for no thicker than my pointer finger.
  • My favorite hand pruners are Felco # 2 (for right handers) and Felco # 9 for (lefties like me) I have had the same pair for 21 years! (please note that I am an Amazon Affiliate and I earn a small commission from any purchases made from the above links…thanks for supporting my site through your purchases!)
  • I also recently purchased a Corona Root & All Purpose Saw, that will be great for sawing smaller branches that are in tight spaces.  This saw is able to cut on the push and pull stroke, so I’m looking forward to trying it out!

It’s been about 5 weeks since I cut those branches.  I saved some for myself, just to play around with, and make sure that they do root well.  They did root, and finally, last Memorial Weekend, I was able to shoot this video and plant the branches in one of my favorite terra- cotta containers on my front porch.

If you purchased some branches from us at the plant sale, I hope you had good luck getting yours to root!

By now, they should be ready to plant in some soil. To plant them without damaging their delicate new roots:

  1. Suspend the branches in the middle of the pot, not quite touching the bottom.
  2. Then pour potting soil in with your free hand, gently filling in around the roots.
  3. Once the container is filled with soil, gently apply pressure to firm the soil around the branches so they are well supported and won’t fall over in the pot.
  4. You can plant the branches as deep as you need to in order to get them to stand up securely, as they will eventually root any place that has surface contact with the soil.
  5. Water in the branches thoroughly, and maintain even moisture for a week or so, until the branches are adjusted to their new home.
  6. Once they are acclimated to the pot, just water it to keep the soil evenly moist, or whenever you water your other annual flower containers.
  7. These branches can over winter in their container if you keep the container in the garage or a protected area outside.  My mom had some that were left out in a small courtyard all winter 2017/18….a very cold one…..and they still survived!
  8. Side note:  If you choose to plant them in the ground be sure to give them enough space to grow into a big tree!  They grow very quickly…to maturity in less than 10 years.  Mine are about 25 feet tall with multiple branches that spread about 15 feet.
  9. When they get older, they are known to drop lots of little branches, so it’s best to thin them out each year by removing 2 -5 of the larger branches.


  1. Monika says

    Hi! Great post!! Have you ever seen tour planted cuttings of curly willow start to blacken on the ends? I saw this happening on living branches and the black starts to slowly overtake from the edge. Sometimes it stops at the first leaf it hits but not sure if it would continue. I have been cutting them off a little into the healthy flesh but was wondering what it is/what it means?

    Also, does each cutting potentially turn into a tree if rooted in the ground?

    P.S. I’m in zone 7 🙂

    • I don’t recall ever seeing that. Could be a viral or fungal disease. Yes, each cutting could potentially turn into a tree:) Ours are about 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall now. Ones that we started 10 or more years ago.

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