Living Willow Maintenance

Living Willow maintenance requirements are fairly minimal. Although we plant the live willow rods without roots, they have fully formed root buds which will grow when in contact with moisture/soil.

For this reason, after initial planting and mulching, maintenance is similar to any newly planted tree.  Therefore to establish well the willows should have access to moisture and light throughout the growing season.  To ensure this…:


– In the winter of planting, check soil is in contact with the willow at all times.  Although we thoroughly heel-in the Willow rods  on planting, they should be checked and re-heeled after periods of heavy frost.

Ensure mulch isn’t “lost”.  Similarly if weeds (especially grasses) come through the bark mulch, they should be removed and the mulch checked for depth.  At least 5-7 cm of chipped bark should cover a minimum of 30cm each side of the willows.  Therefore bark will need topping up as it gets walked on/kicked about etc.  Look for playground grade mulch if possible.

– If prolonged dry periods occur in the spring/summer, watering is essential.  We plant the willows ½ metre deep and therefore water should get down this far to encourage deep rooting and long-term drought resistance.  Hence it is necessary to water copiously, once or twice a week only.  Sprinkling the surface will lose much water to evaporation and encourage surface rooting.

Top Growth

– Willow will grow vigorously given the above conditions. You can carefully weave this top growth in, as it becomes long enough to create a dense leaf covering over the dome in 2-3 years.  Alternatively, you can trim it up to three times a year.  Or, if a “harvest” of rods is required, rods can be grown untrimmed until leaf fall in water.  These long rods can then be cut back to the original structure and used to create other fantastic structures!  In any event, Willows should be cut at least once a year.

– Where rods cross, we bind them tightly with natural fibre twine.  The twine should then rot in 2-3 years, after which the rods should have grafted together.  However if growth is vigorous from year one, twine may be absorbed into the willow as it grows.  If this begins to happen, affected ties should be cut away.

Living Willow Maintenance Service

I can offer an annual maintenance service comprising weaving in and tying in and formative pruning – please contact me to discuss.