Willow Water for Bonsai

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However, my opinion has changed now that I have used Willow Water on air-layers. Every Summer for the past 6 years I have religiously taken air-layers from an Acer palmatum that grows in my garden. Rooting is always 100% and I can always accurately judge when roots will first appear from the layering (7 weeks for ½" branches, 5 weeks for 1"+branches). This year I used Willow Water to soak the sphagnum moss before making the layers and afterwards to keep them moist. Rooting has moved forward by a least a week in all cases and rooting has been far stronger so that the layers have also been removed from the parent tree earlier.

Rooting also seems to have been more prolific and vigorous on a Prunus incisa and a Hawthorn that have also been layered this year.

My only reserve is that rooting has taken place over a wider area of the airlayer instead of being confined to the cut area/wound itself. This will mean a more uneven nebari in the future without early removal of these higher roots.

The Willow Water I used for these air-layers was made from the cuttings of Salix babylonica (Weeping Willow) and Salix purpurea (Purple Willow) . The exact species of Salix used would appear to make little difference. I assume the 'strength' of mixture is entirely dependent on the number and thickness of Willow relative to the volume of water that is used.

Willow Water Acidity Issues

A (very concentrated) solution of 'pure' Salicylic acid has a pH of 2.4 if fully saturated into aqueous solution. This level of acidity would be harmful to all lifeforms. However the amount of Salicylic Acid found in a typical solution of Willow Water is not capable of changing the pH value of the water originally used.


I cannot offer any scientific or hard fact that Willow Water promotes rooting in plants, only anecdotal evidence. It would appear to me that the use of Willow Water increases the ability of plants (trees) to root and has increased my success rates.

However I doubt that this is some magical rooting preparation; Willow Water will only increase the rooting ability of a plant if all other correct careguidelines and techniques are first applied. If a cutting or air-layer is not made properly or out of season, the use of Willow Water will not make enough impact to ensure that the plant will root nonetheless.

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