How to Grow and Care for a Tri-Color Dappled Willow

By Sabrina Lopez | September 30, 2022

Hakuro Nishiki (Salix Integra) dappled willow tree in a garden

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Salix integra, commonly known as the tri-color dappled willow tree or Hakuro-Nishiki willow, can be a gorgeous addition to your landscaping. This unique plant works well whether you cultivate it as a privacy hedge or plant the shrubs to stand alone.

The dappled willow is especially practical in damp climates because you can use these shrubs in your rain garden. A rain garden consists of plants that absorb water runoff from structures like porches, decks, or roofs.

Learn more about how to plant and care for your tri-color dappled willow.



Courtesy Amazon

Green Promise Farm Hakaro Nishiki (Dappled Villow) Shrub

$30.10 $28.74

This dappled willow comes fully rooted in soil and can be planted immediately when you receive it. It can mature to a height of between 6-8 feet, and boasts a beautiful tri-colored vegetation of white, green, and pink foliage.

$28.74 On Amazon


Fast Facts on Tri-Color Dappled Willows

The dappled willow tree is known for its pink and white variegated leaves, which are pinker in spring and change to white and green in winter. These adaptable deciduous shrubs are great for experienced gardeners and beginners alike as they don’t require much maintenance.

Common nameDappled willow, Japanese willow, tri-color dappled willow trees, Nishiki willow

Plant family


Native climate

Deciduous forests of South Korea, Japan, northeast China, and southeast Russia

Light level

Full sun, some partial shade

Average mature height

8–10 feet

Soil type

Slightly acidic, well-draining, moist

Frequency of watering

Twice weekly until mature, then once weekly



Ideal humidity level

Wide range

Common variations

Salix purpurea, flamingo willow, burning bush



How to Care for Your Tri-Color Dappled Willow

While the tri-color dappled willow can survive in various environments, how you care for it will depend on your vision for the plant and your property. 


Willows are generally highly adaptable, and the dappled willow shrub is no exception. They do not require fertilizer or a strict fertilization schedule to thrive. However, if you wish to fertilize your willow, you can apply it once per year before seeing any new growth on the tree. Fertilizing will promote a burst of new growth later in spring during the growing season and promote bright year-round foliage.


Where and how you should plant your dappled willow shrubs depends on your intentions. These plants grow well together and are often used as privacy trees, such as arborvitae or boxwood shrubs. You can also use them as corner plants or border shrubs for your vegetable or flower garden.

When planting your tri-color dappled willow tree, you must first choose a place that gets full sunlight for at least six hours daily. These trees can tolerate partial shade, but they prefer full sun. The best time for planting these willow trees is early spring or late fall—it’s not too hot, but the soil is warm and inviting.

Dig a hole twice the size of your willow tree’s root ball, and ensure the root ball pokes out the top of the hole by about an inch. You can place the root ball in the hole and backfill it with moist, well-draining soil. You can use mulch about a yard’s radius around the new plants to ensure moist soil, especially when the plants are young. Plant your willow bush root balls about 18 inches to 2 feet apart to establish a privacy screen.


Tri-color dappled willows thrive in full sunlight, although they can grow in partial shade if necessary. The more sunlight they receive, the more vibrant green foliage the shrub will produce. In the spring, pink shades will bloom with more force and beauty. 

Partial shade may help this color preservation if you live in an extremely hot area—the heat combined with partial shade will create good growing conditions for your dappled willow.

Temperature and Climate

Because of their origins in temperate climates, tri-color dappled willows show the best growth rate in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 9. These zones include most of the contiguous United States. Growing zones not conducive to these pretty shrubs include Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Since dappled willows do well through various humidity levels, the biggest threat to growing successful dappled willows is temperatures falling below minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. In areas where the temperature doesn’t fall below zero, they grow throughout the year.


Dappled willow trees need a lot of water in their early growth stages. You should water them twice weekly, penetrating the soil with moisture 2 inches each time. If the top 2 inches of soil around the tree’s base is dry to the touch, it’s time to water. 

Once your shrub reaches maturity, you can reduce the watering frequency to once weekly. Young dappled willows need moist soil while they’re young so they can develop their deep root systems.



How to Prune a Tri-Color Dappled Willow

Strictly speaking, these dwarf willow trees don’t require pruning, but it does help stimulate new growth. They are fast-growing shrubs, so pruning will quickly make the foliage more vibrant and thick. Here are some basic tips:

The mature width for dappled willows is the same as their height, about 8 to 10 feet. Pruning can help keep their growth under control. You can keep a trimmer tree form and tighter branches with pruning.



How to Propagate a Tri-Color Dappled Willow

Because young tri-color dappled willow shrubs are weaker when young, they are typically sold by suppliers as grafts stuck into a straight, strong branch of another willow. Here’s how to propagate your tri-color dappled willows:

  1. In spring or late winter, use sharp pruning shears to cut off a few 8-inch-long stems from your mature dappled willows. Make sure to choose stems without leaves.
  2. Get a small pot filled with moist soil, and plant the stem cutting in the pot.
  3. Make sure to keep the soil moist and not wet. Use a pot that drains well after you water the soil and stem cutting.
  4. Within a month, the stem cutting should have roots, and you can plant them outside.



Common Issues with Tri-Color Dappled Willows

While dappled willows are beloved by homeowners thanks to their easy care, you might still run into a few of the following problems.

Invasive Roots

Tri-color dappled willows can have invasive root systems, especially if you plant groups of them for privacy hedges or your rain garden. If you have a septic system, these roots can overtake the tank beneath the ground and interfere with the system. Prune the shrubs to the ground yearly to keep the root systems in check.

Water Needs

All types of willows need large amounts of water to thrive. If you live in an area with droughts (such as California) and restrictions on how much water you can use, or if you have a high water utility bill, perhaps these low-maintenance flowering shrubs aren’t the best choice for you. Arborvitae requires less water and can be as effective in constructing a privacy fence. Be sure you can meet your plant’s watering needs to avoid disease before you plant. 


Tri-color dappled willows appeal to gardeners and landscapers because they are resistant to most pests and diseases. However, pest infestations can still occur. Caterpillars exist to eat leaves, while aphids feed on leaves and any sap a plant produces. If you find pests on one or more of your dappled willows, you can call a pest control company so your other trees don’t become infected.



Our Recommendation

These deciduous shrubs grow almost everywhere in the United States with minimal human involvement, producing stunning colors throughout the year. Since they aren’t perennials, you don’t need to replant them each year, and you can enjoy an array of white, pink, and bright green foliage throughout the year. Tri-color dappled willows are an excellent choice all over the country for rain gardens, privacy screens, and eye-catching garden accents for other plants.



Tri-Color Dappled Willow FAQ

Do dappled willows have invasive roots?

Dappled willows do have invasive roots. Because willows are water-loving plants, their roots tend to grow where there’s water, including in pipes and septic systems. To prevent their roots from causing damage to your property, you can cut your dappled willows back to the ground each year. 

Can you keep a dappled willow small?

Of course, you can let these beauties grow wild, but if you want to keep a dappled willow small, we recommend pruning. If you regularly prune a dappled willow, you can keep it from reaching 8 to 10 feet, its mature height and width. You can even keep them as indoor plants if you prune them and water them properly.

What grows well with dappled willow?

Dogwood trees, geraniums, hydrangeas, and forsythia plants grow well near dappled willows. Mulberry trees and rosemary are also excellent companion plants.