Learn how to Plant, Develop, and Care For Corkscrew (Curly) Willow

Corkscrew willow, also referred to as curly willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’), is a member of the willow household (Salicaceae) and is native to Asia. It’s accessible as a landscaping tree and is most appreciated for its quick progress charge and attention-grabbing twisting department patterns. 

As its identify implies, this willow has branches that twist and switch as they develop. Not like the acquainted weeping willow, a big tree with lengthy, gracefully downward-curved branches that sway within the breeze, the corkscrew willow is a smaller tree with an upright kind and irregularly formed, gnarled branches. Within the fall, when these bushes have misplaced their leaves for the season, they add great winter curiosity to any panorama!

You should utilize it as an uncommon landscaping tree or develop it alongside an edge or wetland border. These bushes are simple to develop however do have some limitations and received’t be the most suitable choice for each landscaping undertaking. For those who’re searching for a moisture-loving, small tree that’s uniquely completely different, nevertheless, the corkscrew willow would make an important selection.

Now, let’s dig into some extra particulars in regards to the corkscrew willow, how you should use it in your panorama, and the way finest to assist your tree thrive!

Plant Overview

Close-up of a corkscrew willow tree against a blue sky. The tree has long and contorted branches, which twist and spiral in unique corkscrew-like patterns. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves are green.


matsudana var. tortuosa

Native Space

China, Japan, Korea

USDA Hardiness Zone

4 – 8

Solar Publicity

Full solar to partial shade

Watering Necessities


Prompt Makes use of

Butterfly backyard, rain backyard, winter backyard, wetland edge


Butterflies, bees


Brief-lived, brittle branches

Resistant To

Moist soil, deer, chilly

Pure Historical past

Close-up of a large Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' tree. It is a captivating deciduous tree admired for its unique appearance. The most distinctive feature is its contorted branches that spiral and twist along their length, resembling corkscrews. The leaves are lance-shaped, dark green in color and grow on drooping stems.
The ‘Tortuosa’ cultivar options twisted branches superb for crafts and preparations.

The guardian species, Salix matsudana, is native to China, Japan, and Korea, the place it generally grows in moist habitats close to ponds and streams. The cultivar ‘Tortuosa’ was developed and launched as a landscaping plant.

Related cultivars have the identical rising circumstances however completely different coloured branches and considerably variable progress habits. These bushes have worth for landscaping and wildlife habitat, and the enticing twisted branches may even be used for dried flower preparations and craft tasks.


Close-up of Corkscrew Willow tree branches in a garden. This deciduous tree boasts long, slender branches that exhibit dramatic twists and curls, resembling corkscrews. These contorted branches create an enchanting and whimsical silhouette. The branches grow narrow, lance-shaped leaves of bright green color, which also have a slightly twisted shape.
Anticipate these bushes to develop 20-40 ft tall and 15-25 ft extensive.

These are fast-growing, deciduous bushes. They will develop between 20 and 40 ft tall and between 15 and 25 ft extensive. The trunk and fundamental branches have a typically upright kind with a rounded crown.  

Essentially the most distinctive attribute is the branches and stems, which give rise to its different widespread identify, curly willow. Youthful bushes might seem extra easy and straight, whereas older bushes are likely to develop a gnarled or twisted trunk.

The principle branches and stems don’t develop straight however reasonably in an uneven, twisted, wavy sample. The smaller branches and stems, whereas additionally twisted and curled, develop intently collectively to create a dense, rounded crown, and the summer time foliage considerably conceals the curly branches. 

The leaves are alternate and three to 6 inches lengthy. The slender, easy, lancelike leaves come to a protracted, tapered level. Just like the branches and stems, the leaves additionally are typically barely curled or wavy reasonably than purely flat and straight in profile.

The naked bushes within the winter months are fairly attention-grabbing to take a look at with their plenty of wavy, upright branches. These bushes present distinctive winter attraction with their uncommon department types, and for that reason, no two bushes might be alike.

The bark is mild grey, and youthful stems might range from mild grey to a barely orange hue. Within the spring, these bushes bloom with branches filled with lengthy yellowish catkins that dangle straight down in small clusters on the finish of younger department suggestions. The foliage turns from shiny inexperienced to a showy yellow in fall, emphasizing the year-round fantastic thing about this tree.


The best solution to purchase a brand new corkscrew willow might be to buy one. But when you have already got one, the simplest solution to propagate it’s by taking a hardwood slicing. When you can develop a willow tree from seed, hybrids and cultivars received’t develop true to the guardian tree. 

