How to Prune a Dappled Willow

Written by d.c. winston
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How to Prune a Dappled Willow
Loppers are ideal for pruning a dappled willow. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Dappled willow, known botanically as Salix integra, is a deciduous species of broad-leaf shrub or small tree. Grown as an ornamental for its colourful stems and leaves and its spring flowers, Dappled willow rarely reaches more than 10 to 15 feet in height and spread at maturity. The foliage is unique in that it is variegated and changes hue and patterning during the growing season, according to Oregon State University. The species is hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 4 and tolerates light to moderate pruning when needed to control size but does not require frequent pruning for performance, save the removal of damaged or dead tissues.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Loppers
  • Fine-toothed pruning saw

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  1. 1

    Prune your dappled willow in the winter or early spring while dormant to spur new branching and shoot growth. Remove dead or diseased wood anytime throughout the year, as you see it.

  2. 2

    Cut back any diseased, dead, discoloured or other problematic woody tissues and foliage. Remove all of the problem tissue down to a point of healthy tree tissue. Place cuts 1/4 inch above a branch spur or just outside the joint with the parent branch or main trunk.

  3. 3

    Spur new shoot development, bushiness and fullness in the canopy by trimming back the terminal tips of branches by two or three leaf nodes or branch spurs. Make all cuts on a 45-degree angle, 1/4 inch above a healthy leaf node or branch spur. Distribute these pruning cuts evenly throughout the canopy to ensure even regrowth and fullness and maintain a rough symmetricality to the shrub or tree.

  4. 4

    Maintain your dappled willow shrub as a standard tree form by pruning away any shoots, water sprouts or branches that develop on the lower third to lower half of the trunk. Cut the growth just outside of the slightly swollen branch collar where it connects to the trunk, but never cut into the trunk cambium.

  5. 5

    Reduce the height and or spread of the shrub or tree as needed by shortening the terminal branch tips to the desired length. Follow the natural form of the tree and work around the tree to ensure a balanced and roughly symmetrical result. Place all cuts 1/4 inch past a leaf node or branch spur to ensure proper regrowth and fullness in the canopy.

Tips and warnings

  • Loppers are the most useful tool to prune dappled willow as many shoots will be less than 3/4 inch in diameter. To prune larger branches or limbs switch to a fine-toothed pruning saw to protect the surrounding cambium from tearing.

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