Dappled Willows and Winter Interest

Dappled Willows and Winter Interest

One of my favorite shrubs is the Japanese dappled willow (Salix integra).  In the springtime its new foliage emerges with variegated green and cream leaves that persist through the fall.  The leaves darken some as they grow older (or for those who prefer different terminology “grow more mature”) until they bare themselves when the light levels drop and cooler temperatures arrive in the fall. 

One thing you may not have considered with these willows is their value in the winter landscape!   The younger branches emerge with a reddish color that may not match Salix alba ‘Britzensis’ for winter value but certainly does an adequate job.  To ensure that you get nice reddish tinted stems you may want to coppice the shrub (cutting it back to just above the ground) and allow new stems to grow from the roots each year.  Depending on the desired size of the willow you may not want to trim it back drastically but cutting out the oldest wood would be advisable to attain the winter red.  It’s a similar strategy to trimming Red Twig Dogwoods.  Just trim out the brown and leave the red.  Japanese dappled willows may not be as showy as other plants for winter interest but they look pretty good to me!


Dave has written GrowingTheHomeGarden.com since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Liked this post. How well would these do in Central Texas? I’m zone 8. We have 30 acres and do wildlife management. So I’m always looking for plants that will do well in Texas and will attract the birds, butterflies, be cover, food, etc. for them. Thanks, Kay

  2. I would like to try this plant again. I had one, planted it in the wrong place, and it just got out of hand. I then dug it up and put it in a container where it promptly died. I think they are very beautiful.

  3. Don’t you think a bunch en mass would be the best for effect? I’ve thought of adding them and more red twig dogwoods. Any color besides gray through the cold months helps me survive.

  4. I love them! The two I planted last spring seemed to languish – I hope they survive the winter and are happier next year. They are so pretty.

  5. Hi Dave, these are fantastic and much hardier and easier than the red twig dogwoods. I am a follower of the coppicing school, loving the nearly white foliage of the new spring growth with pink edges. Even allowed to be larger in size, they give good structure in winter. And let us not forget their ease of propagation! 🙂

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