Issue: November 1, 1999

Starting willow trees from stem cuttings


Can I successfully start a new tree (Willow) from the tree cutting?


It is possible in the case of some tree species, but not all of them. Fortunately, the willow is one of the easy trees to propagate by stem cuttings. On the other hand, the apple tree and many other common fruit trees are more difficult or impossible to propagate from stem cuttings. Some shade trees are also difficult to produce from cuttings and like the fruit tree are propagated by grafting. However, the willow is very easy.

To start a new tree from the stem of a willow tree, take a healthy branch, place it in moist soil in the spring or late winter. If the soil remains moist, the stem should form roots in a month or so and by the end of the growing season will have a good root system.

If it is started on the site where you wish it to grow, you will not need to transplant it, but some shade from the sun will be necessary while the root system is forming.

If you start it in a pot indoors in late winter, you can transplant it to a well-prepared planting site after the weather has warmed and there is no danger of frost. It may still need a little shade for a few weeks but should soon establish and begin growing.

The willow grows rapidly but also dies rapidly. The "hidden cost" of fast-growing trees is that they are often short-lived, 30 to 80 years, and are susceptible to injury by many diseases and insects. Slower growing trees devote more of their resources to protecting themselves from disease and insects.

Does drought really kill grass?


If grass is deprived of water, does it really "die"? Grass certainly looks dead after extended periods without water, but after it gets some water it seems to come back to life. Was it ever dead?


Some grasses will rapidly die during periods of drought, but even these die by parts. Bluegrass is an example of grass which cannot survive extended periods without irrigation, such as is common here in New Mexico. After a week or less, depending on the time of year and previous moisture and health of the grass, the grass will begin to turn brown. The leaves will die as they turn brown (they are dead). However, the crown, that part that produces new leaves, survives longer. As the drought progresses, some of the grass crowns will begin to die, but if water is supplied, some will have survived and regrow. At this point the grass will be sparse. If the drought persists even longer, all the crowns will die and only weeds or more drought resistant grass species will grow once water is supplied.

Many of the warm season grasses we grow, such as bermuda grass, buffalo grass, and blue grama, are much more drought tolerant and will survive longer periods of drought. These are often the grasses that reappear after dry periods. There are other native grasses that also survive. Fescue, often used in lawns, is intermediate in response. It can tolerate somewhat more drying than the bluegrass but not as much as the drought tolerant grasses mentioned above.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!