Harlequin willow, ornamental willow or Salix integra – no matter how it is called, in any case, an extremely decorative plant is hidden behind the name. Young shoots are pink and white, which makes them look like blooming flowers during the warmer months, and you don’t even need a green thumb or a lot of care for this splendor. However, some requirements still have to be met.

Choose the right location

The ornamental willow needs a sunny location. It can also cope with light penumbra. If there is no strong sun, however, the leaves remain a little lighter and do not have the typical, strong contrast to the white and pink shoots.

Apart from the light factor, the harlequin willow is undemanding in terms of its location.
Culture in the bucket

The harlequin willow can only achieve full splendor and winter hardiness in the long term in the garden. If the plant is still very young, however, it can also be grown in a bucket.

There must also be plenty of sunlight here. A south-facing balcony or a bright terrace are ideal. If the ornamental willow is too dark, this can be seen quickly from the light green leaves, as described above.


As with the choice of location, the substrate for the harlequin pasture is also quickly prepared. Simple garden soil is sufficient. This should be nutritious and loose, but still be able to store water well. If there is no such soil in the garden or if the Salix integra, as the harlequin willow is also called, is in a bucket, a simple mixture is the best choice.

The soil should be mulched freely in the garden. A small addition of compost will also improve the soil.

In the bucket or container, you should choose high-quality potting soil, which is also mixed with mulch.


Caring for the harlequin willow is very easy. If the shrub or high trunk is in the garden and the ground has been mulched, neither regular watering nor additional fertilization are necessary. This then only has to be done if necessary.

The situation is different with very young plants that have not yet grown. These are just as dependent on watering as the harlequin willow in bucket culture or in the substrate without mulch. Fertilization is also necessary to keep the plant healthy.

The only maintenance step that involves a lot of effort at Salix integra is blending. This has to be done quite often, but it is easy to do.


The ornamental willow does not tolerate drought well. If there is no water, the leaves roll up in an unsightly and characteristic manner. But it wasn’t supposed to get that far.

Watering tips:

  • Water overgrown harlequin willows only if the drought persists
  • Mulch in the substrate reduces the need for watering
  • Water regularly and abundantly when cultivating in a bucket, with young and newly planted harlequin willows
  • The substrate should be slightly damp at all times, but the surface may dry off
  • Rainwater or stale tap water is lime-poor, softer and therefore better for watering the ornamental willow
Tip: If you want to save water in persistent drought and still have to water frequently, you can draw a narrow ditch around the harlequin willow. This pouring edge conveys the water more specifically to the roots, which means that smaller amounts of liquid are sufficient.


Just like watering, fertilizing the harlequin willow is only necessary to a limited extent. Cultivated in a tub or container, the plant has less substrate and therefore fewer nutrients available. Regular fertilization is not only useful here, it is usually urgently required. Because Salix integra is growing rapidly and therefore has a correspondingly high demand. Nutrients, preferably liquid fertilizer for ornamental shrubs, should then be added once every four to six weeks.

If, on the other hand, the ornamental willow is free in the garden and the roots can spread, additional fertilization is rarely required. This is especially true if the substrate has been mixed with mulch. Fertilizing in spring and summer does not do any harm here either. In turn, a liquid agent can be used for bushes and trees.

Tip: Do not fertilize from September, otherwise the branches will not be able to ripen sufficiently to survive the winter unscathed.

Moving and repotting

When moving and repotting a harlequin willow, there are no special considerations. If the tub is no longer sufficient or if the location in the garden proves to be unsuitable in the long term, the plant can be transferred into a correspondingly large hole with prepared substrate.

Only when the ornamental willow is already very large can it be problematic to move it. Because a large root ball has to be dug and moved here. However, within the first three years it is sufficient to prick off roots at a distance of one meter around the trunk. Later, the shrub or high trunk should be prepared by first digging a trench around the trunk and filling it with compost. The Salix integra can then be implemented around six months later. This procedure favors the formation of new fine roots and thus increases the chance that the willow will grow at the new location.

Cutting in spring

As the last and greatest point of care, the harlequin willow must be cut regularly to maintain its shape. The most important cut of the ornamental willow falls in spring, before budding. Here, the shrub or high trunk should be radically thinned and the branches shortened to about half or a third. In this way, a round shape is retained and the willow branches do not become matted.

