Curly willow is also corkscrew willow.

They start out simply enough, as weirdly twisted bare stems in fancy floral arrangements. By the time the last flowers fade, the submerged parts of these bare stems develop roots and perhaps leaves. These now rooted cuttings then graduate into pots or gardens. Most curly willow, Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’, is therefore unplanned. It is rare from nurseries.

Mature trees should not get much taller than fifteen feet, with awkwardly irregular branch structure. Regular pruning and grooming eliminates congested and structurally deficient growth. Alternatively, pollarding or coppicing during winter dormancy promotes vigorous growth. Healthy trees can drop overburdened limbs, and might live for only twenty years. 

Curly willow, which is also corkscrew willow, is popular more for distinctively curly stems than as a small deciduous shade tree. Specimens that provide such stems for cutting do not need to be very big. If cut and dried while dormant during winter, stems can not grow roots in water. Nor will they require plucking to remove their leaves, which are also curly.


7 thoughts on “Curly Willow

      1. The twisted filbert is Corylus avellana contorta, often called “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick”. It’s a shrub rather than a tree, like the willow is. A friend of mine had one and kept it small (less than 3 ft) by frequently using the branches in flower arrangements.

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  1. One of those was already here when I bought this house, and I wrote about it in one of my posts (called it the Screwy Willow). Ended up getting rid of it because it demanded more watering than I was willing to give it; the prior owners had an irrigation system and watered everything like mad. My garden is much more Darwinian, so the willow always looked terrible.

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    1. They tend to look rather shabby because so few of them get pruned aggressively enough. I just could not write that in the gardening column. They collect dead branches, and then deteriorate before getting very old. Like the huge stone pines that grow from small potted Christmas trees, most curly willows are planted without a plan, just because someone found that the twigs rooted in a vase of cut flowers.


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