Even without any leaves, the catkin produces unusual flowers in spring. From the base to the tip of a twig line the little kittens, each as fluffy and soft as cat fur. In this country, the blossomed branches are traditionally part of Easter bouquets. But just as decorative is a tree in the garden or bucket, where it can stay all year round. Its care is not a challenge.


The willow, bot. Salix caprea, starts the new growing year with flowers that are called catkins because of their fluffiness. Only later do the green leaves follow. With a flowering period that extends from March to April, the tree can be described as an early bloomer. The bees and bumblebees are happy about this, as they can collect the first nectar of the year thanks to its honey-scented flowers. Easter is a Christian festival every year when this tree is in bloom. The blossomed twigs are often placed in the vase and decorated with painted Easter eggs.

Note: The individual specimens of this tree species bear either female or male flowers. The ovate, 2-3 cm long male flowers are considered more decorative. That is why mostly male flowering trees are used for breeding.


Although the whole shrub is beautiful, it is usually the catkins that make the difference in planting. In order for them to actually show up year after year, the location must be chosen optimally:

  • much brightness
  • sunny to semi-shady
  • at least 4 hours of sun per day

Sallow willows tolerate a lot of water and can therefore also be planted close to the pond. There they can unfold their beauty, but also act as a source of shade.


Nobody has to worry too much whether the soil in their own garden is worthy of the willow. It makes no claims in this regard. But it thrives particularly well when the soil is loamy, moist and acidic. Even slightly alkaline soil is still tolerated. If, on the other hand, the soil is sandy and dry, a significantly smaller growth can be expected. Sometimes that can even be in the interest of the owner.

Tip: You can improve soil that is too sandy by adding clay before planting. It is also recommended to mulch the root area.


You can plant catkins, which you buy in containers, in the garden all year round. The only exception is winter, when the ground is frozen. Bare-rooted specimens are best planted in fall or spring. Since the willow takes root easily, it can even be planted in late spring.

  • Soak the root ball in a bucket of water
  • dig a large planting hole
  • Create a drainage layer of sand and gravel
  • Mix excavation with compost
  • Insert willow and fill the planting hole with excavation
  • Press and water the soil

plant neighbors

The catkin can be combined well with other wild trees. If the plants are not planted as a hedge, however, you should ensure that there is sufficient spacing. The diameter of the crown can be up to seven meters. Plants that can assert themselves against the root pressure of the pasture can be used as underplanting. For example hostas and elfflowers . Good experiences have also been made with the planting of lavender, as long as it is not shaded. You can make it easy for other plants to take root by constructing a small, approx. 20 cm high raised bed around the trunk of the willow.

education cut

When planting, there is already an idea of ​​what form the Salix caprea should later take. If it is to grow as a tree, the first cut must be made immediately after planting. Only the strongest shoot is left standing, all others are removed. Five eyes may remain on the shoot above the planned crown base, the rest will be shortened. To ensure that the tree grows straight, the shoot is finally tied to a bamboo stick.


The Salix caprea can also grow in tubs. However, the limited space must be chosen optimally so that the bush gets everything it needs. It is important that the material can store moisture. A clay pot is better for the kitten than a plastic pot. In addition, the following points must be observed:

  • at least 40 liters volume
  • at least one large drainage hole
  • Create a drainage layer at the bottom of the tub
  • made of stones, gravel or potsherds
  • Cover the drainage layer with plant fleece
  • choose moisture-retaining substrate
  • water well after planting
  • possibly carry out an educational cut

fertilizing and watering

An oversupply of nutrients should be avoided. Because what the owner meant well will turn out to be detrimental over time. If the shoots grow too quickly, the branches will become bare. Outdoor pastures are supplied twice a year with a long-term fertilizer. The first dose is in late winter, the second in July. Potted trees can be supplied with a liquid fertilizer from March to August. However, the interval between two fertilizer applications should be 30 days.

All catkins, whether young or old, are thirsty creatures. The warmer the days get, the greater their need for water. Pay particular attention to newly planted specimens. In the first year they are not yet ideally able to take care of themselves. They have to be watered more often at the beginning so that they take root well.

Tub willows need regular watering from the watering can. The extent to which a water supply is necessary in the garden depends on the weather. Before watering, always check whether the top layer has dried, because the willow does not like waterlogging either. The roots of the willow prefer rainwater because it is low in lime. Water with it if possible. If the plant is in the pot, excess water should be removed from the saucer after about 15 minutes.

To cut

When it comes to pruning, this plant gives you some leeway. If it is a natural crown structure, the scissors can stay in the garden shed. A so-called pollarded willow with many dense shoots must be shaped with annual radical cuts. The rapid growth soon restores the old form. How to proceed:

  • cut in spring after flowering
  • leave only short stubs of faded shoots
  • only 2-3 eyes should remain per shoot

Cut hanging willow

Sallow willows that have a hanging growth should be cut back regularly. The crown can also become very dense over the years. Young shoots cover the old branches, which then no longer get any light. They wilt and eventually die off entirely. The drooping crown must therefore be thinned out from time to time. Don’t wait until deadwood shows up.

Cutting for the vase

Kitten-studded branches on one’s doorstep are readily available vase decorations. You can also cut a few of them at Easter but also at other times. The willow tolerates pruning well, in any case it is cut back vigorously after the flowers have faded. Don’t break off the branches! Use sharp scissors to leave smooth cuts. The scissors should also be disinfected so that no pathogens stick to them.

If the branches are in the water, they will soon bloom yellow. However, the fine yellow pollen is not very popular. In a vase without water, the branches and catkins will dry out over time, making them last longer.

Propagation from seeds

Willow seeds are not commercially available. However, you can collect ripe seeds from a tree. However, a tree does not produce seeds until the fourth year. Collecting seeds is also permitted for wild willows, while individual branches may not be cut. The germination of the seeds is only 14 days, which is why sowing must be done promptly:

  • Fill the seed tray with moist potting soil
  • scatter seeds
  • Press down lightly, do not cover with soil
  • selected, strong seedlings
  • Plant well-established saplings after a few weeks

Propagation by cuttings

This propagation method is recommended for hobby gardeners because it is easy to do. When pruning in spring, there is plenty of propagation material. Whether you stick the cuttings in pots or straight into the garden soil is up to you. Both possibilities deliver promising results. Here’s a guide on how to prioritize:

  1. Choose straight branches and remove smaller branches and buds.
  2. Obtain a small clay pot for each cutting. The pots must have drainage holes.
  3. First, prepare a drainage layer of gravel or potsherds.
  4. Enrich potting soil with clay and fill the pots with it.
  5. Put the cuttings in the ground about 10-15 cm deep.
  6. Tamp the soil lightly and water moderately.
  7. Put the pots in a bright place.
  8. Maintain moderately moist soil throughout.

Under optimal conditions, the first roots will form after just a few days. Give the cuttings a few more weeks to develop better before planting out the young willows.


With willows that grow in pots, the question of repotting arises. This care step is carried out like planting. Only the old substrate is exchanged for a new one and the pot is steadily increasing in size. Repotting is not an annual requirement. If you trade every two to three years, catkins should be satisfied.


The catkin suffers from rust, powdery mildew and leaf spot diseases. They are all old acquaintances in the garden that we also know from other plants. Fight them with an ecologically compatible home remedy that you can also use for other plants.

A special feature is the willow rust, which also affects the cultivated form. This fungal disease causes dots to form on the leaves, which cannot be overlooked due to their bright orange colour. A good supply of nutrients has a preventive effect. If the willow is already diseased, you must act quickly and remove and dispose of all leaves visibly marked by the disease. Also, collect any fallen leaves.


Salix caprea tastes so good to the pests that many species settle on it:

  • aphids
  • Blattwasps
  • Spider moths
  • willow borer
  • Willow wood midge
  • Weidenschaumzikade

Most of the pests don’t cause any worrisome damage. They don’t necessarily have to be fought. However, their spread should be monitored and stopped with a biological agent if necessary. However, one pest should not be underestimated: the willow borer. The caterpillars pierce the bark in late summer and damage the catkins. Ask for a biological control agent based on Bacillus thuringiensi in stores.


Planted willows can withstand the winter cold. Unlike pussy willows that live in a tub. The frost surrounds the pot from all sides and soon penetrates to the roots. Damage is then inevitable. To prevent the frost from penetrating so far into the pot, you should put your Salix caprea in a warm cover:

  • Wrap the pot with plant fleece or jute
  • Cover the surface of the soil thickly with mulch or leaves
  • Place the pot close to a house wall
  • on insulating wood or styrofoam board

Even on dry winter days, willows must be supplied with water. However, the need is small.

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