Hello! We have a sage leaf willow shrub (Zone 5B) planted almost 2 yrs ago. It was purchased having only 5 long stems, each about 5′ long with 12″ of leaves on each tip. It produced pussy willows this year and growth continues on the tips but the stems are bare (maybe garden centre tried training it as a multi-stemmed tree?) and it’s too top heavy. (A stem closer to the ground has some new growth.) I think I should likely refresh it/start over. Today I cut a stem to the ground to encourage new growth but stopped for fear July is too late. Can I coppice now or should I wait? I’d say it gets full sun/partial shade as we face east. If I cut it down to the ground it will have a little more shade being behind a rock. We have mulch/topsoil/clay. Thank you! :)
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry.
At maturity, your sage-leaf willow shrub will not grow more than 6 feet tall. If you desire to have the stems start over, coppicing is an effective way to rejuvenate the plant. In fact, the coppice operation (cutting the stems to 1 inch from the soil) can be repeated every 2-3 years to “refresh” the stems. The best time to coppice your willow is at the start of its growing season, probably right after the catkins are fading. Another desirable time is during the period when the plant is dormant (late fall), however be aware when pruning in the late fall this would deprive you of the catkin display in the following spring.