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We have 2 salix babylonica 'tortuosa' which have now reached full height. Last year they failed to produce many leaves and looked very sad, we thought this was because we had a very dry spring and there was insufficient water in the soil to feed them. However, after a reasonable spring they are again looking very sad and dry with only a modicum of green leaves.We are wondering if they have reached the end of their lifespan (11 years) and perhaps we should cut them down and replace them? They have not been pruned at all for 2 years but it hardly seems worth the bother now.

On plant Salix babylonica



Don't know where you live in the UK Ron, but if its in the south, wet it hasn't been - cool, yes, but not enough rain to whet a fairy's whistle. On the other hand, after 11 years those trees should be perfectly able to withstand dry periods, unless your soil is very light - have you inspected the trees, bark, stem and leaf, for signs of disease or pest?

31 May, 2010


Thanks for your input, Bamboo. We live in East Sussex and it has been quite dry here (near to Hastings) but we had some rain in the Spring months (maybe 7-8 mm in all) and this was certainly more than in 2009. The soil is heavy clay, so not light. The trees have been able to obtain plenty of water in the past, as we have seen by the very slow growth of a nearby Rowen. I've checked and there doesn't seem to be any sign of disease - perhaps the answer is to cut it back hard this winter and wait to see what happens next year? Or alternatively to leave the garden hose on at the roots of each tree for half and hour each day? Regards Ron

31 May, 2010


I was wondering whether it was watermark disease, which does cause die back like this, but Salix alba and its cultivars are usually martyrs to this, rather than S. babylonica. Note that the trees you have only reach full maturity at 15 years, so they're not old yet and won't be for a long time. Check via google for watermark disease symptoms if you want ,but otherwise, I would suggest cutting back to see what happens. If it is watermark, probably best not plant willows there again - try Corylus contorta instead!

31 May, 2010


Many thanks Bamboo, I think I will cut them back at the end of autumn and wait to see what happens next year.

1 Jun, 2010

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