Corkscrew Willow Plant Profile

Corkscrew willow tree with twisted branches and yellow-green catkins hanging from contorted twigs

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The Corkscrew Willow Tree is often 30 feet tall, while some reach up to 40 feet. Its broad crown displays drooping twisted branches. This upright tree has gray-brown bark, smooth with diamond shaped lenticels in youth, rough and shallowly fissured when mature. Twisted, contorted twigs start slender, olive-green when young and mature to gray-brown. Like the twigs, leaves are often twisted. Foliage is simple, alternate, narrow, oval shaped, and finely serrated. Each leaf is shiny green above and off-white beneath. Fuzzy pale yellow-green flowers, called "catkins," appear in early spring with the leaves. Each catkin is about one inch long. As these blooms mature, fruit appears in the form of one-inch clusters, small light brown fuzzy capsules that contain many small fuzzy seeds. These fruits ripen in late spring. Leaves become yellow in fall.

Botanical Name Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' or 'Koidzumi'
Common Name Corkscrew Willow
Plant Type Deciduous tree
Mature Size 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide
Sun Exposure Partial to full sun
Soil Type Moist, fast-draining; clay, loam, sand, acidic or alkaline
Soil pH 5.6-7.8
Bloom Time Early spring
Flower Color Pale yellow-green
Hardiness Zones 4b to 8a
Native Area China, Korea

How to Grow Corkscrew Willow

Native to China and Korea, this deciduous tree is hardy in USDA Zones 4b to 8a. This plant offers unique contorted branches, changing foliage, and fuzzy flowers that add texture to the landscape from suburban to beachside properties. Attracting butterflies in the warm months and producing fruit in the fall, this hardy plant provides year-round interest. Corkscrew Willow is a fast-growing multi-stemmed tree (or shrub). Generally, it is purchased 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The plant grows up to 40 feet tall and 30 feet wide. When planting, space 30 to 40 feet.

Corkscrew willow tree with hanging green branches in garden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Corkscrew willow tree twisted stem with wavy leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Corkscrew willow tree twisted branch with contorted twigs with yellow-green catkins closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Corkscrew willow tree branch with yellow-green catkins and leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


Plant in a sunny location. Corkscrew Willow prefers full sun, though it will grow in part shade to part sun.


Establish in clay, loam, sand, acidic or alkaline soil, which must be moist and fast-draining. Standing water will cause root rot. A good choice for coastal plantings, this willow variety is especially tolerant of drought, street salt, and soil salt.

Water and Fertilizer

While this deciduous tree will grow in a variety of light and soil environments, it does have specific water needs. Apply a two to three-inch layer of mulch a couple of inches away from the base. Mulch will maintain moisture and keep weeds down. The space between will let the bark breathe and deter pests. If the young tree grows too slowly, feed it balanced dry fertilizer in spring. During the first year, water regularly. Moving forward, water often when the weather is hot and dry.


Prune in late winter to early spring. When damaged or dead branches are pruned annually, the tree will stay healthy. Air and sunlight will keep the bark healthy and ensure it is less prone to insect damage.

Common Pests and Diseases

Corkscrew Willow is susceptible to many pests but the effects are rarely serious. The most lasting pests are willow leaf beetles, which come in two generations. Adult beetles are metallic blue and eat the whole leaf. The black larvae they leave behind skeletonize the leaves. Typically, willow leaf beetles will not damage all the foliage and the tree will continue to thrive. Aphids will cause honeydew to appear on lower leaves. Fortunately, predatory insects will deter such pests naturally. If the leaves begin to yellow, this could be a sign of lace bugs. These winged transparent insects are small and found under the leaves, which will turn yellow too early in the season.

Many diseases are possible such as powdery mildew. But these diseases usually do not require treatment. Willow scab fungus enters twigs, causes cankers, and kills young leaves quickly, apparent in the form of olive green spores under the leaves. Physalospora miyabeana is another fungus that attacks willow.

To maintain the tree's health, prune infected branches. Apply fertilizer every spring. Yellow spots under the leaves could be a sign of rust. Rake and remove diseased leaves at the end of every growing season.