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Harlequin willows are not very demanding in terms of care or soil. They please the hobby gardener with their colorful leaves and fast growth. If only it weren't for the pruning, because regular pruning is the only requirement that Salix integra makes of the gardener. We give a short guide to this.


Ideally, the pretty ornamental willows are cut in spring. As soon as permanent frost is no longer expected, pruning can be carried out on a frost-free day. Depending on the winter, pruning can be done as early as the end of February. When the sun is shining, no cutting is done, and rain is not good for the open wounds of the willow. An overcast day that is not too cold is best for pruning, which should definitely be done before the leaves sprout.

Cut right

Pastures must be cut or thinned out regularly. Since harlequin willows are very tolerant of pruning, they will surely sprout again even after a radical pruning. When cutting the ornamental willow, a distinction must be made between plants with a standard stem and those that are cultivated as shrubs.

Harlequin willow with high trunk

If the ornamental willow is not pruned regularly, the lower and inner shoots will lose their foliage over time and Hakuro Nishiki will appear rather stunted. In addition, a lot of dead wood accumulates in the crown and unsightly bare spots appear. In addition, aging shoots are more susceptible to diseases and parasites than younger ones.

The pasture will also get wider and wider without regular cutting, and at some point it will simply no longer be possible to get through. Since the leaves also lose their beautiful colors without pruning, the charm of the plant is ultimately lost. It then has plain green foliage like any other plant.

In order to maintain the spherical crown of the harlequin willow, it must be regularly trimmed into shape. The first cut can certainly be made before the third year of growth. The ball-shaped topiary takes place in spring before the leaves sprout. If the round shape is to be retained perfectly, a trimming follows in the summer months.


When no more frost is to be expected, the right time has come for pruning. An advantage of early pruning is that the Salix integra has no leaves. Pruning encourages new growth and the crown can develop nicely and densely.

  • Time: weather-dependent, frost-free, possible from the end of February / mid-March
  • yearly
  • not on sunny days
  • use sharp and clean secateurs
  • first cut before the third year
  • Radical cut possible
  • Shape cut: ball, trimming recommended

Since the harlequin willow is cut before the leaves sprout, dead and diseased branches can be easily identified, as these must be completely removed. The shoots from the previous year are cut to short stubs. Healthy branches are cut back to about a third of their length.

Branches that are very close together must be cut out. In addition, all crossing and inward growing shoots must be cut off. They receive too little light and are useless for the plant because they cannot carry out photosynthesis. So that the Salix integra can sprout vigorously again, three to four pairs of eyes per shoot should be retained.

In principle, the harlequin willow can also be cut in late autumn. However, this is not recommended, as the willow is less able to close the resulting cuts in autumn than in spring. In addition, when there are no leaves, you have a better overview for the topiary.


In order to get a nice, round shape, all the shoots are cut back to a length of five to ten centimetres, creating a nice ball. The ball crown can be cut back to 30 cm in diameter. In order to avoid unfavorable growth, no stubs should be left on the direct trunk, i.e. at the base.

When pruning, not only the round shape should be kept in mind, but also the relation between the standard and the spherical crown. The crown on the delicate trunk quickly looks bulky and unkempt.


Hakuro Nishiki grows very quickly outdoors. This means that the spherical crown also quickly gets out of shape again. If the round shape is to remain throughout the summer, it needs to be touched up more often. The trimming must not be a radical cut like in spring, you should only cut shoots that are too long if necessary. If you don't mind the fact that the ornamental willow is no longer quite as round, you can do without trimming.

Harlequin willow in the bucket

If Salix integra is cultivated in a tub, it must also be cut. Pruning is the same as for willows outdoors. However, Hakuro Nishiki may not grow quite as fast in a pot. This has the advantage that it can keep its spherical shape longer and does not have to be trimmed as often.

Harlequin willow as a shrub

If the ornamental willow was planted as a shrub, it does not have to be cut every year. A thinning out every year in the spring time is sufficient. But it can also be cut back annually.

If the shrub gets too big, you can give the variegated willow a radical cut. Radical means that it is only cut down to a few centimeters above the ground.

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