Corkscrew willow: care and varieties

Corkscrew willow: care and varieties


The corkscrew willow, botanically Salix matsudana, is a species native to us within the willow genus. It was bred from the weeping willow (Salix babylonica), which in turn comes from East Asia.

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  • Is the corkscrew willow poisonous?
  • In which location does the corkscrew willow thrive?
  • Corkscrew willow - profile of the unique ornamental shrub


The corkscrew willow grows about three feet per year when its location meets its preferred conditions. Overall, at 8 to 12 meters, it is slightly less than the weeping willow and has a shrubby to tree-like shape. The corkscrew willow is only about 10 to 15 years old.

Responsible for this are, among other things, the eponymous corkscrew-like twisted and strongly twisting twigs on the long, towering branches. They form an extraordinary, characteristic sight and at times an almost grotesque overall silhouette.

The growth characteristics of the corkscrew willow again at a glance:

  • Rapid growth, up to 1 m high per year
  • Total height about 8 to 12 m
  • Age between 10 and 15 years
  • Characteristic twisted, twisted branches

Which location is suitable?

The Salix matsudana likes it sunny to partially shaded. In a place that is too dark, their growth is significantly reduced, and growth damage may also occur. When it comes to soil conditions, the corkscrew willow is pretty undemanding. It owes this to its extensive, effective roots. It thrives in almost all soils, both acidic and alkaline, both sandy and loamy. Just enough moisture should be guaranteed. What the corkscrew willow is also good for is a good loosening of the soil, for example with horn shavings (6.39 € at Amazon *) which you mix into the excavation soil when planting. If the soil is particularly poor, you can also add some compost.

A corkscrew willow kept in a bucket culture should also be sunny. The substrate can be simple potting soil, possibly mixed with some sand and volcanic rock.

As a shrub / tree in outdoor cultivation:

  • sunny to partially shaded light conditions
  • Soil quality is relatively insignificant, just moist enough, preferably well loosened

As a container plant:

  • sunny location
  • Commercial substrate, loosened up with sand or volcanic rock

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Due to its rapid growth, the Salix matsudana is a popular candidate for tree plantings that need to rise quickly - for example in newly laid out gardens or parks, especially where a natural border is to be created or a gap needs to be closed.

In addition, with its typical winding, twisted branch formation, it has a high decorative value and is a popular material for florists. The branches can be used to set attractive structural accents in bouquets and flower arrangements. Individual corkscrew willow branches are also very “pure” in the vase.

The corkscrew willow is also interesting for fans of bonsai culture: its rapid growth and its flexible, structure-rich branches offer a good basis for interesting formation training.

The benefits of the corkscrew willow

  • For quick tree planting and filling in gaps
  • As a structural material in floristry or home decoration
  • For bonsai culture in a bucket

Pour corkscrew willow

If the corkscrew willow is cultivated as a high trunk in the open, it usually does not need additional water when it is fully grown. You can water them with rainwater from time to time at most during long, hot dry phases in summer.

Of course, you first have to water a newly planted young tree well and take care of it a little more closely in dry phases.

A regular water supply is of course even more necessary for a corkscrew willow in the bucket culture. In this form it has a higher water requirement and of course cannot store as much water in the potting substrate. You should water a corkscrew willow in the bucket regularly and relatively abundantly so that the root ball dries up, but not completely, before the next watering. The lime content of the water is relatively insignificant for the corkscrew willow.

Fertilize corkscrew willow properly

As an outdoor shrub / tree, the corkscrew willow does not actually need fertilization. With a little compost and horn shavings (€ 6.39 at Amazon *) in the planting soil when planting, you can of course do something good for her.

It is different with the bucket culture. Here the space for the roots, which are very extensive, is very limited, so you should give the corkscrew willow a little extra nutrient here. It is best to give her a little liquid fertilizer for green plants regularly every two weeks. However, you should refrain from using cheap, aggressive mineral blue grain fertilizers.

Cut the corkscrew willow correctly

Cutting is an essential issue with the corkscrew willow - this is where it demands your care most. Due to its rapid growth, it has to be cut back and thinned every year in order to stay healthy and fresh. It also makes it much easier to keep it in shape aesthetically. In smaller gardens, regular pruning may also be necessary for reasons of space.

The best time to prune is in early spring, when the tree is still before the first massive growth spurt and its branches are still bare and clearly laid out. It is best to start by removing old, dead branches so that the energy can be put into the shoot of the healthy branches over the spring and summer. Then you can make the shape cut, which, depending on your needs, serves more to limit space or to improve aesthetics.

In old age, it is advisable to cut back the corkscrew willow radically. This promotes a more vital new growth and a refreshment of the branch texture.

The cutting rules at a glance:

  • Cut and thin out the corkscrew willow every year
  • Time: early spring
  • First remove dead branches, then an aesthetic shape cut
  • Cut back old specimens radically

A tip: The fact that the pruning of the corkscrew willow should fall in early spring is a good thing: Because the nicely drilled branches are ideal as fresh, decorative material for Easter bouquets! Hanging decorations such as blown eggs can also be perfectly hung on the twig turns.

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The best time to plant a corkscrew willow is autumn before the first frost - this gives you the opportunity to develop your roots well for the time being. When planting, you should first of all dig a large hole. The root ball of the Salix matsudana is expanding strongly and needs a lot of space to develop. It is best to mix some horn shavings into the excavation, which are used for loosening and long-term fertilization. You can also add compost, but this is only necessary if the soil is particularly poor.

Firmly step on the tree slice around the young tree and water it well. It is best to give it a little hold against the wind with a support pole and tie it to it with jute.

