The flamingo tree, (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nishiki’), is a popular dwarf willow that is much loved for its flamboyant foliage in spring – a marbled mix of green and white, with flamingo-pink tips. The leaves fade to green in summer and when they drop in autumn, coral-orange stems are revealed. Before the foliage appears again in spring, yellow catkins appear.
Also known as the flamingo willow or shrimp willow, the flamingo tree is a compact shrub or small tree, perfect for a small garden. It’s often sold as a standard or lollipop tree, grafted on to the rootstock of a different willow variety.
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The flamingo tree looks delicate but is completely hardy in the UK. It has been given the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
How to grow a flamingo tree
Grow your flamingo tree in moist but well drained soil, in full sun or dappled shade. Standard trees grow well in a pot, as long as they are well watered. Prune in winter and lightly again in summer if desired.
Flamingo tree: jump links
- Planting flamingo tree
- Caring for flamingo tree
- Propagating flamingo tree
- Growing flamingo tree: problem-solving
- Buying flamingo tree
Where to grow a flamingo tree
Grow your flamingo tree in moist but well-drained soil in full sun – it looks good in contemporary or urban gardens and in Japanese-style planting schemes. You can also grow standards in pots on the patio, or flanking a doorway.
How to plant a flamingo tree
- Dig a hole that’s the same depth as the rootball and incorporate lots of well-rotted compost or well rotted manure
- Place the rootball in the hole so that its surface is at soil level. Refill the hole with soil
- Water in well
- Mulch after planting to help retain moisture
If growing a standard tree in a pot, use a peat-free John Innes No.3 compost. Pot on into a larger pot as the plant grows.
Caring for a flamingo tree
Watering and feeding
Water plants growing in the ground in dry weather. If you’re growing a flamingo tree in a pot, make sure you keep the compost moist. Feed in spring with a balanced fertiliser. Mulch in spring with well rotted manure or garden compost – this will help retain moisture in the soil.
A late winter prune will encourage lush foliage growth and plenty of new pink foliage – trim growth back by about one third. Also remove any dead, damaged or diseased shoots, plus any that are growing the wrong way. Also trim away any shoots that are sprouting from the grafted stem. You can trim lightly again in summer to encourage more fresh pink growth later in the season.
How to propagate a flamingo tree
Growing flamingo tree: problem solving
Poor leaf colour in spring may be due to lack of sun. Bear in mind that the leaf tips are usually only pink in spring – they revert to green later in the season.
Brown leaves could be due to be due to wind or sun damage, or lack of water. Flamingo trees do best in a sunny position but in prolonged hot weather they can be scorched by the sun – move temporarily to a shadier spot if possible. Trees grown in pots can quickly dry out – you may need to water every day in very hot spells.
Green leaves on the stem of standard trees are from the willow that the top was grafted onto and should be trimmed off.
Willow aphids do not harm the plant but sooty mould can develop on the honeydew excreted by the aphids, which is is unattractive and can inhibit photosynthesis. Look out for early infestations and blast off with water or squash by hand.
Rust appears as yellow patches on the tops of the leaves and orange pustules on the undersides. Remove any affected leaves as soon as you see them and clear up any that have fallen onto the ground.
Canker can also affect willows. Look out for leafless shoots and distorted bark. Prune out affected areas.
Willow anthracnose is a fungal disease that causes black or brown spots and lesions on the leaves, distorted or dropping foliage and raised lesions on the stems. It is common in early spring when the air is cool and damp. Prune out affected areas promptly – especially the lesions on the stems – and clear up any fallen foliage.
Honey fungus may attack plants growing in the soil.
Advice on buying a flamingo tree
- Check that your plant is well shaped, bushy and healthy with no signs of pests or disease
- You may find flamingo trees at the garden centre, especially in spring when they look especially attractive. Alternatively, look online