Hardwood Cuttings

Close-up of sprouted willow cuttings in a glass jar on a blurred background. Willow cuttings are short brown branches on the tops of which young shoots of bright green color grow.
Propagate from winter hardwood cuttings for fast, genetically similar clones.

One of the simplest ways to propagate these bushes is from hardwood cuttings taken throughout the winter whereas the tree is dormant. Propagating a tree from hardwood cuttings is a bit time-consuming however pretty easy.

When your slicing takes root, you should have a clone that’s genetically similar to the guardian plant, and these new crops will develop rapidly, so you may have a brand new younger tree with identified properties in your panorama in a lot much less time than attempting to develop a tree from seed.


Close-up of a gardener planting a bare root tree in the planting hole in the garden. The young tree has branched roots, a vertical thin trunk of brown color.
Transplant in spring to a sunny, moist web site and water generously.

Spring is the perfect time to transplant a tree. In case you are shopping for a tree on-line, it’s best to transplant it as quickly as you may after it arrives. Many respected on-line tree retailers will ship bare-root bushes throughout the superb planting season, so your tree might be able to transplant upon arrival.

  • Select a web site with loads of shiny daylight and moist soil.
  • Select a web site away from buildings, sidewalks, or underground utility strains.
  • Dig a gap roughly thrice as extensive because the pot during which your tree is rising. These bushes have naturally wide-spreading root programs, and the roots might be confined by the pot.
  • Take away the tree from its bag, pot, or container.
  • Utilizing your fingers, gently attempt to separate and unfold out the roots (you’ll most likely wish to put on gloves for this course of).
  • Unfold the roots into the opening in order that they fan out in a natural-looking method. Don’t fold or clump the roots altogether, as it will make it a lot more durable on your tree to regulate to a brand new location.
  • The bottom of the trunk needs to be about one inch above the encompassing soil degree.
  • Backfill the area round your tree’s roots and tamp down the soil. The roots needs to be utterly buried below a layer of soil, however it’s okay if they’re comparatively near the soil floor.
  • Water your new plant effectively to assist it settle in and alleviate transplant shock.

For the primary yr after transplanting, your tree will want numerous water. Water it deeply a few occasions every week, at the least any time you don’t obtain pure rainfall. Your tree might be working laborious to develop a robust and resilient root system for the primary yr in its new house.

Learn how to Develop

Corkscrew willows are simple to develop. They want shiny daylight and moist soil however are usually not overly choosy about soil high quality. They want a little bit of area to develop to their full peak and would require some common upkeep to maintain them wholesome and looking out nice.


Close-up of Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' in a sunny garden. The tree's stems are its most notable feature, showing a unique and intricate corkscrew or contorted pattern along their length. The leaves are lance-shaped, bright green, curled, with jagged edges.
Plant in full solar for optimum progress, tolerating some dappled shade.

Place your corkscrew willow in a location with full solar publicity. These bushes tolerate some dappled shade however will carry out finest with at the least 4 to 6 hours of direct daylight every day.


View of young Salix matsudana trees in a rainy garden with a large house blurred in the background. Salix matsudana is a deciduous tree with a distinctive appearance. It features slender, graceful branches that droop elegantly, creating a weeping or pendulous effect. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves are a fresh green color and cover the cascading branches.
Hold the soil persistently moist, particularly throughout its first yr and in dry climate.

Present your tree with persistently moist soil. Except you might have your tree in a really moist space, water it often throughout its first yr and anytime the climate stays sizzling and dry for a chronic interval. If it isn’t raining often and your tree isn’t situated close to a pure water provide, give your willow bushes a radical watering at the least as soon as every week.


Close-up of a female gardener holding a handful of fresh soil in the garden, checking its quality. The soil is loose, dark brown in color, slightly lumpy. The gardener is wearing blue jeans and a blue plaid shirt.
Present moist soil wealthy in natural matter.

The soil for these bushes needs to be organically wealthy and in a position to retain moisture. They aren’t too choosy about soil kind so long as the soil stays moist.

They will develop in clay, loamy, or sandy soil. Additionally they tolerate soil varieties starting from barely acidic to barely alkaline (pH of 5.6 to 7.8)

Local weather and temperature

View of a Corkscrew willow tree with yellow leaves against a blue sky. This deciduous tree is renowned for its contorted, corkscrew-like branches that give it a unique and twisted form. The foliage of this cultivar takes on a vibrant yellow hue. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped, and golden yellow in color.
This willow is hardy in zones 4 by way of eight, with good chilly tolerance.

Corkscrew willows are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 by way of eight. These bushes are fairly cold-tolerant and appear to desire climates that aren’t overly sizzling and humid. 


