Curly Willow Tree

A Quick Guide to Growing the Curly Willow Tree

The curly willow tree is also known as a corkscrew willow, Pekin willow, and Hankow willow. Its scientific name is Salix matsudana tortuosa. It is not an exceptionally tall tree, being around thirty feet high when full grown. Its width is roughly half of that as it spreads out to fifteen feet across. The curly willow tree is very popular and that may be partially due to its unique pattern of branches. Branches grow upwards, almost parallel to the trunk before spreading out horizontally. This pattern does not make for exceptional stability.


The curly willow is often used as a bonsai tree. It is a very fast growing plant with serrated leaves.  While the flowers are not showy, the fall foliage is, as the leaves turn to a beautiful yellow color. The tree grows multiple trunks, but if you don’t like the look, they can be trained to grow one trunk. The curly willow tree likes both full sunshine and sunshine with partial shade. It is good in many types of soils as long as they are well-drained. These include loam, clay, sand, acidic, and alkaline conditions. It also does great in very wet conditions. Like most willows it can grow almost anywhere. You can get several different cultivars of this willow with different shapes and foliage colors.

While the curly willow is a nice looking tree, it also has some flaws you should consider before planting one. It does not have a long life so does not make a particularly good street tree. Like other willows it has problems with several kinds of pests and the wood itself has some not so endearing characteristics. These include weak branch crotches which get more unstable and prone to storm damage as the tree ages. It has very thin, papery bark and is often suffers from bark and trunk damage.

You can propagate the curly willow tree by cuttings. Be careful, however, where you plant the tree as it is inclined to damage and breakage. It may do fine as one tree placed strategically in your yard, but it would not be wise to plant these trees in any great number. The tree has very shallow roots and should not be planted near a paved or concrete surface as the roots tend to grow upward as the tree ages. Keep them away from water and sewage lines as well. They can break through the ground and cause damage and they can make a tangled mess of your lines.

Many pests bother the curly willow tree. They suffer from damage due to aphids and gypsy moths bother this and many other types of willows. Willow leaf beetles have black larvae and as adults are a metallic blue color. The larva is what most damages the tree as they feed off of the leaves, making lots of small holes. Adults can eat entire leaves. Lace bugs are another pest that is bothersome, causing yellowing of leaves, along with curling and these will eventually drop off. Poplar and willow borers can get into the trunks and cause much damage as well.

Several diseases bother the curly willow tree but none should be bad enough to kill the tree if you watch carefully and catch them in time. Never leave a newly planted tree for several days without checking on it. These include crown gall, willow scab, and black canker. Fungi can cause leaf spots, powdery mildew, rust and tar spots. Regular watering and fertilizing will help keep your tree healthy so that it is not bothered by many of these diseases. They attack plants that are already weak because of inadequate care or injury.