Growing Pussy Willows

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

Pussy willows (salix discolor) are extremely easy to multiply. They root so easily that stems of almost any size can simply be stuck into a vase of water where they will form roots in just a few weeks.

They can then be potted into liner pots with moist soil for a few more weeks while their roots develop, or they can be planted directly into the ground in spring. The cutting must be set the right end up, as it originally grew.

Cuttings should be from new growth, at least as thick as a pencil, and a foot or more in length for direct sticking. And at least one or two buds must be above ground when the cutting is set.

Pussy willows grow well in almost any soil, but it is a good idea to supplement it with peat moss, leaf mold, or compost. They require full sun to thrive, but will survive in the shade as well. As with most willows, they do best when given lots of water.

Although they can be allowed to grow unpruned, the plant will benefit from regular pruning after blooming. Prune the lowest branches back to the trunk, and prune for shape. You can even cut the tree back to a 6-inch stump every two to three years; just remember that severe pruning results in longer stems and larger catkins. Flowers form on the previous season's growth, not on new growth, so do not prune until after the flowers have faded.

For early blooming, cut branches of pussy willows may be brought in and set in a water-filled vase in a sunny window anytime after the middle of January. The catkins will develop and make a nice display for a considerable amount of time.

Resources
Martha has previously gotten pussy willow plants from Phil Mueller of Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin. For more information, visit starvalleyflowers.com.

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