With its twisted branches, the corkscrew willow is a fascinating sight in every season. The young shoots shimmer in a reddish splendor at the beginning and thus conjure up a wonderful contrast in winter gardens and parks. However, due to its rapid growth and lush crown, the robust Salix matsudana “Tortuosa” is not suitable for every location.

Location and soil

The corkscrew willow is very easy to grow. The indigenous, deciduous tree feels particularly good in sunny to very bright places in partial shade. Too dark a location reduces growth and leads to visible growth damage.

For the Salix matsudana “Tortuosa”, on the other hand, it does not matter whether the substrate is extremely sandy, clay or limestone. The soil should only be able to store sufficient moisture in the dry summer months.

Watering and fertilizing

The robust tree only needs an additional supply of water on particularly hot summer days. Pour rainwater several times and slowly so that the soil absorbs and stores enough moisture. However, the situation is different with corkscrew willows in pots: With this type of cultivation, the plant has an even higher water requirement, the root ball should not dry out. Water regularly and sufficiently – except in the cold season. For the undemanding corkscrew willow, it does not matter whether you use calcareous water.

On poor soils and in pots, a special liquid fertilizer must be applied to the irrigation water at least every 14 days during the main growing season of the plant. In the open field it is completely sufficient if the soil is mulched in early spring and late autumn and small amounts of compost or horn shavings are mixed under the substrate.

To cut

Under optimal conditions, the corkscrew willow grows by up to 1 meter a year. A regular back and clear cut is necessary to promote the growth and health of the tree. The cultivated form of the Chinese willow is very easy on pruning and quickly recovers from a heavy pruning in the old wood.

Pruning is done in early spring or late autumn when the corkscrew willow has no leaves. Frost-free winter days are also suitable. The ornamental trees can reach a total height of well over 10 meters. Reason enough to have a ladder ready in addition to sharp pruning shears or saw.

  • Remove side shoots that are growing transversely and that rise steeply upwards close to the trunk.
  • Completely cut out dead, bare and caring branches.
  • Keep center drives and just trim them back to the desired height.
  • The clearing cut is made directly from the crown.

The older branches of the corkscrew willow are hardly or not at all leafy. Cut these off right near the trunk. However, you should not completely remove strong, healthy shoots. These serve to build up the crown and their cut only promotes the formation of undesirable water puddles. These branches grow steeply upwards and their growth can cause lasting damage to other, intact shoots.

The pruning of corkscrew willows in pots should also be done in late autumn or early spring, before the plant is in the sap and sprouts. Remove unwanted shoots to get the desired habit. If necessary, shorten the Salix matsudana “Tortuosa” by a third to keep the height low. Any mistakes are compensated for by the strong growth of the willow in spring.

Tip: Cut back corkscrew willows in pots in spring and autumn.


Use the clearing cut as an opportunity to use cut shoots as cuttings.

  • Shorten the shoot of the corkscrew willow to a length of about 15 centimeters.
  • All superfluous leaves are removed except for 5 – 8 centimeters. This prevents rot from building up.
  • Prepare a planter with a mixture of potting soil and sand. A nutrient-rich substrate is not necessary before the root ball forms.
  • Warm temperatures accelerate root formation. This process can also be done in-house. Avoid heating air that is too dry during the cold winter months.
  • If the cutting forms new leaves and shoots, it can be cultivated outdoors.

The shoots of the corkscrew willow also shoot roots in the water. To do this, place the shortened shoot in a container with lime-free water. It can take several weeks for the first fine roots to appear. Then move the cuttings into the garden as usual.


The Salix matsudana ‘“TortuosaT is one of the shallow roots and reaches a height of between 4 and 12 meters. Due to its gnarled growth, corkscrew willows are rarely more than 30 years old, but there are still a few things to consider when planting. For example, the trees are unsuitable for small front gardens because of their sweeping crown. Their aggressive roots quickly destroy foundations and water pipes. Therefore, choose the location carefully so that you can enjoy the pasture with its fascinating, corkscrew-like shoots in the years to come. You should allow for a minimum distance of 3 – 6 meters to buildings and other trees.

  • The ideal planting time is between October and the end of February.
  • The planting hole must be twice as wide and deep as the root ball.
  • Mix compost into the substrate.
  • Loosen heavy soil with lava gravel.
  • Insert the corkscrew willow and fill it with soil.
  • Water sufficiently.