The cut over the year
With a single correction in the year it is not enough, because the harlequin willow grows very quickly and therefore has to be cut continuously. In summer at the latest, shoots that stick out from the round shape should be shortened. The shorter these are, the better. If you wait too long with the waste, you will have to accept holes later or green spots in the otherwise white and pink outer border.

Only clean scissors should be used for cutting. It is best to disinfect the blades before and after use. This approach reduces the risk of infection at the interfaces.

Tip: Blending is of course not only necessary for corrective shaping. If the harlequin willow is attacked or injured by a disease, the affected areas should be removed. Otherwise, diseases can also spread.

Do not leave stumps when cutting, but remove them close to the branch or trunk. These are also susceptible to pathogens and are also visually disruptive.


There are three ways to increase the harlequin pasture. These include grafting on the trunk of an ordinary willow tree, pulling from cuttings and planting seeds.

Propagation by cuttings is particularly easy, which is why this method is discussed in detail below.

Propagation by cuttings
If you want to propagate the harlequin willow, you only need a few shoots in spring or summer. And these are incurred in the case of waste anyway.
The further procedure is very simple and does not require a green thumb.

  1. Cleanly cut off shoots about 15 to 20 cm long. The cut edge should be kept as sloping as possible, this offers a larger area for the roots.
  2. Place the shoots in a vase or bucket and fill them with about three finger-widths of water. The material of the vessel should be dark and not let light through.
  3. Place the cuttings in a light and moderately warm place, for example on a windowsill or in the winter garden.
  4. The first roots will show up after a few weeks. If new leaves are also sprout, the cuttings of the harlequin willow can first be planted in potting soil.

For the first two to three years, culture in the bucket is ideal. In addition, the young plants need safe and frost-free overwintering.

Tip: The cuttings of the harlequin willow make a wonderful and decorative bouquet until they have rooted.


An adult harlequin willow is frost hardy and can withstand the average winter without any problems. Therefore, it is usually not necessary to protect them specifically against the cold. It is different with the culture of the harlequin willow in the bucket, with young plants and very harsh winters.

Wintering in a bucket
If the ornamental willow is in a bucket or container, it must not overwinter unprotected outdoors. It would even be ideal to bring them into the house during the cold season. There it should stand cool but frost-free and still get some sun. A bright basement, a garage or an unheated winter garden are ideal.

If this type of overwintering is chosen, the substrate should be checked occasionally and, if necessary, a small amount of water should be added. The soil may be dry on the surface, but should never dry out completely. The warmer the harlequin pasture is in winter quarters, the more moisture it needs.

If there is no possibility of wintering in the house, the ornamental willow needs special protection. For this purpose, buckets and twigs should be covered with several layers of garden fleece and straw piled on the ground. It also helps to put the plant in a sheltered corner.

Frost protection in the garden
If the Salix integra is still very young or a harsh winter is expected, the plant needs insulation. This can consist of garden fleece, straw, sticks and boards. It is important that an exchange of air can still take place. Foils are considered unfavorable.

Typical diseases and pests

The Salix integra is a robust pasture in itself. Only fungal diseases such as rust and willow anthracnose and willow leaf beetles can attack them.

The willow leaf beetle is infested with traces of feeding. Tree or bush can be eaten completely bare. In addition, orange-colored oviposition can be observed on the leaves. Even when the harlequin pasture becomes bare, birds normally take on the infestation in a completely natural way. Of course, the plant doesn’t look pretty at first, but it usually recovers completely. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can help with appropriate insecticides. In any case, it helps to check the ornamental willow regularly.

The situation is similar with fungal diseases. Here, too, regular checks should be carried out in order to prevent further infestations. If dead leaves or brown or black discoloration appear, the affected parts must be removed and destroyed. A fungicide should then be used.

Is the harlequin willow poisonous?

The harlequin willow is not inherently poisonous, but it can become a problem for pets. Because shoots and bark contain a lot of tannins, which can lead to digestive problems.
Anyone who keeps rabbits or guinea pigs should therefore limit their intake to very small amounts or keep the animals completely away from the plant.

The harlequin willow is an enrichment for the garden that is very easy to care for and has a particularly decorative effect due to its bright shoots. When grown as a shrub or tree, it has only minimal requirements that can easily be met in the garden or in a tub.

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