Invasive Willow

leighmnAugust 18, 2007

We just moved into a house with willow along the back yard fence. The previous owner said that what is growing at the edge of the yard started about 3 years ago. It is 10 to 15 feet high and sprouts are coming up all (and I mean ALL) over the yard.

I'm willing to cut it down and plant something else to provide the privacy that it is currently creating but most of all, I want it to stay out of the yard! It is coming up through the asphalt path next to it. What can I do to stop it from taking over? The back yard is small and there are sprouts back there in the hundreds. Some are new and some are already woody. Pulling does not get the root and I think that is all the previous owner did. If I have to get rid of it completely, I will but how do I get rid of the major growth and the sproutlets?

I hope you all have some thoughts quickly before it takes over the house!! Thanks.

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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

I don't know for sure- but you might need to treat it like buckthorn- Cut it down in the fall and paint on (do not spray) extra strength round up to the exposed cut areas and bark down to the soil level. You may also need to treat again as new growth appears till gone-
Round up works in the roots- so eventually- it should kill all the roots-I did learn this spring- that some (if not all) willows are highly suseptable to herbicides. Poisons used to kill weeds in lawns can take down huge trees-
You may also need to treat the willows on the other side of the fence- or looking at it another way- you may be poisoning the willows on the other side of the fence when you treat yours- I hope your new neighbors won't mind....
Either way- you may want to treat yourself to some home-made willow furniture!
I do hope this may be helpful-


    Bookmark   August 18, 2007 at 11:36PM
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Thanks Julie. I think it is an all or nothing unless it can be contained somehow. The path that runs behind my house is suffering too and I'm sure the neighbors don't want it in their lawns so I don't think they will mind as long as I put up something else.

I'll check on that herbicide. Sure would make dealing with the sprout a lot easier than painting it on.

Any other thoughts on an evergreen that would be good as a privacy planting? Obviously, the area is wet enough to keep willows happy.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 7:37AM
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The suckering sprouts come from the surface roots of the willow. I'm guessing it is the native black willow. Bike paths near our city's wetlands are under perpetual assault as your yard is.

The bad news: nothing sort of removing the entire tree will stop the suckering. In fact, cutting the tree down will increase the rate of suckering for a few years until the entire tree dies below the soil line. Roundup treatments of just the suckers won't work since they are part of the larger tree. Roundup is a systemic poison; it would take a lot of kill an entire tree.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:09AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Besides Round up, that basically goes after everything it is applied to, Julie speaks of the broadleaf specific lawn weedkiller too. That would be any one with dicamba in it (in the fine print), and is most widely sold in a formulation known as Trimec®. Dicamba is the herbicide that works in the soil too, while most other weed killers do not. While it is best applied to the leaves, she (and I) have first hand knowledge of what dicamba might do via the roots of a willow. It is my tree she refers to, as I prematurely, almost killed it. (I had planned its demise for this fall.) Still, I have other willows that are not affected, and whether yours is susceptible is the question. It is definitely an all or nothing deal. Round up is the surest route, IMO.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 12:51PM
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I have a similar willow to get rid of in the "wild area" of my yard. I had a buckthorn to get rid of when I moved here, and as Julie suggested with your willow, I cut it down and painted the stump, but I used 'Stump and Brush Killer' rather than 'Round-up' and the results were very good, the suckers were even gone the following season. Thats what I plan to do with mine anyway...Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 4:05PM
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yes, definately use the "stump and brush killer"... i use it on anything i want to kill because it only kills the roots of the item you are putting it on. just make sure you have a fresh cut or in your instance many fresh cuts since it is a whole tree but i do attest to its effectiveness. it is the ONLY thing that killed my sisters buckthorn or what i called the "devil" tree... and it has never so much as sprouted a twig... it even took care of the milkweed that kept sprouting up in my flowerbed and the remnants of a wild daylily that was driving me to drink and i dont even drink. good luck to you!!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 11:11PM
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Thanks all. Seems that the only way to go is total removal. One place I checked suggested a bull dozer. Think I'll try the stump and brush killer. Can you all tell me when the best time to perform this task is? Fall? Spring? ASAP? This a "patch" of about 20' by 6' so it may take me awhile. Does it have to be done all at once? So the plan is to cut and paint the stumps? What about the sprouts? Will they die out too or just work harder to live? This is near a pond. A fishless pond that dries up throughout the summer but still something to keep in mind with all the wild life.

Thank you all for your help!!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 4:46PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

A bulldozer is not the answer, IMO, because you're almost gauranteed that live roots will be left behind to resprout.

Fall should be the best time to tackle this. Plants naturally take nutrients (and poisons) down into the roots better. As leaves are turning fall color should be optimal timing, but a couple weeks before or after should be fine too. Buckthorn can be done into November because it is a European tree and does not shut down for winter as early as our native plants do.

The Stump and brush killer, which is probably the same as Ortho's Brush-B-Gon uses trichlorpyr to kill. A good product. I think I would go with that. Don't use anything with the dicamba I mentioned earlier, since it is near a water source. Even in a pond that dries up, there is a lot of biodiversity that is supported.

Paint your fresh cut stumps and little sucker with the undiluted product (as directed on the bottle). Apply to the cut surface and the sides of the stumps down to the ground. So best to leave maybe 6 inches of stump to paint. Painting deeply furrowed bark is for naught, as this part of the bark is dead.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 9:09PM
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Here is what I did to kill an Ash tree growing between my fence and the neighbor's retaining wall. I used the poison ivy and brush "killer". I cut as much of the tree as I could then I drilled some holes into the trunk of the tree using a 1 inch bit. Poured the stuff into the holes and covered that with plastic. It took 3 applications but the sucker is now dead.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 1:02PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Poison Ivy and brush Killer is also trichlopyr. If you drill holes (probably an even better idea), do it near the sides of the stump (close to the bark). The stump is only alive around the outer part, and the poison will be taken in best there. A 1 inch drill bit is fine, but don't go out and buy one. Half or quarter inch will be good too.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 4:58PM
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Thanks so much for the info. Am I going to need to go around and paint all those hundreds of suckers in the yard? Will they be affected by the main growth dying? Either trying harder or dying? In the "stand" that I have, the maximum diameter is probably only an inch and a half or 2 inches but there are bunches of them. In the 5 to 6 foot deep section, they are so thick that you cannot see through them at all. I'm off to buy something with trichlopyr tomorrow! I will be ready! (At the last house I owned, huge poison ivy vines were my foe--I hope this will be easier. I didn't win the last that one.)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 9:59PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Am I going to need to go around and paint all those hundreds of suckers in the yard?

Well, yes, at least most of them. Forget the painting down to the ground, and the drilling. I didn't realize they were so small. And there is no need to leave any kind of stump, certainly not 6 inches. But when you paint the cut surfaces, be liberal and let it drip down the sides.

Do you have a brush cutter, or brush cutter attachment for a weed whip? Sure would make things go fast, cutting them all at once. You could probably find a brush cutter blade to put on your weed whip if you don't have one. Willow wood is very soft, so even if your weed whip doesn't have the power for brush cutting, it should be fine for willow, unless it is electric. If you can remove the head, bring it with you to the store, so you can be sure the blade you buy will fit.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 6:04PM
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