To note:

  • Planting time: early autumn
  • Prepare large excavation, loosened up with horn shavings or lava chippings, possibly compost fertilization
  • Step firmly and secure with a support post

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How do I transplant properly?

You should avoid transplanting the corkscrew willow if possible. On the one hand, it is debilitating for every plant. On the other hand, the Salix matsudana is so undemanding in terms of location that, at least in this regard, a change of location will usually not be of much use if the tree should show defects. Another argument against it is that the corkscrew willow does not get particularly old - in such a short life it should be spared from being transplanted even more urgently.

If it takes up too much space, it's better to cut it back radically. She tolerates this completely problem-free even in old age.

If you insist on transplanting, you should above all dig the corkscrew willow very generously, as its roots are essential for it and expand very widely. When digging again, proceed just as generously and loosen the substrate well.

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Propagate corkscrew willow

Propagating a corkscrew willow is not difficult. The best way to do this is to simply use some of the waste that arises from the annual pruning. From the cut branches, cut off an approximately 15 to 20 cm long shoot with a few buds and defoliate it completely.

You keep this wood cutting for the winter and put it in a pot with a substrate made of soil and peat the following spring. Place it in a bright, sunny window seat and keep it evenly moist. You can also use the tried and tested foil method by covering the cutting with foil and thereby providing it with an evenly warm, humid microclimate.

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Cuttings are the most common method of propagating the corkscrew willow. In theory, of course, sowing is also possible, but in view of the simplicity and high success rate of wood cuttings, you should refrain from doing this.

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In the bucket

Because of its pretty branches and its easily controllable growth, the corkscrew willow is also ideally suited for bucket culture. There are a few things to consider here. First of all, ensure that the substrate is sufficiently spacious, loose and always moist. Provide a loose drainage made of lava chippings or expanded clay and it is best to add organic long-term fertilizers such as horn shavings and some compost to the soil. During the growth phase, you should also give a little green plant liquid fertilizer every 14 days.

The location should be bright and sunny. In winter, the hardy corkscrew willow does not need to be brought into the house in the bucket. Protect the root ball a little from severe frost by wrapping the pot with burlap and / or covering the earth with fir branches.

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Thanks to its rapid, vital growth and its flexibility, the corkscrew willow can also be trained well as a bonsai. The best way to do this is to start growing a wooden cuttings as described above. When this has reached the desired height, cut down the upper end shoots consistently and get the mini-tree to sprout more to the side and develop a wide, elegant crown. You can then sharpen these in their contours as you wish and enjoy the compacted, winding branches.

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Diseases are unfortunately an issue for corkscrew willows. Although they are undemanding in terms of site conditions, they are quite susceptible to fungal diseases, in particular

  • Marssonina mushrooms and
  • Willow scab

Marssonina mushrooms

You can recognize an infestation by discolouring and drying leaves. At an advanced stage, the branch tips can also turn dark and develop growths. In this case, remove all diseased plant parts as quickly and as thoroughly as possible and dispose of them in the residual waste. In stubborn cases, you can also use a chemical fungicide to help.

Willow scab

The corkscrew willow is also quite susceptible to willow scab. The symptoms of this fungal disease are very similar to those of the Marssonina mushroom and the countermeasures are basically the same.

As a preventive measure against fungal infestation, you can provide your corkscrew willow with more immune-boosting potash and phosphorus.

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The corkscrew willow is also plagued by pests. This includes above all

  • the willow leaf beetle and
  • the willow borer.

Willow leaf beetle

The shiny, small, round willow leaf beetle can almost completely devour the corkscrew willow with its immeasurable appetite. You should definitely use an insecticide for a still young tree.

Willow Borer

In the willow borer, a species of moth, only the larvae are dangerous. After hatching, they eat their way through the entire bark under the bark and at some point give off a vinegar-like smell. Most of the time, however, the damage is already massive. The control is difficult - the adult moths can be collected, the larvae that are feeding under the bark cannot. You should simply cut out infected shoots completely. In the worst case, the corkscrew willow can no longer be saved and has to be felled.

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Is corkscrew willow poisonous?

Willows are generally a harmless plant genus from a toxicological point of view. So it is also with the corkscrew willow. It poses no danger to humans or animals. If there are small children and / or animal roommates in your household, you do not need to worry, neither with a planned outdoor planting nor with a container culture.

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You do not need to leave the large amount of waste left unused during the annual pruning: The branches of the corkscrew willow contain valuable auxins that, as natural growth hormones, also encourage other plants to take root. Simply pour boiling water over the chopped shoots and let the infusion steep for 24 hours. You can then use the strained brew for any rooting project.


The best known species of corkscrew willow is the Salix matsudana Tortuosa. In addition, other forms of culture with special properties are also cultivated, such as the

  • Salix Caradoc
  • Salix matsudana Pendula or the
  • Salix erythroflexuosa

Salix Caradoc

This variety is called gold corkscrew willow in German and has its special charm due to its golden autumn color. As a result, it has another decorative value apart from the typical winding branch structure. The branches are also twisted in a particularly zigzag fashion. The gold corkscrew willow has a shrubby habit and is about 6 m high. Like the Salix matsudana Tortuosa, it needs a sunny location and moist soil.

Salix matsudana Pendula

In contrast to the Salix matsudana Tortuosa, this type of corkscrew willow has hanging branches and is therefore somewhat reminiscent of a weeping willow. Otherwise it is similar to the Tortuosa in terms of habitus and location requirements.

Salix erythroflexuosa

Its branches are twisted particularly intensely and have an attractive reddish color. The long, lanceolate leaves are usually also wavy. The shrub forms a silhouette that widens towards the top and becomes about 3 to 5 meters high.