We have a 3-year-old dappled willow tree that we had to unfortunately move to another area so we could allow more room for natural growth, and since transplanting all the leaves have dried up. We have been stimulating root growth as advised and watering as advised, and the trunk and main branches still appear green. My question is: should I cut back the small branches that have died (they are black), and I’m sure I should remove all the dead leaves to promote energy for new growth, right?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Kerry in Ohio: The dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) provides interesting variegated foliage in the garden. Whenever we move our plants we have to treat them like a new addition, and from what you mentioned it sounds like your willow did not receive sufficient moisture after being transplanted. There is always a certain amount of stress associated with moving plants, and making sure they get enough water is essential for the long-term health of our plants. It is hard to say if your willow will recover or not. If the roots were allowed to dry out then this is not a good scenario, but as long as the cambium layer is still green it should attempt to put on new growth. If you take your fingernail or pruners and lightly scratch the bark away to reveal the cambium layer, you will be able to see what color it is. If it is green this is good, and if it is brown go ahead and get your spade out. For now you should prune out all dead branches and inspect them for any signs of insect or disease. If you do notice anything abnormal you should take the sample to your County Cooperative Extension Office for the horticulture agent to look at. Willows are susceptible to a few different insect/disease issues but I would suspect the problem in your case has more to do with transplant shock and lack of water than anything else. It has been such a hot and dry growing season so far, and this makes it even more stressful on water-loving plants like your willow, so make sure to keep the soil consistently moist for the rest of the season.