Weeping willow tree branch

Best Time To Prune Willows: How To Prune A Willow Tree

Willow trees need special pruning that begins while the tree is young. Proper pruning helps establish a graceful growth pattern and prevents damage as the tree grows. Let’s find out how to prune a willow tree.

Willow Tree Pruning

Willow trees are more durable and have a better shape if you do most of the pruning and shaping while the tree is young. Pruning willow trees properly while they are young and easier to prune means you probably won’t have to make major changes in the tree’s structure when it is older and more difficult to prune.

Willow trees bleed sap if you prune them while they are actively growing, so the best time for willow tree pruning is in winter while the tree is dormant.

Make sure you have the right tools for the job before you begin. Hand pruners are the tool of choice for small twigs and thin, whip-like stems that are no more than one-half inch in diameter. For stems up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, use long-handled loppers. The longer handles give better leverage for cleaner cuts. Use a saw for anything larger.

Shaping a Young Tree

When trimming a willow tree sapling, the goal is to develop a strong central leader, which will later become the trunk of the tree. You also want to remove branches that are too close together as well as weak branches that are likely to break when they mature and become heavy. Here are the steps in shaping a willow tree:

  • Remove any damaged or broken branches. Make the cuts where the branch attaches to the trunk.
  • Choose a tall, upright stem at the top of the tree as a central leader, and remove competing stems.
  • Remove branches that grow up instead of out. A narrow crotch angle between the branch and the trunk makes it likely that the branch will break as the tree grows and the branch becomes heavy.
  • Remove crowded branches. The result should be branches that are evenly spaced around the tree.
  • Remove the branches from the lower part of the tree when the trunk reaches a diameter of 2 inches.

Pruning a Mature Tree

Mature willow trees don’t need a lot of pruning. The tree will heal faster with fewer disease problems if you remove broken branches and those that rub against each other. If you shorten the branches, always cut just beyond a leaf bud or twig.

Don’t allow branches to grow on the lower part of the tree. If you catch new growth soon enough, you can stop it by pinching it off or rubbing it with your fingers.

Willow trees grow quickly, and this makes them susceptible to wind breakage. Maintaining a little space between branches allows good air circulation and reduces the amount of breakage.

Remove suckers arising directly from the ground by cutting them off at ground level or below. Suckers drain energy from the tree because they grow very quickly.

Can You Prune a Willow Tree to Shorten Weeping Branches?

Weeping willow trees develop long branches—sometimes long enough to reach the ground. While this gives the tree a graceful shape, it may not be practical in the landscape. The long branches can become an obstruction to foot traffic and make landscape maintenance more difficult than it has to be. You can shorten them to any length as long as you cut just below a leaf bud.

How should I prune a weeping willow without shortening the life of the tree?

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Golden Weeping Willow Tree

Golden weeping willow tree is the most typical of the weeping willows, although there are many other willow selections with weeping habits. It is unmatched by any other landscape tree for its long, pendant, golden branches, which can literally sweep the ground.

Tree Image Gallery


Description of golden weeping willow tree: The golden weeping willow is a massive, spreading tree, reaching up to 80 feet in height. Although main branches manage to arch somewhat upward, the secondary ones grow straight down, creating the graceful weeping effect for which it is renowned. The trunk is brown with a distinctly corky bark. The pendant stems are yellow green. The narrow, deciduous leaves are pointed and green to yellow-green above, pale below. They turn yellow in the fall.

Growing golden weeping wilow tree: This tree is well adapted to wet soils and is absolutely charming when planted right beside a lake or pond so its branches can dangle over the water. It does equally well in drier conditions, but in such cases its long-stretching roots can block pipes and drainage tiles in their pursuit of moisture. A branch stuck in moist soil is often all that is needed to reproduce this fast-growing tree.

Uses for golden weeping willow tree: The golden weeping willow is only recommended for very large lots and should be planted well away from any structures.

Related species of golden weeping willow tree: There are several other weeping willows, but the terminology is hopelessly confused. It is best to consult your county Cooperative Extension office for suggestions as to varieties adapted to your region.

Scientific name of golden weeping willow tree: Salix alba tristis

Caution: This tree is listed as invasive in some states in the east and midwest.

Want more information on trees and gardening? Try:

  • Shade Trees: Towering overhead, shade trees can complement even the biggest house, and define the amount of sunlight that reaches your yard.
  • Flowering Trees: Many trees offer seasonal blooms that will delight any visitor your yard or garden.
  • Types of Trees: Looking for fresh ideas about what to plant? Find out about different species that can turn your yard into a verdant oasis.
  • Gardening: Get great tips about how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.

Weeping Willow Pruning: Should I Cut Back A Weeping Willow Tree

No tree is more graceful than the beautiful weeping willow with its long tresses swaying gracefully in a breeze. But that cascading foliage and the branches that support it need to be cut back from time to time. In fact, trimming a weeping willow is essential to its health. If you are wondering when to prune weeping willows or how to prune a weeping willow, read on.

