Country Lore: Propagating Willow Shrubs

Readers' tips on propagating willow shrubs, making nontraditional sauerkraut, passive solar roofing, and brewing a dandelion elixir.

How to Propagate Willow Shrubs 

Pussy willow cuttings will root in water in a week to 10 days.
Photo by Corinne Gompf

Late winter is when most gardeners’ green thumbs begin to itch, and the need to work in the garden is hard to resist. One task that’s perfect for this time of year is propagating shrubs and trees. Last year, I decided to add a few more American pussy willow shrubs to my butterfly garden. Propagating willows by taking cuttings of mature plants is easy and inexpensive — practically free, in my case.

Note that I’m not recommending the propagation of the weeping willow tree (Salix babylonica); its invasive roots cause problems with sewer lines and foundations. Instead, I’m focusing on
S. discolor, a deciduous shrub whose roots are nowhere near as deep and destructive.

S. discolor is native to North America and grows in Zones 4 to 8, spanning many states and southern Canadian provinces. It thrives in full sun with moist soil. Growing up to about 15 feet high, pussy willow can be allowed to grow into a hefty multi-trunk shrub, or pruned into a small tree. The leaves are shiny green during summer, and turn yellow in fall. These shrubs will make a lovely hedge, or a specimen plant in a flower garden when paired with other butterfly- and moth-attracting plants, such as milkweed, beebalm, and buddleia. The silver-gray catkins that emerge in late winter and early spring attract pollinators, and serve as a pollen source for honeybees.

You’ll need to cut back, or coppice, S. discolor every few years to promote new growth, discourage pests and diseases, and maintain the shape. This is a great time to propagate the pruned branches into new shrubs. Or, ask your gardening friends if they have a pussy willow from which you can take a few cuttings.

Pussy willow is one of the easiest plants to propagate. Follow these steps:



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, 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