No doubt Mother Nature was in a giving mood when she created the Hemp Willow. Rods have served as the basic material in basketry for generations. As an ornamental shrub, the wicker captivates with distinctive catkins in March and deciduous leaves. With its unique habit, the wicker shapes the landscape of entire regions along the rivers and streams to this day. The Salix viminalis shows a breathtaking speed when it shoots up and down. This opens up a wealth of design options in ornamental and kitchen gardens. There is still the question of the right care for this miracle plant, which is answered in detail below.


  • Plant family of the willow family (Salicaceae)
  • Genus Willows (Salix)
  • Art Korbweide (Salix viminalis)
  • Native cultivated plant in northern continental Europe
  • Deciduous shrub or tree
  • Growth height 3 to 5 centimetres, up to 10 meters uncut
  • Catkins bloom in March and April
  • Lanceolate leaves up to 25 centimeters long
  • Outstanding feature: Meter-long, very flexible rods
  • Other names: hemp willow, wicker

To this day, wicker plays a central role in the manufacture of basketry. After plastic production had replaced naturally manufactured wickerwork for a number of years, this traditional craft was experiencing a renaissance.

lighting conditions and soil conditions

In its natural distribution area, the osier thrives mainly in the lowlands, in river meadows or on all kinds of water bodies. The shrub is rarely found at higher locations; then up to a maximum of 800 meters. From this, the following preferred site conditions can be concluded:

  • Sunny, warm, sheltered position
  • Nutrient-rich, humus-rich soil
  • Fresh, moist soil, likes to be calcareous

The hemp willow has no objection to a place in periodically flooded wetlands. In this respect, it scores points compared to most competing shrubs, which, however, can only come to terms with waterlogging for a short time. If you have been struggling with such a region in the garden up to now, the wicker offers itself as a sensible problem solver.

Water and fertilize

Water plays a central role in the care of a Salix viminalis. The drier the soil, the more often the watering can is used. This is especially true when young, while the osier is establishing itself at the site. The high volume of leaves in autumn can be used to cover part of the nutrient requirements of a hemp pasture. As they slowly rot, they release an abundance of valuable nutrients to the roots.

  • Water young wicker regularly and thoroughly
  • Never allow the root ball to dry out
  • Spread a layer of compost every 4 weeks during the growing season
  • The administration of complete mineral fertilizer is not indicated

If a Salix viminalis spreads its expansive shallow root system over the years, sooner or later it will be able to transport a sufficient amount of water into the shoots. Intervention by the gardener is limited to long periods of drought if the foliage should wither. In this case, run the water hose for 60 minutes to be on the safe side.


Adult wicker defy the lowest minus temperatures down to -32 degrees Celsius. However, during the first two years of standing, a light winter protection is recommended.

  • Cover the root ball with straw, leaves or pine fronds
  • Protect the Salix viminalis in the bucket with a jute sack every year
  • In addition, wrap the container in bubble wrap and place it on wood

A wicker willow is watered in winter if there is no snow and it freezes. In this case, experts speak of frost, which, by the way, causes a plant to dry out faster than the heat of midsummer. On a frost-free day you should therefore not only pay a visit to the osiers with the watering can.

To cut

If you cultivate a wicker to weave your rods into a fence, a willow tunnel or into baskets, the topic of pruning is quickly dealt with. They wait out the winter for the frost to naturally harden the annual shoots. By the end of February, cut off the desired number of rods close to the ground. From March 1st, the legal ban on planting trees and shrubs will take effect because the birds’ breeding season begins. If the hemp willow is used as an opaque hedge, pruning is limited to the following:

  • ideal time: days and weeks immediately after flowering
  • Weather: dry, overcast and frost-free
  • Cut out all dried shoots completely
  • Shorten branches that have grown too long to the desired size
  • Thin out the shrub so that the sun and air reach all areas

A wicker not only thrives as a large deciduous shrub, but also has what it takes to become a classic pollarded willow. This form of cultivation should primarily be of interest for the natural garden. After planting, the osier grows uncut for two to three years. The gardener then determines the main shoot for the final stem. All superfluous side branches are removed. In order to shape the head, however, the crown is completely cut off at a height of 2 to 4 meters. From this, the new rods sprout in the spring and finally the typical appearance of a pollarded willow emerges. The new shoots can now thrive uncut for 2 years before they are pruned for the first time. About half of all rods that are driven out are shortened to about 5 centimeters.