Why to Cut Back a Weeping Willow?

A mature weeping willow is one of the most romantic of trees. You often see pictures of a willow growing by a still lake, its cascading branches reflected in the still surface of the water. But that beautiful canopy must be maintained to keep it healthy and beautiful. You need to cut back a weeping willow to keep it looking its best.

Trimming a weeping willow’s branch tips to even out the foliage of an ornamental tree makes sense. But there are more serious reasons to

consider weeping willow pruning. Weeping willow branches may grow all the way down to the ground over time. While this may be attractive, it makes it impossible for people to walk below the tree, or to drive a car there.

More important, you can help the tree build a strong branch structure if you cut back a weeping willow. The tree is stronger and more beautiful if grown with one single trunk. In addition, you’ll often see branches with weak attachment to the trunk that can break off and damage the tree.

When to Prune Weeping Willows

You’ll want to get out those pruners in late winter. Weeping willow pruning in winter allows you to cut back the tree when it is dormant. It also gets the willows in good condition before they start their spring growth.

How to Prune a Weeping Willow

When you start trimming a weeping willow, the first thing to do is to look over all the leaders. You need to select a central stem as the one to keep, then start weeping willow pruning. Cut off each of the other competing leaders.

When you are figuring out how to prune a weeping willow, you’ll need to determine which of the branches are strong and which are not. Do not cut back a weeping willow’s strong horizontal branches. Branches with horizontal junctions to the trunk are not likely to split away from the trunk. Rather, trim off branches with “V” shaped junctions since these are the ones likely to break off.

Weeping willow pruning is also necessary after a storm. Trim off any branches that are split or damaged with a pruning saw. Make the cut just below the break. If you see any dead wood, trim back the limbs until only living tissue remains.

Weeping Willow Trees (Salix Babylonica) are a common decorative tree used in landscaping throughout the Greater Victoria area. Weeping willows are easy to spot with their long, graceful stems that dangle delicately back and forth with the breeze.

Weeping willows grow rapidly and if not taken care of will eventually block out light from your lawn, garden and even your home. They also create a very large mess in the fall when all of the leaves fall off.

Prune Your Weeping Willow or Remove It Entirely?

If you can’t decide whether to remove the tree entirely or just prune it back take these items into consideration. If the tree is very large and leaning either towards your home or a neighbours home then it’s a good candidate for removal.

Large, old Weeping Willows that have been pruned back a number of times over the years can also pose a danger and could be considered for removal because the exposed wood on the limbs (where they were cut and new growth is coming out) can actually begin to decay and you’ll be left with weak new branches. These branches can fall off the tree in heavy winds or without warning and cause damage to your home or property.

Weeping Willow Trees that are left unchecked and too close to the home can account for many thousands of dollars in property damage annually throughout the Greater Victoria area.

If your Willow Tree isn’t encroaching on your home or property and you love how it looks in the spring and summer with it’s big, beautiful crown then it’s probably a better decision to prune the tree properly and keep it. After a good pruning your Willow Tree will grow vigorously developing a new crown of weeping branches that will require pruning again every 3-5 years depending on your property.

What Time Of Year Should You Prune Your Weeping Willow?

The fall and winter are great times to prune back a Willow Tree because the tree is dormant and all of the leaves have fallen and it’s much easier to access the tree and it’s primary branches.

Trimming it back in the winter also gives the tree a chance to recover before the spring showers arrive and the optimal growing season.

Weeping Willows can be pruned back as late as March but you’ll greatly slow down it’s growth for that year if you prune the tree when it’s not dormant.

Because weeping willow trees are such a fast growing tree, the long sweeping branches may even need trimming during spring and summer to prevent them from coming into contact with your lawn, garden, roof, siding or driveway.

Whenever you choose to prune your Weeping Willow tree it should be started while the tree is still young and will respond well to shaping as to encourage the growth of a healthy central trunk and main branches.

How Much Should Be Taken Off?

This really depends on the specific tree and how you’d like to shape it to suit your property. Weeping willows are actually quite hardy and they can tolerate being pruned back quite a bit. You can see in the example slideshow above how much we pruned off this Weeping Willow and it will come back very healthy growth this coming spring.

If the tree is very large many owners of Weeping Willows prefer to trim back the long branches so they dangle 6-8 feet off the ground which allows for a beautiful shady area under the tree and still let’s enough light in for your grass to grow.

How Much Will Trimming My Weeping Willow Tree Cost?

This really depends on the size of the tree and whether you’d like it pruned or removed totally. Removing the tree is usually a little faster than pruning but still leaves us with a big mess to clean up and remove from your property.

Pruning a tree takes considerable time as we need to get up in the tree using ladders or equipment to prune out large branches, that still need to be cleaned up and removed from your property.

$400 – $1000 is a good ballpark estimate to get a large, willow tree back under control. The larger the tree the more money it will cost.

