Q: I attended the Southeastern Flower Show and bought a bunch of the curly willow branches. I thought I was buying dried ones for flower arranging but later found out that they are alive. Someone said that you just stick them into a “wet” soil. Can you give me information?
A: You purchased branches of contorted willow, Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’. The corkscrew effect of the branches makes them fun to use in arrangements. If the shoots haven’t dried too much you can root and plant them. First, soak them in lukewarm water overnight. Cut six-inch lengths of a branch or two and insert them into a clay pot filled with sand. One pot will hold several cuttings, each one standing three inches above the sand.
Place in a sunny window and keep the sand moist. Viable cuttings will swell and show leaves within six weeks. Transplant individual rooted cuttings to a spot in bright shade for the summer. Transplant them to their permanent garden home in October. Like all willows, contorted willow is short-lived (5 – 15 years) but you can harvest lots of curly branches while it survives.
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