West Wales Willows

Willow Cultivation from Rods and Cuttings

Willows should be planted during the time when they are dormant, i.e. after the leaves have dropped and before the
sap starts to rise again.
As they need to develop a good root system, before they
can afford to develop leaves, willow cuttings should be
planted between December and the beginning of April
and willow rods should be in the ground by the beginning
of March.

A willow bed in the June after it was planted
A willow bed in early summer - first year of growth.

This is the way we plant our willows here:

Spread your ground cover out:

We use silage sheet for the first two years, which is
a very cost-effective mulch.
It prevents weeds to compete with the willows,
so no chemical weed suppression and no manual
weeding is necessary. It provides moisture through
condensation directly below the sheet where the
roots are being formed.

Pushing the edges of the ground cover in with a spade
Weigh the ground cover down / anchor it:

You will need to weigh the sheet down for areas wider
than 1 meter. Otherwise, once you have made the holes for your
willows, the wind will create a vortex and lift your
sheet above the cuttings, damaging the buds or burrying
If you use silage sheet like we do here, weigh it down
with anything that is heavy enough, but has no sharp
edges that might rip the sheet!

Old tyres like we use here work wonderfully and most
tyre dealers will be happy to get rid of them!
(Just remember that you might want to dispose of them
one fine day as well, so don't get more than you need.)
Spikes, pegs and staples are available for woven
ground covers.

Prepare a planting hole for your cuttings:

Span a line connected to two pegs along your sheet
to mark out your row.
Use a metal rod of the same diameter (an old long
screwdriver will do) to make a hole through the plastic
and into the ground and pushing your cuttings through
this hole.
(Note: The hole should ideally not be bigger than the
cutting, to make sure no weeds are allowed to reach
the light.)
In very light soils and when planting thick cuttings,
this might not always be required.
However, if you have stony soil, you might damage
your cuttings when you plant them without preparing
the hole.

Preparing the holes for the willow cuttings
Plant your cuttings:

Recommend planting distance for basketry type willows
is around 8-12 / 20-30 cm between plants and 3 feet / 90 cm
between rows, for the taller varieties for SRC and
windbreaks we recommend 2 - 3 feet / 60 - 90 cm
between plants.

Make sure to plant your cuttings the right way round!
We will have supplied your cuttings so that they all
point in the same direction. The tip of the label
attached to them points to the end that goes in the

If you are planting willow from cuttings, plant them so
that only 2 or 3 buds are showing above soil level.

Rods should be planted at least 1 foot deep into the

planting a willow cutting . Freshly planted row of cuttings
Enjoy your willows growing!

This is an ornamental willow six months after planting.

Some types of willows will barely grow a few centimeters
in one growing season, others might grow to 10 foot or more!

If the ground is very dry, water the willows during the first
year unless you planted through plastic.
(If planted through plastic they will receive moisture through
condensation on the underside of the sheet.)

Remember that willow roots can invade drains and other
structures leave a minimum of 1 ½ times the height of your
grown willows as safe distance.

An ornamental willow six months after planting

It is often advisable to coppice your willows after the first
seasons growth, as it will strengthen the root system.

This is done when the willows are dormant (roughly from around December to the end of February).

After the first growing season cut all rods bar their first inch on the original cutting.

If you coppice willows for basketry, cut them the following
winter right down to ground level - your willow stool will slowly
become wider and wider.

The picture on the right shows a willow stool growing in
it's 3rd season, with the plastic having been removed after
the last harvest. You can also cut your willows back all through the year, should they grow a bit too vigourous.

Willow Stool growing in it's 3rd season

If you want to find out more about the growing of willows,
a recommendable booklet is "Cultivation and Use of Basket Willow 2001",
which will give you more details.

Willow Harvest in the winter

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