If the soil already has enough nutrients, you can completely do without artificial fertilizers until the coming autumn.

You don’t have a big enough garden? Corkscrew willows can also be cultivated in pots without any problems. With this type of planting, the plant requires a lot more maintenance. But it offers an interesting eye-catcher on the terrace or a sufficiently large balcony. The following points are recommended when planting in pots:

  • Choose a large planter.
  • Prepare drainage from lava chippings or pebbles on the bottom of the vessel.
  • The substrate must be rich in humus and clay.
Note: Willows require large amounts of moisture. Therefore, never let the substrate dry out completely when planting in pots.


As a native ornamental wood, this point is completely unnecessary for corkscrew willows outdoors. Immediately after rooting – if this is done in the planter – the young plant is planted in its final location. Only Salix matsudana “Tortuosa” in pots require a larger pail at irregular intervals or a substrate enriched with fresh compost.

The roots of the plant put immense pressure on the planter, which can damage it. For this reason, choose a clay bucket and repot when the first fine roots appear on the surface. Use this opportunity to shorten the roots by a few centimeters to curb the growth of the little tree. In this way you will have a healthy and small corkscrew willow in the bucket for many years to come.


Corkscrew willows are extremely hardy and do not require any special protection for the cold winter months. The situation is a little different with container plants: Wrap the planter with burlap or a special fleece. In the pot, the roots are insufficiently able to withstand prolonged periods of frost without damage. Watering or even fertilizing is completely unnecessary for both types of cultivation during this time.

Recognize possible maintenance errors in good time

Normally, corkscrew willows are considered to be relatively robust. Nevertheless, deficiency symptoms and other symptoms can appear unexpectedly, sometimes due to a care mistake.

  • Tree loses leaves prematurely: This indicates that the substrate is too dry. Immediately water sufficiently and water more frequently in the warmer months of the year.
  • Bark shows cracks: this feature is often seen on older corkscrew willows. Nothing can be done to prevent this.
  • Leaves get yellow spots: Often an indication of pests or fungal diseases. But an oversupply of fertilizer also leads to discoloration of the leaves.
  • Tree has many bare branches in the main growing season: corkscrew willows need to be thinned out and cut back every year. Because older shoots are no longer able to develop enough leaves and increasingly bald. Support the growth of the tree and completely remove the dead wood.

Diseases and pests

It is relatively difficult to make a care mistake on corkscrew willows. On the other hand, the trees are very susceptible to many types of fungal diseases and pests.

Willow leaf beetle
The metallic shimmering beetle is reminiscent of its useful relative, the ladybird, with its black pattern. However, the willow leaf beetle does considerable damage to its host plant; its voracity often leads to the balding of entire shoots. In the case of fully-grown corkscrew willows, control is not necessary; in the case of smaller plants, the use of chemical agents is recommended.

Willow Borer
The adult animals of this moth species are not able to take in food. But the larvae are almost insatiable. After the female has laid the eggs in the bark of old or diseased bark, the feast begins immediately after hatching. The larvae literally eat their way through the infected willow. A heavy infestation therefore inevitably leads to the tree’s death. Even before the corkscrew willow is visible, a vinegar-like smell can often be perceived from the bark. Willow borers are difficult to control. Visible moths and larvae can be collected and infected shoots cut generously. However, if the overpopulation is too extensive, the tree must be completely removed before winter.

Willow scab
Brown discoloration and drying out on the shoots and leaves often indicate the fungus Drepanopeziza sphaeroidea. A strong infestation is also expressed in black parts of the plant and cancerous growths on the tree bark. Treatment is tedious because the fungus overwinters on infected leaves and shoots. Support the tree’s natural defenses by adding potash and phosphorus. In addition, it is necessary to generously remove all parts of the plant affected by the fungus and dispose of them completely in the household waste.

Marssonina disease
Another fungal disease that is often seen in willow trees. In the event of an infestation with Marssonina salicicola, the tips of the shoots wither and discoloration occurs on the leaves. Here, too, it is important to cut off the infested planting regions, but if the infestation is particularly severe, special fungicides from specialist retailers must be used.

Tip: Healthy plants are less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases.

Corkscrew willows are easy to cultivate, but should not be left completely to their own devices. If there is a lack of space or the wrong location is chosen, the roots of the shallow root can cause immense damage to buildings and tarred areas. Nevertheless, the trees with their twisted branches are a fascinating sight in every season.

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