Tip: Knowledgeable hobby gardeners use the clippings to produce an effective willow water that supports young plants of all kinds in rooting. The chopped rods are poured over with boiling water. Sieve after 24 hours and use as irrigation water.


A Salix viminalis also demonstrates its remarkable vigor when propagated by cuttings. A good time is in early spring, once the ground is no longer frozen. This is how the simple procedure works:

  • Cut a straight rod from 0.50 to 1.00 meters in length
  • Completely defoliate the lower area
  • Trim the shoot tip with a straight cut
  • Weed and loosen the soil in the designated place
  • Dig a planting hole 30-40 centimeters deep
  • Insert the wicker into it and muddy it

During the following weeks, the cuttings root quickly while being kept constantly moist. If you have intended the young wood to function as a pollarded willow, regularly remove any lateral shoots up to the planned crown height.

Plant osier properly

If the wicker is to thrive particularly quickly in the garden, the purchase of a young plant is an option. Well-stocked tree nurseries offer inexpensive container goods. Although this can be planted throughout the year, early spring is the primary choice once the soil has thawed. While the soil is being prepared, the still potted root ball is placed in a bucket of water to soak up moisture.

  • Carefully weed the bed soil and rake deeply.
  • Dig a planting pit with twice the volume of the root ball
  • Enrich the excavation in a wheelbarrow with compost or horse manure and horn shavings
  • Repot the young hemp willow, loosen the root ball, insert in the middle and muddy it upIf you then spread a thick layer of mulch made of leaves, straw or compost, the root ball is well protected from any late frosts. In wind-exposed locations, it is advisable to use a support stake, which is driven into the ground next to a Salix viminalis in order to tie it with a bast band. This measure reliably protects the wood from windthrow.

    plants in the bucket

    In a small garden or on the terrace, caring for a wicker is no problem if you take the following factors into account:

  • Das Pflanzgefäß ist geeignet für raumgreifende Flachwurzler
  • There is an opening in the bottom so that excess water can drain off
  • A high-quality potting soil, enriched with compost and sand, can be used as a substrate
  • In bucket culture there is a significantly higher water requirement than in beds

An annual, consistent pruning is essential so that the hemp pasture does not go beyond all dimensions. This includes the fact that training for pollarded willow is not recommended in view of the size to be expected. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with doing without the beautiful wicker due to the limited space.


Powdery mildew
Wicker has so far proven to be largely resistant to diseases. Problems could only arise from an infestation with the fungal disease powdery mildew. The fungal spores can be carried by the wind or insects to the host plants, which basically include all plants in the garden. If warm temperatures and humid weather come together, the infection progresses explosively. A whitish-grey fungal coating develops on the undersides of the foliage, rapidly spreading to the top. As the process progresses, the willow leaves curl up, discolor and finally fall off. Repeated spraying of a milk-water solution has proven to be an effective biological control measure. Alternatively, dissolve a heaping spoonful of baking soda (soda) in 4 liters of water. Add a spoon each of curd soap and alcohol to finally treat the diseased hemp willow.


It is primarily leaf beetles of various origins that nibble on the willow leaves. The damage is particularly visible during spring. Above all, it is the blue, red and spotted willow leaf beetles that have specialized in Salix. As a rule, the beetles do not cause life-threatening damage. Sometimes gall wasps dare to lay their eggs in the plant tissue. Unsightly galls form, which are removed together with the leaves. Effective chemical or biological control agents are not yet known.

Protection against biting

The bright, soft willow wood invites game to bite into it. Deer are after the tender buds, rabbits like to nibble on the bark and horses will bite into everything that comes in front of their teeth anyway. Protection of wattled willows is therefore recommended, especially if decades of cultivation as pollarded willows are desired. Anyone who does not shy away from the investment will put up a pasture fence at a distance of 1.50 to 2.00 meters. Where this measure does not make sense, wildlife protection cuffs have proven their worth. Since these covers are detrimental to the natural appearance of the garden, informed hobby gardeners use anti-browning products for painting. Manufactured on the basis of essential oils, quartz sand or fatty acids, they effectively repel biting animals.

A wicker adorns the spring garden as a summer-green shrub with fragrant, pretty catkins. Thanks to an enormous growth rate, the wood creates an effective privacy protection height of 2 to 3 meters within a short time. Planted in a moist, nutrient-rich location, the maintenance effort is kept to a minimum. As long as the sufficient water supply is right at a young age and important nutrients are supplied with compost, the wicker will thrive magnificently.

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