Need some advice on how to handle willow cuttings

Willow cutting novice here, any and all advice is appreciated.

I’d heard willow cuttings root really easy, so when I was looking for a bonsai project to keep me distracted over the winter, I went to the park, took a cutting off a branch and cut that up into about 5 starters. All but one is rooting like crazy after just a couple of weeks. (The one that isn’t rooting was mistakenly placed upside down. Lesson learned.)

The initial roots have grown 1 to 2 inches long on most of the cuttings (seen at the bottom on the left of the two cuttings in the picture). They are just starting to push out some leaf growth, but nothing has fully extended or hardened off yet. How long do I wait before I pot them in soil? Should I wait until the leafs grow out, or until the roots grow longer, or wait until spring when I move them outside?

Also, I noticed that most of them have just grown roots out of one side. If I wait longer, will more roots grow from other areas? I see that there are more root buds (is that the right term) that haven’t grown out yet, but I’m not sure if they will now that these other roots have grown this long.

Thanks in advance.


Hey Tac, you are fine to put cuttings straight into the soil. Cold frame/green house is needed for this.
Check out the stream on cuttings in the library where it is recommended to put cuttings in perlite. Sorry I can’t remember exact name of the stream but shouldn’t be difficult to look it up.

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Propagation primer is the name :slight_smile:

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I agree with CoffeeCherry, your safe to pot them up now. You can use perlite or small particle pumice. As with all cuttings the roots are fragile and will need tying into the pot. Remember willow loves water and often in the wild (in the UK at least) are found with roots in ponds and rivers. Hope this helps…


I’m not an expert here, but I did something similar in the summer of 2019. Collected some young branches of two different willows, grew them in a bottle of water for 6-8 weeks I believe. It took two weeks or so before the first roots started to appear. Once I had about 6-10 roots of 4cm or more I potted it up. Not that I think thats actually required because I think they grow roots in just about anything.

I made the mistake of using cheap potting soil because I did not have any proper bonsai soil at that time. It gave a decent result but thats just because Willows are such fierce growers. I probably could have done a lot better using a more aggregate soil like @Keith-in-UK and @CoffeeCherry suggested. After 1,5 years the soil was hard as a rock when slightly dry and very prone to rot when keeping it saturated. Not the way to go!

Just make it grow as much as you can now. Put it near a south facing window, give it some warmth and let it grow so it can produce roots as soon as possible. Once they take off, I shouldn’t worry too much. Now I worry more where I actually put them on because if you give them the chance to escape the pot, those roots quickly take over. Personally I prefer to keep them on the bench and force all growth in the pot (and consequently have to repot every year?) then cutting off all root growth that goes into a water tray or the ground.
Mind you, I did this at the end of summer, so to “let it grow” was a not that hard at that time.

I have some photos, not great ones but just to share my Do’s and Dont’s…

July 2019 - after 3 weeks of growth

I had put it in potting soil in and forgot about them in 2020. This is March 2021 after the soil became too bad. All surviving roots were on the outside and very little in the middle.

Despite the soil issues I had plenty of roots. But after 1,5 yrs this is not that much:

Trimmed down to this and then put in a mixture of 3 akadama / 1 pumice / 1 lava. I used more Akadama for the water holding capacity.

This year I’m going for 2 Akadama / 1 Lava. Lava also holds a decent amount of moisture (more than the pumice I get here in Europe) and it also doesn’t break down. Any other suggestions or ideas are highly welcome :grin:

Initially, after repotting, the soil level was below the edge of the pot. By September 1st, after roughly 5 months, it had started to push itself out of the pot.

I hope this helps. Best of luck and I wouldn’t worry too much!


This is excellent feedback. Thank you.

If you want development and vigorous growth, delete the akadama. A good nursery mix like organic soils and pumice will give you that. :+1:t2: :grinning:
One reason for the use of Akadama is to scale(smaller/finer) the root structure therefore scaling the foliage. The roots and the foliage “mirror” each with their growth as well as their health. :metal:t2: :evergreen_tree: :grinning:

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