Need help with unhealthy salix

Gowrie, IA(Zone 5a)

I'm not sure if the species is correct, but someone suggested that this is a salix purpurea. This water feature and salix were already established when we bought our house a few years ago. I'm in northwestern/central Iowa, and the last two summers we had severe droughts. (The salix gets no water from the "pond," because it is above ground. It probably *was* getting water from the pond until last spring when we replaced the leaky liner.) Last summer I did water it a few times, but was trying to conserve water so I'm sure it suffered considerably.

This spring we thought it was almost entirely dead. As you can see in the pics, it has some new growth close to the ground and a few living branches. What would you do with it? Should I cut it down considerably next spring? Can I cut dead branches off now? I'd like to save it. (My husband hates it because the little leaves clog the pond pump and would prefer to cut it down entirely, but it provides a little shade for the poor algae-ridden pond. Plus, I'm very fond of it because of the multitude of birds that live in it!)

Thumbnail by swampdiamonds Thumbnail by swampdiamonds
Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Poor thing, it does look like it has passed it's sell by date EH !!!!, I would remove it and replace with a tree / shrub that does not require it's feet in water, take the opportunity to choose the plant you have always wanted, just make sure as it grows it's spread will provide the type of shade you are looking for regarding the pond.
The only way to prevent leaf drop is to choose an evergreen type but dont know right now any that would give the protective shade at the pond. Maybe look at some of the conifirs that look droopy and I always think are wearing layers of skirts rather like the Can Can ladies of the french dancing, anyway, these types of plants come in all shades of green, dont shed leaves and some can mature a fair bit in hight, I love their fresh greenery all year round, I run out with my broom and knock the snow off there drooping branches so they dont break with the weight,
Romember no mater what type of plant you select to replace the dead one, you need to research how far out the roots will stretch outwards as you dont want roots to grow through your pond lining again. maybe even consider making a barrier to prevent such things happening and that way you could more or less plant whatever you want if the barrier is done properly.
Good luck and best regards. WeeNel.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

I would prune out all the tops.. Cut it down to the lower level where the regrowth is happening. Then stay right on top of the water needs. Almost all Salix are water dependent, most growing on the edges of lakes and streams, sometimes in flood zones where they get submerged part of the year. The constant, steady leak from the pond highly likely kept it going, and it missed that water when you got a few dry years and fixed the pond.

Alternative: Since this is a high water use plant, remove it and plant something more compatible with the amount of water you are willing to use. You will have to water anything a bit more until it gets established, but there are plants that will thrive on a lot less frequent watering than Salix. Look for larger leaves that are easier to net out of the pond.

About the pond: There are additives that will tint the water blue. This cuts out the light enough that the algae has a hard time growing. You will have to read the label to see if it is safe for fish and plants.

I would plant the pond with aquatic plants that will shade 50% or more of the pond surface.

Gowrie, IA(Zone 5a)

Thanks, guys! My husband and I started researching replacements (things with larger leaves, things that don't drop a lot of berries, etc.). I don't mind watering to establish something--I just think it's silly to plant something that needs a lot of watering its entire life when there are plants better suited to our location/habitat.

Diana K--I actually had just ordered some of that dye, and it should arrive today. I also put in a barley bale. We have put out water hyacinth and water lettuce the last two summers, and the goldfish have destroyed them in their weird goldfish orgies (plus the roots get tangled up in the pond pump). I made some floating planters this year, and rigged up some floating rings with mesh to try to salvage the remaining hyacinth and lettuce. I'll look into getting more. I know the fish are okay because they reproduced last year and it's looking like they're going to reproduce this year, but it would be nice to be able to SEE them and the tadpoles that show up!

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

So glad you've done more research re your pond, just remember what I said about roots busting through your liner after a few years so research the choices you make for replacement tree / shrub, in fact it may have been the tree you already have that did the damage to the pond liner.

The barley bales for helping cut down the green Algae that can grow in a pond, the barley bales are great and harms no-one or any wildlife, so well done you, just remember to change them often.

With regards to the tadpoles you have, this is proof that you have frog's / Toads in your place and these are the best type of slug / snail exterminators you can have, from what you have described you pretty much got the balance about right and a few tweeks as you go along while everything settles down after a couple of years when your new tree / shrub you wish to grow for shelter is doing it's job, you will have a wonderful wildlife area to enjoy when you stroll around with coffee in hand AND ofcourse a camera as you will see things you never even knew lived around a pond, especially one that has good care to encourage the insects and other creatures.
Very best of luck, you have worked hard and now just enjoy.
Best regards, WeeNel.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Golds can really devastate the water plants. Good to plant in floating rings!
My Golds ate all the roots off my Water Lettuce and Water Hyacinthe, but the plants did OK. Maybe I had more plants or fewer fish than you?
Keep trying all the plants that are available to you. SOMETHING is going to survive, and help use up the nutrients in the pond so the algae has less to live on.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Do lot's of searches on water plants for ponds or lakes as here in UK there is dreadful damage done to ALL the plants and fish from some type of plants they call Blanket weed, this plant is bought as an oxygeniser but it actually takes over the pond in a matter of months and the thick blanket kills off the fish and chokes other plants out, I don't know the proper name of this plant you can buy from the garden store for oxygenizing the pond.
I watched program on TV where a pond was being cleared of this stuff, jeeeeesa small pond had 4 people working with a garden rake just to clear SOME of this stuff and then they had to lay it on the pond side for a few days to allow all the good insects to crawl.jump back into the pond, Just the thought of that type of plant put me off my one wish of having a nice water feature in my garden.

The moral is never take water plants from anyone unless you know they don't have bits of these type of plants attached to the roots, always research as apparently, the folks in the garden store don't always know these plants are deadly to a pond or when removed a dumped they can end op in our lakes, large waterways etc without realising what is happening.

Just take good care is what I am trying say and don't undo all the pleasure a water feature cn bring.
happy gardening WeeNel.

Gowrie, IA(Zone 5a)

Don't worry, WeeNel--I've been doing my research! Water hyacinth and water lettuce are both permissible where I live (and don't seem to stand a chance against our fish), and when it starts to get cold we compost them (or what's left of them) so they don't get into local waterways. I'll keep looking for options that are healthy and friendly for our location.

Diana--we have a pretty small pond. Four large adult goldfish (there were ten when we moved here, which seemed like way too many for such a small space, so we gave some away). Last summer, they had had babies but we had a resident snake living in the pond, and at the end of the summer ended up with six young ones. We winter them inside, and they all grew a TON, so we're going to have to find new homes for some of them again. The four adults are 6-8 inches long each, and they're heavy and STRONG. They get lots of mosquito larvae to eat up here. :) By spring, the "babies" were all between 1" and 3" long. A few of them were still dark brown, so I haven't been able to see them all summer in the murky water. Our pond also hosts American toads and leopard frogs. (In addition to the honey bees and birds that love it.) I think maybe at the beginning of the summer next year I need to just bite the bullet and buy a TON of plants--I must not have enough.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

You sound like you have your very own little nature reserve and believe me that is a great thing to have, wish more of us could have water or ponds but for various reasons it's not practical.
The plants I was talking about being a dreadful blackout for any pond were not the more common water Hyacinth, Water Lily's etc, it is a lovely little leaf plant that needs no soil but after a few months grows like Topsy, IF you break a bit off, it just starts a new mass and blocks out all the Oxygen needed to keep the pond healthy and clear.
One question, are you sure the fish you have are GOLD Fish, they sound to me like the Carp you find in lovely ponds in Japan, they grow quickly and bread fast too, just curious not a fish fancier ha, ha, ha.

Best Regards. WeeNel.

Gowrie, IA(Zone 5a)

WeeNel--Yep, just common goldfish, although I believe the species is basically a domesticated version of an Asian carp species. Goldfish can grow to over twelve inches long!

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