Plant Taxonomy of Japanese Willows:
Plant Type for Flamingo Japanese Willows:
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Flamingo Willows:
Sun and Soil Requirements:
'Flamingo' Not the Only Type of Japanese Willow:
Flamingo Can Be Somewhat High-Maintenance to Grow:
I've seen lots of variations in the color of these shrubs, some living up to the colorful name, 'Flamingo', others exhibiting rather mediocre coloration. As with other plants, such issues may be influenced by many factors, e.g., hours of sunlight received, watering and soil conditions.
Trying to coax superior coloration via pruning (see below) means having to remember to perform the task. In fact, because it's a vigorous grower, Flamingo wouldn't be considered a low-maintenance plant (if you're looking for a compact shrub) even if you didn't care about achieving optimal color: you would still have to prune it just to keep it within bounds. I'm motivated to prune mine because its summertime leaves are not very attractive (green leaves predominate at this time, with variegated leaves taking a back seat).
Care for Japanese Willows:
Japanese willow is a shrub that invites pruning, both because it is a vigorous grower (you may wish to keep it more compact) and because it may perform better, color-wise, if you prune Flamingo regularly.
I mentioned above the height and width this plant can reach at maturity, if left unpruned, at which point the branches will assume more of an arching habit. But it should not be allowed to reach these dimensions. What you would gain in mass and gracefulness, you will lose in color, potentially. To achieve optimal color, fertilize Japanese willows and maintain the following pruning regimen for them:
- Prune heavily in early spring, when still dormant.
- Prune again in late spring to early summer.
- Prune again in August (I end up pruning mine multiple times in late summer; see above).
When I say "prune heavily in early spring," I mean you can trim 1/3 of the older branches right down to the ground; and prune back the top growth (I typically remove a foot or so, but you may wish to take off less or more, depending upon the growth your bush achieved last year) on the remaining branches. New shoots will emerge to take their place. You can even experiment with more drastic pruning, because the Salix genus is very tolerant in this regard. My pruning advice pertains to growing Japanese willows as multi-branched shrubs. If you grow the plant as a standard (small tree), you will, of course, be unable to do such drastic pruning, as you will have only one main branch with which to work. But standard-growers will still be able to trim back the upper branches 2 or 3 times per year, to keep generating new growth.
The idea behind all this pruning is to generate new growth. It is the new growth that is most colorful. As a result of that last pruning I recommend for August, growers in warmer areas may be able to enjoy red stems on their Japanese willow during the winter -- not unlike what you'd expect from redtwig dogwood. Even in cooler areas, winter color might be a bit better on newer wood than on older. But the critical pruning is the one done in early spring -- if you can remember to do it!