Nishiki Willow

Add Some Japanese Flair with the Nishiki Willow

The nishiki willow (salix integra) is a very soft and calming plant which spreads a relaxed atmosphere throughout the garden. Once it grows it becomes a small tree with a thick trunk and a large ‘head’ that has thin branches and many tiny leaves. These leaves are usually green and white but can also tend towards a pinkish shade. The colours and the soft appearance make the nishiki willow look like a large snowball and it truly has a calming effect on people.


Nishiki willows are extremely popular among beginners because they grow in almost any condition. It can be planted in the sun or shade and will grow beautifully in virtually any type of soil, no matter if it is loose or thick, nourished or plain. In addition to that, nishiki willows can handle rough winters, survive frost and even the clumsiest beginner will be forgiven when the trimming resembles a brutal chopping session. If you are starting off as gardening hobbyist and you need to gain some experience, the nishiki willow is definitely a good friend to practise with.

Although the plant is relatively easy and forgiving, there are a few things that can destroy the roots. One of them is an overflow of water because deep soaking is harmful to the roots. Thus, if you live in a climate area with a lot of rain, you could mix some sand into the soil which makes it looser and more permeable. While the nishiki willow needs a lot of water, too much is damaging and will cause disease and attract pest.

Another delicate topic is transplantation: the nishiki willow can handle it, but it will suffer on the way. You will find that the leaves are rolling up and the plant overall looks a little weak. Most of the time the plant will recover and the best time to transplant is the beginning of autumn. This is to ensure that the willow can recover before the winter kicks in and irritates it yet again. When you buy a nishiki willow it will probably come in a pot, and it is fine to keep it in there as long as it fits. The extremely quick growth of the plant can work for or against you because on the one hand it blossoms beautifully right away, but on the other hand it needs a lot of space and trimming. A pot cannot hold a nishiki willow for a long time and although you may be scared of transplantation, it is absolutely necessary. As mentioned earlier, this type of willow is extremely patient and forgiving and will endure many gardening mistakes and challenges.

The tree can grow up to 2m high and spread its branches up to 4m. Although it loses all its leaves in autumn, the branches develop a beautiful red colour that looks fabulous all year round. Especially if you have a Japanese themed garden, a nishiki willow is the perfect addition. Japanese and Asian styles have become very popular in the western world because it is relaxing and peaceful, especially if you also have a little pond or fountain that adds a beautiful water sound to the exotic scents, gorgeous views and colourful wildlife that is attracted. The willow branches with leaves are also a fantastic decoration for the house and many people use them in a vase or as table decoration for a dinner table. Especially when the willow has lost all leaves, many gardeners like to decorate it with chains of light which is a great romantic idea for a quiet evening at home.