Close-up of Matsuda willow twisting trunk with leaves on a blurred background. It is a deciduous tree with a distinctive appearance characterized by slender, pendulous branches. The lance-shaped leaves are fresh green and cover the cascading branches, forming a lush, dense foliage.
No want for fertilizer; high quality soil and yearly natural compost or mulch suffice.

There isn’t a must fertilize your willow tree. Common-quality soil ought to present all of the vitamins your tree wants. For those who add an annual dressing of natural compost or biodegradable mulch round your tree, this needs to be greater than sufficient to maintain your tree completely satisfied and well-nourished. 


View of Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' is in the garden against the background of a fence and a house with a red roof. This deciduous tree is characterized by its unique, contorted branches that twist and turn in various directions. The leaves are lance-shaped and emerge in a fresh green hue.
These willows are medium-maintenance bushes, requiring common weeding, mulching, and care across the trunk to keep away from injury.

Corkscrew willow are medium-maintenance bushes. Common upkeep ought to embrace weeding round your tree and an annual clean-up of particles. Add mulch to stop weeds and likewise to protect soil moisture. As you’re mowing or trimming round your tree, watch out across the trunk in order to not injury it. 

You’ll be able to develop one with out ever pruning it, however you may prune your tree as wanted to enhance the overall form of a younger tree. Prune as wanted to take away any lifeless, diseased, or overly crowded or crossed branches.

Backyard Design

Close-up of a large Salix matsudana 'Scarlet Curls' tree near a white fence in the garden. This deciduous tree features contorted and twisted branches that create a visually striking and artistic silhouette. Its slender, weeping branches cascade gracefully, creating a pendulous form. The stems have a reddish tint. The narrow leaves are characterized by their unique curled edges and bright green color.
Corkscrew willows thrive in sunny, moist areas however are fast-growing, short-lived, and messy.

The very first thing to recollect as you’re planning your backyard is that it is a fast-growing tree for a sunny spot with moist soil. The opposite factor to think about is that these bushes are considerably short-lived and messy as they drop an abundance of catkins within the spring and leaves within the fall. 

They’ve a shallow, fibrous root system and shouldn’t be planted instantly adjoining to a driveway, sidewalk, buildings, or underground utility strains. Give them loads of area away from your property

For those who don’t wish to fear about the necessity to continuously water your tree, plant yours in a low-lying location that holds a bit of additional moisture. Develop it alongside a wetland edge that naturally stays moist all year long. These bushes are an important selection for a rain backyard, particularly as a result of it may be troublesome to seek out moisture-loving bushes that thrive in moist soils.

For decorative plantings in want of a small tree, take into account including a corkscrew willow to a butterfly or pollinator backyard. Whereas these bushes don’t have showy flowers, they nonetheless entice pollinators and profit butterflies and bees. You can even admire these bushes in your winter panorama when their attention-grabbing branches actually stand out for his or her different types. 


‘Golden Curls,’ Salix matsudana ‘Golden Curls’

Close-up of Salix matsudana 'Golden Curls' with bare branches against a blue sky. Its slender, weeping branches create an elegant, cascading form. They are golden yellow in color.
This selection boasts gorgeous yellow stems, offering a fascinating golden aura in fall and winter.

‘Golden Curls’ is a cultivar with lovely yellow stems. In the summertime, you may admire the distinction between the intense inexperienced leaves and their yellow stems, and within the fall, you should have a plant with an excellent yellow aura. Through the wintertime, the twisted branches and golden brown bark are very interesting.

‘Scarlet Curls,’ Salix matsudana ‘Scarlet Curls’

Close-up of Scarlet Curl Corkscrew Willow in a sunny garden. Its weeping branches form an enchanting corkscrew shape. The narrow leaves exhibit curled edges and bright green color. Some stems have a reddish tint.
This tree options decorative golden-brown branches and placing scarlet-red stems.

The ‘Scarlet Curls’ cultivar is a really decorative tree with wonderful winter curiosity. It has lovely golden-brown branches with thinner, scarlet-red stems. The dramatic distinction between these shades of inexperienced, yellow, and crimson is sort of enticing.

‘Navajo,’ Salix matsudana ‘Navajo’

View of a large Salix matsudana 'Navajo' tree in the park. The Salix matsudana 'Navajo' is a visually striking deciduous tree, prized for its unique and ornamental attributes. The narrow, lance-shaped leaves are a glossy dark green, providing a lush and vibrant backdrop to the tree's overall aesthetic.
This globe willow boasts a standard kind with a sturdy trunk, reaching 50 ft tall, forming a dense, rounded crown.

