Building willow tipi – step by step guide for an Indian tent

A willow tipi is a perfect hiding place for children and a great place for adventure. We will explain step by step how you can build one yourself.

Build a willow tipi
© Alena Yakusheva –

A willow tipi is an important place for little Indians and adventurers. Small children like to play in caves and hide in different places. A willow teepee is a great way for young and old children to create their own retreat. It doesn’t matter whether small children play Indians or big children retire to read. The willow tipi in your own garden can be set up in just a few hours and will withstand external influences for a long time. If you use freshly cut branches, they will usually root quickly. The willow tipi thus becomes an important component in the home garden.

This is what you need to build a willow tipis

The most important material to build a willow tipi is enough thick branches and twigs. At least 10 stable branches with a length of 10 meters are required and many smaller flexible branches. To bring the branches to the desired length, a battery saw is an advantage. A spade to bury the branches and a peg to measure the base area are also necessary. A rope, a ladder and working gloves are also recommended. If you would like to embellish the willow tipi, you can provide some ivy plants. In a nutshell, you need:

  • thick branches
  • flexible branches
  • Battery saw
  • spade
  • stake
  • leader
  • rope
  • plants

How to build a willow tipis

The willow tipi is very quickly built up. You only need about an afternoon to do this. Children can also help with the construction. Not only is this fun, but the children also learn how to use tools. Later, the little ones will be very proud that they have built their own tepee and will enjoy playing and spending time in it. Only a few steps are necessary to build the willow tipi from the ground up.

Step 1 – Measure the base area:

To build the willow tipi, a circle with a diameter of about 2 meters is needed. First measure the rope. This should have a length of at least 1.5 metres. To get a nice circle as an area, you should now knock a peg into the ground. Then tie the rope to this peg. Now you can tension the rope and mark the ground at the end of the rope. The peg and the rope are now a kind of compass. It is best to place several markers around the pole. This ensures that the willow tipi will later have a beautiful shape and be large enough to accommodate several children. For example, you can mark the floor with a coloured spray or sand.

Step 2 – Dig a trench:

Once you have marked the circle, you can use the spade to dig a small, circular trench about 40 centimeters deep. It is important that you leave the entrance for the tipi free and do not dig a trench there. So the children can go in and out later without any problems. If you dig the trench, this has the advantage that you can dig the branches well into the ground later.

Step 3 – Build basic form:

Once you have finished digging, you can cut the stable branches to size. About 10 branches, each three metres long, are required. You should then place these branches in the trench at a distance of about 60 centimetres. In order to find this hold, you should lean the branches against each other at the top. Already now you can recognize the typical tipi shape. To stabilize the branches, you must tie them together with a rope below the tip. Already the basic form of the tipi is ready.

Step 4 – Build Tipi:

Now you need the flexible branches. These are woven into the basic plexus. The thin, flexible twigs should be looped horizontally between the large, stable branches. Depending on how opaque the tipi is to be, different numbers of flexible branches are required. In order to make the tipi stable, you should proceed according to the weaving pattern. This means that the narrow branch is woven once over the broad branch and once under the broad branch. Similar to when you weave a carpet. There should be a maximum distance of 20 centimetres between the horizontal branches. If you want to make the tipi more opaque, you can push the branches closer together. What’s important is that you skip the entrance. This should be about 70 centimetres wide, so that children can still enter and leave without problems.

Step 5 – Close the trench:

If you have built the tipi the way you would like it to be, you have to dig the trench again. It is important that you press the earth down so that the thick branches have a good hold in the earth. When all the branches have been buried and the earth has been pressed down, the willow tipi stands firmly in the earth and can be embellished.

Step 6 – Embellish willow tipi:

Now you or your children can embellish the tepee. For example, you can attach several ivy vines to the branches. If the ivy vines still have roots, you can dig them into the ground. This has the advantage that you can water the ivy and it will continue to grow. The tipi becomes opaque and stays green all year round.

Many children also like to hang flags and pennants on the tepee to make it more colourful. How children would like to embellish the tepee is left to the little ones. There are no limits to the imagination.

365 ideas for outdoors

No more boredom! Whether in your own garden, in the park around the corner or in the woods – there is plenty to discover and experience in nature. In “365 Ideas for Outdoors”, children find a variety of suggestions that they can try out alone or with friends and family.

Tips for keeping the willow epee in good condition for a long time

A willow tipi looks very nice and lasts many years. It is important that the willow branches are well buried in the ground. So these can take root quickly. You should also bury the ivy well so that it grows quickly. It is also important that you cut the branches every year so that the tipi always keeps its shape and the branches stay healthy for a long time.

In order to keep the willow tipi for a long time, you also need to water it regularly. In summer the willow wood needs a lot of water. It’s the only way to prevent it from getting rotten. In winter, however, you rarely need to supply the willow tipi with water. The surrounding snow gives off enough water. In winter you can protect the tipi with a tarpaulin, as long as you have set it up without ivy. The ivy remains green even in winter, so that the tipi shines in a rich green colour all year round.

By the way:

From willow you can build many more beautiful things for the garden. For example, a living screen (instructions for a living screen made of willow), decorative balls (instructions for balls made of vine or willow branches) or climbing aids (instructions for climbing aids made of willow rods).

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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