Pruning weeping willow trees is easy if you take care of a few things such as preparing the right tools and timing it correctly. With long cascading foliage, these trees need trimming on an occasional basis. You can trim weeping willow by yourself without much difficulty.

Weeping Willow Tree

Read our expert gardening tips on when and how you should be pruning willow trees.

How to Prune a Weeping Willow

Proper tools and correct timing are essential factors for pruning a weeping willow. Weeping willows, with their long feeble stems, grow rapidly. If not trimmed, the tree can block out light if you have it in your home garden. Thus, it is important to trim them at regular intervals.

Read on to find out how you can trim a weeping willow without damaging the tree.

– Get Started With the Right Tools

Before you start trimming a weeping willow, make sure you have the right tools. You don’t need special or sophisticated equipment, a few basic ones such as pruning shears or a running saw should do. 

For small twigs, use hand pruners or pole pruners. For larger stems, use long-handled loppers which will give you a clean cut. Use a saw for large portions of the trunk and thicker growths.

– Start Pruning When They Are Young

Pruning willow trees is easier when they are young. At the nascent stage, the trees are durable and pliable, so you can give them a better shape without requiring major changes later.

– Look For the Leaders

The leader on the willow tree is the upright dominant stem or the main trunk. The first step when you trim a willow tree is to look for the leaders. Select the central stem and keep it intact before starting to prune. 

When you prune a small weeping willow tree, ensure you handle the central leader with care. This will make sure that it later develops into a strong tree trunk.

– Keep the Strong Horizontal Branches

Keep the strong horizontal branches of the weeping willow intact. Do not cut them during your trimming process. 

What you should trim off are those branches that form a V-shaped junction at the trunk of the tree. These branches break off and are likely to create a mess around the tree.

– Cut the Branches at an Angle

The right way to cut the tree branches of a weeping willow is to work them at an angle. For small sections of the branch, work your way at a 45-degree angle. Cutting at an angle helps the tree to heal faster. 

For heavier branches, use a 3-part cut. Start at the lower part of the branch, which is called the undercut. Work your way to the top half of the branch, which is the top cut. 

The last step will be to use a saw on the leftover wood. Keep the stub cut above any sprouting buds.

– Remove Protruding Stems

Larger willow trees can have more than one central stem. This is okay, as long as you can keep the sturdy one and remove the extra protruding stems. Try and remove the weaker ones from the central stem.

It is important to remove all extra growth from the central stem. With the help of pole pruners, remove overgrown branches at the ground level. Also, saw all branches dangling low and close to the ground. 

– Remove Branches That Are Too Close

Branches that are too close together rub against each other. This friction makes them break away and fall to the ground, creating a huge mess below the tree. 

Remove branches that are too close together to reduce the risk of falling branches. It also gives the tree room to grow

Evenly spacing out the branches around the tree also allows for good air circulation. 

– Pruning a Mature Willow Tree

A mature willow tree can have many branches that are heavy, long and hang downwards. These branches can break during strong winds. 

When pruning mature willow trees, first remove the large branches that are vulnerable to breakage. Saw out all branches that can sweep the ground. You can also shorten the branches by placing a cut just above a leaf bud. 

An easier way to control the growth of foliage in mature willow trees is to catch them soon. Pinch any new growth as soon as you spot them with your fingers.

– Do Not Tear the Tree’s Bark

Pruning shears may often be sharp. While executing your pruning cuts, be careful not to tear the bark of the tree. Be gentle and use only slight force while trimming weeping willows. 

Take extra care with the young and small weeping willow trees. Their branches are more slender and heavy force can damage the bark of the tree. 

– Post-pruning Care of Willow Tree

As essential as it is to prune the willow tree, it is equally important to care for them post-pruning. This will encourage new growth and keep the tree away from susceptible diseases. 

Remove all pruned leaves and branches from around the tree and provide spring feeding after pruning. Rake in ammonium sulfate under the tree into the soil without disturbing the roots of the tree.


Common Problems

Pruning comes with its share of challenges. When you begin your process, here are the most common problems you might encounter.

– Tree Bleeds a Lot of Sap

When you cut the trunk of a willow tree, it can sometimes sever it enough for the sap to ooze out. This can happen if you are pruning the tree either too late or too early. 

– Difficulty in Identifying the Central Leader

It can often become difficult to identify the central leader amidst thick foliage. To tackle this, start by pruning all branches four feet towards the center of the tree. Cut back the larger branch of the trunk. 

Also, trim those branches that cross each other. This will help you spot the central leader of the weeping willow.

– Dealing With Thick Foliage

The thick foliage of the weeping willow is a tedious task to prune. Work your way from outside to inside and begin from the hanging, low-lying branches. Slowly prune your way into the closely packed branches. 

To avoid dealing with thick foliage, prune while the tree is still young.

Solutions for Prunning Weeping Willow

– Avoiding Over-pruning

As important as it is to prune, it is a common occurrence to go overboard. In the entire process of removing branches and placing cuts, it becomes difficult to know when one is over-pruning.

The best way to avoid this is to remember that you don’t have to remove every branch. Doing so removes the photosynthetic capacity of the tree. Identify the right branches to cut and work your way slowly pruning the weeping willow. 

When to Prune Weeping Willow

Willow trees need pruning in the right season and months, otherwise, you will be inhibiting their growth. You can even cause potential damage to the tree with wrongly-timed pruning. Here are the guidelines to take note of when you’re planning to prune your willow tree. 

– Season of Year to Prune Weeping Willow

The right season to prune weeping willows is in winter and early spring. This is the season the tree stays dormant. By trimming willow trees in winter, you also give the tree enough time to recover by spring.

Fall can also be an ideal season. As the tree sheds its leaves, it becomes easier for you to access the strong main branches.

In other seasons, the tree bleeds a lot of sap. Keep the summer months for the tree to actively grow.

– Months of the Year To Trim Weeping Willow

The winter months of December and January are suitable to trim the weeping willow. Avoid the months of April to July as they are warmer months, and weeping willow trees thrive well in warm weather. The tree also blooms in these months and pruning during blooming time is not advisable. 

You can set aside a few days to trim by the end of March. Use this time for basic pruning as it can otherwise reduce the tree’s growth during the summer season. 

– Right Stage of the Plant To Trim Weeping Willow

The right stage to prune a weeping willow tree is when the plant is still young. A younger plant will respond well to pruning, and it will also encourage the growth of the central stem. 

In case you missed pruning at the nascent stage, do not worry. You can still trim the tree when it matures. Nip the extra unwanted growth as soon as you spot them by pinching them with your fingers. 

A Big Weeping Willow Tree


Does pruned weeping willow lose leaves in the fall?

Yes, pruned weeping willows typically lose leaves in the fall due to the natural seasonal cycle.

What fertilizer is best for weeping willows after pruning?

Slow-release balanced fertilizers, rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are ideal for fertilizing pruned weeping willows.

Does weeping willow mature faster after pruning?

Pruning can stimulate growth, but the maturity rate of weeping willows is primarily determined by their genetic factors and environmental conditions.


Having read the steps involved in pruning a weeping willow tree, you know that it is an easy process. Let us summarize again how you need to go about pruning a weeping willow.

  • Get started with the right tools
  • Start pruning when the trees are still young
  • Keep the strong horizontal branches
  • Remove protruding stems
  • Cut the branches at an angle
  • Prune during winter or early spring

With a little care and the right season and time, you can prune a weeping willow all by yourself without difficulty, so get your pruning equipment out and work your way to trimming that tree!

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