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Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

Posted by Paraphoe none (My Page) on
Wed, May 14, 14 at 16:28


Looking for a little help here. I've heard how easy it is to grow a willow tree from a cutting. I've been trying to do this with absolutely no success for a while now. I've made 8 or so attempts.

Every single time, the cutting dries out, the leaves crinkle up, and it's dead in a week. I don't understand it. What the heck am I doing wrong?

I've tried:

- Starting the clipping in water for a few days, then transplanting into dirt.

- Covering the base in rooting hormone

- No rooting hormone and just going straight into the soil

- Different types of soil

- Different moisture levels of the soil

Every attempt has failed. I've attached pictures of my latest attempt with 2 small cuttings in a water bottle with soil. As you can tell, these have dried out and are dead.

The ONLY thing I can think of is the clippings I'm using are too small/thin. I read online they should be 1/2'' - 1'' in diameter to root. Is this accurate? Not sure I can get up high enough to cut one that thickness.

Any thoughts or help appreciated.

Thanks all.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

I think the weeping willow my neighbor started was a bit thicker than that. Was probably early in the spring also.

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

is that dirt in that container

see link


ps: if something has leaves on it.. it must be in a humidity dome .. such as a plastic bag ... and the one thing you left out.. how long do you give them.. 3 to 6 months???? .. perhaps you were on the verge of success... and gave up too soon .. i would have tried with dormant cuttings or stripped all leaves off

Here is a link that might be useful: link

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

I take the cuttings before the buds break, maybe early March. Cut them about 12-18" long, a little thicker than the ones in your photo. Put them all in a vase of water that covers about half the length of the cuttings. Leave them in the water until the roots have grown out a couple of inches. You will probably have some bud break by now. Then pot them up and put them outside, but don't let them get frosted. Keep them in the pots until they root in, then plant them and stand back!

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

Like you, Paraphoe, I also have had no luck trying to root pussywillows from clippings. I tried placing them in water last year. This year I have stuck the cuttings directly into the soil in very moist, swampy areas. I'm hoping this will bring better results, but time will tell. Here's hoping both our started willow cuttings actually grow roots this year!

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

I've rooted weeping willow several times in my youth. You are not leaving them in the water nearly long enough. I left them in a clear container (like a plastic cup) until a fairly decent mass of roots had grown (usually this meant a month or two, but it was a long time ago so the amount of time required is not at all certain). After significant roots had grown, I would very gently dig a hole, place the roots within, and lightly sprinkle the dirt back in so that it filled as much as the space in the roots as possible. Then I would water thoroughly and make sure it never dried out. This would probably have greater success if planting out was accomplished in the early autumn. Anyway, that method worked for me on multiple occasions/tries.

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

"... the cutting dries out, the leaves crinkle up, and it's dead in a week. ..." There is no way a willow twig can die in a week unless you have put it in the oven.

" ...... these have dried out and are dead....."

I think you are giving up far too soon. Imo neither of the cuttings in your picture is dead. They may not yet have rooted but they are still alive. Just because the leaves shrivel and fall a cutting is not necessarily dead. I think you need to be much more patient. Take your cuttings and insert into medium in a container or just stick in corner of the garden. Then leave them for weeks and do nothing to them except ensure they don't dry out. Don't give up on them until next spring. If they don't leaf out then they have failed. As a child I used to climb a willow which grew from a fence post. They really are that easy but you must give them a chance.

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

As said by another poster in another thread, a tree lives in Tree time, not your time.

A tree does not have a watch, ,so does not know hours, minutes, and seconds. It does not have a calendar so does not know days and months. The only thing it knows is what the sun tells it, the seasons. The first season, it grows from seed to a sprout, the second season it grows from a spout to a plantable tree. It then takes many season to become a tree. and years to become a tree that will be an architectural feature in your yard

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Thu, May 15, 14 at 8:25

Hmm. I've had mostly success just pushing them deep into the soil, but you need to do it before the leaves are fully out, and the larger the stem (diameter of your thumb is a good size) & more deeply pushed down, the better the success. Plus they need watering ALOT (unless pushed into wet streambank soil) to get established since they have no roots at first -- they can easily dry out unless there's constant rain.

That said, understand if they "take", you're going to have a big tree in a short time. Fine for where I wanted one, but near a house or other structure would not be appropriate for a weeping willow.

RE: Why can't I grow a Willow from a cutting?

Wow, thanks for all the quick replies folks. Great forum - I appreciate all the input.

Looks like I've been giving up too quickly, but when the cuttings are completely dry and shriveling, in my mind it's game over. I will keep on watering the two in the picture posted and ignore the shriveled leaves. Fingers crossed.

I may also make another attempt with a thicker branch if I can reach, and I will leave it in water much longer than I have been doing.

I'll try to check back in and let you know how it goes. Thanks again for the help!

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