Weeping Pussy Willow Tree

(Question)

I live in a downtown Toronto highrise, 11th floor, facing South — so lots of light and sun. I bought a Weeping Pussy Willow tree (15 inches tall) about 6 weeks ago. I kept it indoors initially and it immediately started to sprout new leaves. About 2 weeks ago, I transplanted it into a slightly bigger pot. The pot it came in was very small and I thought it might need more space to grow. Since then, the new growth has stopped and the leaves are all wilted and turning brown. I’ve started putting it out on the balcony on sunny days but that doesn’t seem to be helping. Is there any way to save this tree? I’d appreciate any suggestion you might have. Thank you.

 

(Answer)

Thanks for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

It seems that your Weeping Pussy Willow tree (possibly Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnok’) most likely is suffering from transplant shock; the cause of this could be due to several factors. Simply transplanting a plant to another pot is enough to stress a plant: Is the growing media (soil) in the new pot similar to what the tree had been growing in? Generally, willows require a moist soil, but too much water can cause problems as well. Was the soil sufficiently moistened? Does the soil have good drainage? Were the roots crammed into the former pot? Under what light conditions was the Pussy Willow growing? Was the plant showing signs of stress that would indicate it required a larger pot? [The fact that it was sprouting leaves after the catkins dropped off would be normal for a plant coming out of dormancy]. Light conditions are also important–the southern exposure should provide ample light; however, there is a major difference in the intensity of the light between indoors and outdoors. In addition, one must consider temperature–indoors vs. outdoors;  a balcony on the 11th floor would be significantly cooler than on the 1st floor; and exposure to a drying wind would also be a factor. Exposing a newly transplanted tree to any of these conditions would be stressful for the plant.

Timing of the transplant may have also contributed to the problem–re-potting just after the leaves were emerging may have contributed to the problem–would have been better to let it become established in its new environment before transplanting.

Generally, transplant shock is due not only to a change in the environment, but more specifically a result of the roots being ‘damaged’ in some way. Willows are generally resilient plants and perhaps you will be able to revive the plant with patience and care. Bring it indoors and put it in a place where it will get good light but not direct sun. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged–it should have good drainage. Use a diluted dose of a water-soluble all-purpose fertilizer–20-20-20 every couple weeks with your watering–be careful to not over-water. Remove the dead leaves; once leaves start to grow again, you can cut the stems back to just above am emerging leaf. Patience is key.

We hope that your weeping pussy willow tree will eventually recover and that you will be able to enjoy it; however, be aware that keeping it in a pot successfully may have its limits. All the best.