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Laurel Leaf Willow Tree

Q: I have a Laural Leaf willow that seems to be suffering from something or other. Many of the branches are turning black and dying. The leader branch now seems to be having difficulty. I'm wondering whether I should cut this away and leave the few healthy branches to grow just down from this.

I'm writing from Alberta where the winters can be nasty and I'm wondering if pruning diseased or dead branches now will affect wintering. What can i feed my willow. I really want to help this little tree. Thanks.

A: Laurel leaf willow is a natural for some parts of Alberta, so it's not necessarily out of its normal range. It is hardy under extreme climactic conditions, but given to tip dieback when young. It is relatively insect and disease free, but prone to chlorosis (which is usually a result of iron deficiency).

Laurel leaf willow is used for shelterbelts and other natural screening in your area. It cannot tolerate drought or alkaline soils, but it can tolerate some flooding.

I would start by checking the pH of the soil. Your willow would prefer something below 7 (which is neutral), somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 (slightly acidic). You can purchase pH testing kits at garden centers.

If the pH is OK, just prune off dead, broken or dying branches. This should not effect its wintering.

You may want to have a soils lab check the soil for iron content, and supplement it if deficient. Your local garden center supplier can help you choose the right type of fertilizer and/or supplement once they have this information.

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Tom Mugridge

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