Who Trims Weeping Willow Trees in Victoria, Sidney or Saanich?

Island Pro Mowing and Landscaping is a full service landscaping contractor based on the Saanich Peninsula. Among our many services we provide pruning and removal of Weeping Willow Trees throughout the Saanich Peninsula and Greater Victoria.

If you’d like to receive an estimate to prune back or remove a Weeping Willow tree on your property please give us a call or fill out our contact form and we’ll get right back to you to schedule a time.

Does anyone know how to trim a weeping willow?

As you can see, architectural classification is not an exact science. Not all Queen Anne style houses are huge or have towers and wrap around porches. The term Queen Anne style covers a very diverse range of architecture, loosely corresponding to the late Victorian era. Queen Anne houses were built until around 1910, although rather simplified variations on the basic house forms, similar to your house, were built well into the 1920s, and some call these houses transitional style homes. I would agree that your house is a vernacular variation on the gable and wing style house (also called Folk Victorian or Carpenter Gothic or National Style, depending on characteristics others noted above) incorporating a dormer. and a two-story cut-out bay window that was very popular when it was built c. 1890. The simplicity of the roof form and massing and the lack of variation in the wall siding except for the gables make it more a vernacular or Folk Victorian than a Queen Anne, but it can be difficult to say exactly where the dividing line is. With a bit more complexity, it could cross the line into Queen Anne. I would say it is a bit too tall in the second floor to be considered a Queen Anne cottage, but it is similar. Lots of houses something like this were built, often by local carpenters inspired by pattern books. Dover publications has lots of reprints of these pattern books, and Archive.org also has quite a few. The millwork was often done locally or could be ordered and shipped by train. Yes, Sears did offer kit houses something like this starting around the turn of the century as did Radburn and others. AntiqueHomeStyle.com has lots of pictures of kit houses from somewhat later than your house, but traditional forms were offered for some time even after they became old fashioned. These pattern books typically offered elevations of the exterior and floor plans of the interior, and you might find something similar to your home. It is definitely not an I-house, which is a narrow one-room deep, usually two rooms wide, two stories high house found mostly in the Midwest built in the mid-1800s, and may have more than one front door. I lived in one once when I was a college student that was built in the 1840s –the original house on the street, now sadly long gone. Victorian farm kitchens could be a good size, since a lot of work to process and preserve food took place there, and the other room could have been the keeping room, which was where folks could sit around the woodstove in the evening. Or it could have been a bedroom. The kitchen typically opened onto a small back porch, stairs to the cellar and had a larder, which may have been torn out in a previous remodel. The front room was the parlor, typically reserved for visitors and funerals and such, and not used on a daily basis. When you can afford it, I would really consider restoring the wood siding and repairing the windows. Old wood windows can be repaired and with a storm are as nearly as efficient as a new window, and a whole lot more durable. John Leeke and Bob Yapp are two experts with lots of advice online for old houses, and The Craftsman Blog is a good DIY source for most things, including window repair and weatherstripping, although I disagree with his insulating advice. He lives in Florida, so the insulation issues are different than in a cold climate. Old House Journal archives have good info too. I recommend John Schneider of Historic House Colors website for house color ideas and consulting. Old House Guy (website and here on Houzz) is a good resource for old house design considerations, especially porches and window casing, and also does color consulting. Insulating an old house is a complex matter. I have spent a lot of time on Green Building Advisor, the Department of Energy and so forth and I’m not convinced that insulating sidewalls is worth the risk of creating moisture problems later on. Old houses can endure a lot of abuse because they are made with good old growth lumber, which is strong and resists rot, tend to be somewhat overbuilt, and because they are leaky–all that ventilation prevents mold and rot. The best thing and by far the most cost efficient thing to do is to insulate the sill/rim joist just above the foundation, and to ventilate and insulate the attic, and make sure the chimney and other roof openings are sealed and flashed properly. Pouring cellulous into the balloon frame house is a big no-no–it is likely to trap moisture and invite bugs. Doing something to keep air from circulating under the second floor, like inserting some mineral wool insulation between the joists around the perimeter of the house, is a possibility as well. The University of Maine on YouTube has a nice series on inexpensive DIY ways to weatherize your house, and we have gotten by with a combination of bubble wrap (spray the windows with water and it will stick on and double the R-value of the glass itself) on some of our windows, espec. the ones in the bedrooms, combined with removable caulk (inexpensive, but only for one season) and rope caulk (bit harder to use but not as messy and lasts indefinitely and is reusable and is good for areas around hardware and such) and window film. Inexpensive DIY interior storm windows made with two layers of window film wrapped around a wood frame has been tested by the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative to be as effective as a storm window, and is a whole lot cheaper. Interior storms and caulking will make even modern windows more efficient. If you search John Leeke’s forum at Historic Homeworks for Interior Storm Windows, you will find directions to make your own. You can also make a fancier version with magnetic kits bought online and acrylic panels fabricated by your local glass shop.

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