‘Navajo’ willow, also referred to as the Navajo globe willow, is a cultivar with a extra conventional kind. These bushes have sturdy upright trunks with a dense, rounded crown of upright branches. This tree can develop to 50 ft tall and makes a wonderful shade tree with stunningly lovely yellow fall foliage.

Wildlife Worth

Close-up of Viceroy butterfly caterpillar (Limenitis archippus) on a willow leaf. It has a cylindrical body adorned with orange pimples on a black background. The body is segmented.
Corkscrew willow present wildlife advantages, serving as a larval host for the viceroy butterfly.

This and different willow varieties provide some priceless advantages for wildlife. Willows are a larval host plant for the viceroy butterfly. Throughout their spring flowering interval, these bushes additionally entice many species of native bees and different pollinators. Birds will freely use willow bushes for nesting, resting, and foraging for insect prey. 

Frequent Issues

One of many largest issues is that they’re short-lived. However even a tree that lives for 15 to twenty years can present great advantages on your panorama undertaking.

These crops will be attacked by numerous insect pests, though happily, these pests are typically a minor nuisance reasonably than a extreme downside for the well being of the tree.


Close-up of a Willow branch affected by aphids (Pterocomma rufipes) against a blurred dark green background. Pterocomma rufipes, commonly known as the willow-carrot aphid, displays a distinct appearance characterized by its small size and elongated shape. These aphids are gray-brown in color, and they have prominent, darker patches on their abdomen.
These small, soft-bodied bugs generally feed on numerous crops, inflicting minor injury.

Aphids are widespread backyard pests that feed on many alternative crops. They’re small, soft-bodied bugs that will seem grey, inexperienced, yellow, or pink. Aphids collect in clusters alongside the leaves and stems, feeding on plant juices with their tiny, piercing mouthparts. Aphids on willow bushes might trigger minor injury however are usually not a trigger for concern. 

Willow Beetles

Close-up of a willow leaf beetle (Plagiodera versicolora) on a green leaf. Adult beetle has a compact and oval-shaped body. The elytra, or wing covers, display a metallic green or blue hue with black stripes. The head, thorax, and legs are black.
Small, shiny, black grownup willow beetles and their larvae can injury bushes by feeding on leaves.

Willow beetles generally is a actual nuisance. Grownup beetles are small, shiny, and black, resembling a very black ladybug beetle. Larvae are additionally black and seem like little bug-like grubs clinging to the leaves in small teams.

Each adults and larvae injury willow bushes by feeding on the leaves and both skeletonizing them or consuming them totally. Timber often survive beetle injury however will look sick due to the broken leaves.

Powdery Mildew

Close-up of Willow leaves affected by powdery mildew on a blurred garden background. Willow leaves are characterized by their lanceolate or elongated shape, featuring a narrow and slender profile. The leaves have serrated edges and are arranged alternately along the branches. They are green in color and covered with a white powdery coating.
Deal with willow tree powdery mildew by pruning and eradicating leaves to stop unfold.

Powdery mildew is a fungal an infection that causes leaves to look grey or white. Extreme infestations will trigger the leaves to show yellow or brown and shrivel.

Prune off any severely contaminated branches and discard them distant out of your willow bushes to stop additional unfold. Rake up leaves within the fall to cut back the possibilities of reinfestation of any pests and illnesses.

Continuously Requested Questions

These bushes have naturalized in some states, however they aren’t at the moment thought-about an invasive species. They don’t develop aggressively and barely escape cultivation.

Willows are fast-growing bushes. You’ll be able to anticipate your tree to develop as a lot as two or three ft every year till it reaches its mature measurement of 30 to 40 ft. At this charge, your tree can simply attain a mature peak inside ten years of planting. Sadly, though the tree is fast-growing, it’s also short-lived. In superb circumstances, they’ll reside as much as about 30 years.

This plant shouldn’t be an excellent selection for containers. They develop rapidly, can develop fairly massive, want fixed moisture, and develop broad root programs. Subsequently, they’re finest planted in a naturalized setting. If you are going to buy a container-grown willow, you may preserve it there for a short time, however go forward and transplant it right into a pure setting as quickly because it’s handy for you.

Ultimate Ideas

For those who’re searching for a lovely tree that’s only a bit completely different, see if a corkscrew willow would possibly work on your panorama. You’ll want a sunny location with moist soil and a few area on your tree to develop with out interference. That is an particularly superb plant to develop close to a pond, stream, or wetland edge.

These bushes will attraction throughout each season: recent spring leafout, dense summer time foliage blowing within the breeze, showy fall yellows, and attention-grabbing naked department patterns within the winter. Wildlife will even use your willow tree as a meals supply and shelter, so it’s sure to enliven your panorama!

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