“Scarlet Curls” willow (Salix matsudana x S. alba “Scarlet Curls”) comprises twisting, contorting divisions which turn a deep red in winter, which makes it a top choice for adding color to a dreary winter landscape. This corkscrew willow cultivar thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5a through 10b, with its red branch color intensifying from the colder zones. A relatively small specimen, “Scarlet Curls” grows to a maximum of 25 feet tall. Light pruning is sometimes needed in late winter to early spring before buds swell to open the canopy and also manage the size and form of this tree.
Cut all dead, diseased and broken branches back to the closest healthy sloping branch, which makes an angled cut just over the connecting branch or grass. When cutting diseased branches, it is much better to cut too much than not enough; tidy pruning tools with rubbing alcohol after cutting diseased branches so you don’t spread the disease through the tree or other trees.
Eliminate any rubbing or inward-growing divisions; cut them just above a leaf node or grass. When selecting which of two rubbing branches to remain, always choose the strongest, healthiest appearing branch in favor of old or weak divisions.
Cut as much as one-third of the entire branch length to decrease the size or form of this tree; always cut back to just over a wholesome leaf node. You can prune back branches that sweep the ground or interfere with other plants, or just prune stray branches which are more than the rest of the branches on the tree.
Eliminate individual divisions selectively to open up a compact, crowded canopy for greater sunlight penetration and air flow. Ideally, all divisions should get equal sunlight and while this can be basically impossible to guarantee, you can thin out some divisions to open up the space.