Propagating Willow Trees for Soil Erosion Control

Learn how easy it is to propagate willow trees for soil erosion control on your homestead property.

| March/April 1986

  • Propagating Willow Trees
    The cuttings should be at least 18 inches long and at least a half-inch thick to create new trees for soil erosion control.

  • Propagating Willow Trees

One of the first things the early settlers did when they claimed a piece of land was to put up a fence. To make the fence, they'd fell some relatively valueless tree, like a willow, perhaps, and cut it into posts. After driving the posts roughly into the ground with a maul, they'd set the log rails on top of the posts, and there would be a crisp, clean-looking fence for a couple of months at least.

Propagating Willow Trees for Soil Erosion Control

Now if you've ever dealt much with fences, you know that the major problem is usually decay. But if the fence is made of willow posts, there is another very different sort of problem. After a few months the fence posts begin to sprout. Thick, turgid buds appear and spread up and down the posts. The buds burst into leaf, and soon the fence begins to grow — no longer a fence but a living, vigorous row of willow trees.

Many river trees, like willows, cottonwoods, and poplars, have this marvelous, persistent ability to sprout. It's an important part of their survival, I suspect. Many of these trees have long, whiplike or brittle branches that break off in winter and float downstream. The heavier end eventually settles somewhere in the wet mud and sends out roots, and a new tree begins growing.

This remarkable rooting ability, which proved so disconcerting to early fence builders, can be a great boon to us when using trees for soil erosion control. A willow branch pounded into the ground will grow anywhere — yes, anywhere — as long as there is enough year-round moisture. Willows will root in the most barren and unstable of soils, which makes them the most valuable tree I know of for erosion control.

Cottonwoods and poplars can also be rooted if you follow the instructions I'm going to give. But in addition to water they need a richer, "river bottom" type of soil if they are to prosper.

When to plant. The best time to plant willow cuttings is in the fall or very early spring — when we call the tree dormant. Actually, only the leaves are dormant. The roots continue to grow all winter from stored energy, and when the buds burst in the spring, the new leaves will have a healthy system of roots to provide them with moisture and minerals.

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters