Dappled willow shrub


Hi. I purchased 2 dappled willow shrubs last week. I realize this is not the ideal time but they need to be planted and not left in their containers too long. I will be watering them daily. Is there any thing else that you can suggest I do? I look forward to hearing from you. Lina


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.  Southern Ontario has experienced unseasonably hot weather in the past week but it is not too late to play your dappled willow shrubs (Salix integra).  Traditional wisdom has been to plant trees in spring or fall.  But now that trees – especially smaller, ornamental trees and shrubs, come with good root systems in plastic pots, summer planting can be more successful.  I have attached some information about dappled willow shrubs  here Salix integra . As you point out, regular watering will be key to successful, healthy growth. Ensure your newly planted shrubs get adequate water over the coming months – right through until winter.  Deep less frequent watering is better than brief frequent watering and can be adjusted based on weather conditions.

Recommendations about planting trees and shrubs are evolving and incorporating new research findings.  Begin by preparing the hole in the new planting space.  A general recommendation is to create a hole 2-3 times the width of the tree’s root ball, and as deep as the root ball.  The hole should be saucer shaped.  Create a mound in the centre of the hole to support the root crown.  Landscape Ontario’s Tree Planting Guide has a good diagram of what the hole should look like on page 43 Tree planting guide

Conserve the soil you remove when digging the hole to add back when planting. Unless the soil in your new location is of very poor quality, there is no need to add amendments.  Research shows that trees and shrubs planted in the native soil of their planting location will establish roots better and grow more vigorously.  You can read more about this here Soil amendments.

If you can plant your trees on a cloudy, cooler day or in the early morning or later afternoon, this will help to decrease the stress of hot, scorching sun. Inspect the root balls by hand to look for damaged or defective roots and prune them away.  If the roots are matted together or encircling each other, this is called being pot-bound.  Gently separate and spread the roots out.  Don’t worry if you lose soil from the root ball.  The nursery soil is different from the soil in your garden and your trees will grow best in the garden soil.

Once you position your tree in the prepared hole it should sit at the same height as it did in the pot.  Ideally, the root flare (where the stem / trunk transitions to the root system), should be at ground level.  Roots transplanted too deeply can suffocate or may circle the stem, called girdling, which will shorten the life of the tree.  Planting above grade level will cause the shrub to dry out faster, make it less stable and more prone to frost heaving.

Refill the hole with the native soil you dug out to create it.  When hole is about 2/3 full, water well to help the soil settle and remove air pockets.  Continue to fill the hole and water again.  You may want to apply an organic top dressing such as compost and then add 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) of organic mulch (e.g., wood chips) around the tree base but at least 6 inches (15 cm) away from the trunk/stem.

Best of luck with your dappled willow shrubs!

June 8, 2021