Expert Tips to Take Care of the Colorful Dappled Willow

Tip to care for a dappled willow
The dappled willow is an excellent choice, if you are looking for an accent plant for your landscape. Buzzle provides some tips for growing and taking care of this plant.
Bring out its best colors by growing the dappled willow in full sun. However, the plant may not tolerate full sun in locations with long and hot summers.
As the name rightly suggests, the dappled willow has mottled leaves that display a combination of colors, like white, pink, and light green. The plant is a cultivar of Salix integra, a willow species that is found in certain parts of China, Japan, and Korea. Otherwise known as 'Hakuro Nishiki', the dappled willow is widely grown as an ornamental plant. Apart from the colorful foliage, even the stems of the plant turn red during winters, and produce catkins during spring. Usually, these plants are found as shrubs or small trees.

Unlike most of the other willows, the dappled willow has its leaves arranged in opposite pairs. Some of them have three leaves arranged in a whorled pattern. The yellowish-green catkins appear during early spring. The shoots emerge with pink leaves that develop a mottled appearance, as they mature. Another cultivar, named 'flamingo willow', has deeply-colored pink leaves. The leaves are long and narrow, and grow to a length of two to ten centimeters. Their width may range between one and two centimeters. While the leaves turn yellow during autumn, the stems turn red during winters. With its droopy branches, colorful foliage, and coral red stems, the dappled willow is a perfect addition to any landscape.
How to Grow a Dappled Willow
Though it is not really difficult to grow a dappled willow, the plant has some specific requirements. If you intend to grow this plant, it is always better to understand the different aspects of dappled willow care. With proper care, the plant will grow healthy and produce brightly colored foliage.

Location
In order to plant a dappled willow, you must choose a location with well-drained, moist soil. Though the plant may grow in sandy or clay soil, it will not be healthy enough to produce a colorful foliage. The ideal pH level ranges between 5.6 and 7.8 (acidic to slightly alkaline).

This willow can be grown in hardiness zones 4 to 9. The plant can tolerate full to partial sun, but too much sun or shade is not good for it. The location must have enough space for the plant to grow and spread in circumference. It must be planted at a distance of five to six feet from the nearby shrubs. Plant it during early spring or late autumn.

Watering
Though moist (not soggy) soil is best for growing a dappled willow, the plant may thrive well in occasionally wet soil. Regular watering is a must during the first year of its growth, as it helps in growing a well-developed root system. Once the plant gets established, reduce the frequency of watering. Though established plants can tolerate dry spells to a certain extent, ensure that the soil does not dry out completely. Regular watering is beneficial for the plant during spring, which is the growing season. Avoid over watering.

Feeding
Early spring is the best time to feed dappled willows, as it will improve the health as well as the foliage color during the growing season. Use a general-purpose fertilizer, and follow the application instructions on the package. Ensure that you feed the plant every year.

Pruning
Pruning a dappled willow is beneficial in different ways. It helps maintain the size and shape of the plant. Pruning results in new growths that are more colorful. In some regions, only new growths develop red-colored stems. Another benefit is the removal of dead and diseased branches. Late winter and early spring are the ideal times for pruning this plant. In other words, pruning must be done before the plant develops new shoots. Hard pruning can be done once in every few years, while shearing can be done once in every two months. As most of these plants are sold in grafted forms, it is better to remove any growth that develops from the trunk or roots.

Pests and Diseases
Dappled willows are susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew, rust, root rot, leaf spot, blight, crown gall, etc. Anthracnose diseases caused by fungi are common in these plants, and such conditions usually develop during the growing season. These diseases may cause leaf drop, and recurrent attacks can be detrimental for the plant. So, remove and dispose the affected parts as soon as you notice the condition. Use proper fungicides to treat such diseases. Insects like beetles, aphids, scale, and lace bugs attack dappled willows. Even caterpillars and sawfly larvae can feed on the leaves. Insecticides can be used to counter such pest attacks.

Common Problems
Yellowing of leaves in dappled willows could be due to over-watering. Even dry spells and fungal diseases can cause this condition. Browning of leaves is caused by under-watering, exposure to frost, and fungal diseases. Sometimes, the leaves of the dappled willow may turn green. This can be countered with proper and regular pruning, along with timely feeding. Exposure to full sun is also beneficial for retaining the foliage colors.
In ideal conditions, an established dappled willow grows fast, and attains a height of around ten feet. On an average, this plant can be four to six feet tall. With proper pruning, you can maintain the shape, size, and foliage of the plant. A dappled willow can be grown as an accent plant, and is also ideal for hedges and screens.
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