Planting and caring for your River Bush-willow

Tree care

Thank you for taking me into your care! I am going to need your help while I’m small and fragile. But I promise to do the best I can to grow big and strong and tall.  I am an excellent tree for your garden. I grow very quickly and will be able to give you shade after about 4 years. I can reach a height and spread of between 6-9 meters.

Remember I loose my leaves and am leafless for about three months of the year during the winter months. Once my new leaves have appeared (August to November), you will see my flowers. These are small greenish-yellow flower-spikes, round in shape and lightly scented. The flowers will attract a variety of insects and butterflies.

But then my flowers will give way to a four-winged fruit and as my fruit begins to ripen, from about January you will see it change from green to a light brown. The birds love me! Watch out for Pied Barbets that will come to me to feast on the seeds.

As part of ecosystem you will also see wasps that will come to my fruit and lay their eggs through the walls of the fruit, and their larvae in turn, will feed on the seeds inside my fruit. The Southern Black Tit plays its part in my life by coming to me and instinctively tapping the fruit to check if there are larvae inside. If there are, this bird will open the fruit and eat the larvae!

In the wild you will also see my leaves being browsed by giraffe, elephant, bushbuck and nyala.

Below you will find some more details about me and how to take care of me while I grow. Thank you again for being my new friend!

River Bush-willow

I’m a Combretum Erythrophyllum – River Bush-willow

Tree Type: Deciduous, Indigenous
Common Name: River Bush-willow, Vaderlandswilg
Botanical Name: Combretum erythrophyllum
Min Height: 6m
Max Height: 7m
Growth Rate: Fast

Frost Tolerance: Frost hardy (after 2 years)
Drought Resistance: Drought hardy
Flowers: Greenish-yellow (spring-summer), faintly scented
Fruit: Brownish
Foliage: Red or Yellow (Autumn), Whitish (Spring)
Root System: Not aggressive
Soil Type: Not restricted

Plant Shape: Straight trunk or multi-stemmed with dense spreading crown
Wildlife Attraction: Birds.  Browsed by giraffe & elephant.
Garden Use: Used as a specimen tree for its autumn colour, bark becomes flaky with age.

How to plant me

  1. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than my roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help my roots establish.
  2. Square holes are better than round ones as my roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)
  3. Plant me at least 1.5 metres away from walls.
  4. Although this step is not essential, I will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal (available at Willow Feather Farm) with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that I will be exactly the same height in the ground as I was at the nursery.
  5. If I am planted too deep my stem may rot; too shallow and my roots above ground will die.
  6. Before planting remove me from the plastic bag!
  7. Put me in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around me. My roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that I am not loose in the ground.
  8. Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil until it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.
  9. Water me and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch (e.g. 6-month-old wood-chip).

How to care for me

  • After planting me it is important to water me at least once a week.
  • It is better to give me one good watering once a week than a little bit every day.
  • Monitor me to see if I look thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.
  • Once planted you can apply a general fertilizer around my base.  (Culterra 5:1:5  is a good option)
  • As I grow I will require staking and pruning. Stake me against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking my strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.
  • Relax and watch me grow! Remember although I will lose my leaves in winter I will still need to be looked after during this time!

Featured image by:  tienvijftien


52 Responses to “Planting and caring for your River Bush-willow”