By Bonnie L. Grant
Willow trees are suitable for moist sites in full sun. They perform well in almost any climate, but the limbs and stems are not strong and may bend and break in storms. There are many types of willow trees for the home landscape. Learn how to grow a willow tree for a fast growing, easy-to-care for screen or specimen tree.
Types of Willow Trees
There are tree and shrub willows, all of which are characterized by their love for moist soil and rangy, sometimes invasive root systems. You may even find a willow tree growing at the edge of a stream or river. Weeping and pussy willows are probably two of the better-known types of willow trees, but there are many others.
- Weeping willows – Weeping willows have graceful arching stems that dangle delicately and shiver in the breeze.
- Pussy willows – Pussy willows put on a spring display of fuzzy buds that are charming and reminiscent of childhood.
- Gold or White willows – Golden and white willows are introduced species from Europe and often used as screens and part of shelterbelts.
- Black willows – Black willows are native to parts of North America and common along waterways.
- Corkscrew willows – Corkscrew willows have attractive decorative stems, which spiral appealingly and provide interest in winter.
How to Grow a Willow Tree
You can grow a willow tree from cuttings. Take a cutting from a live terminal branch that is 18 inches long. Insert the cut end into moist soil in a pot with good drainage or straight into garden soil. Keep it moderately moist until the cutting roots.
A more common method of willow tree growing is from bare root trees that are at least one year old. These need to have the roots soaked in a bucket before planting and soil worked to twice the depth and diameter of the root spread. Push soil in and around the roots when planting willow trees, and water the soil in well. Thereafter, follow good willow tree care for a fast growing tree or shrub.
Planting Willow Trees
Consider carefully where you plant your tree or shrub. Not all types of willow tree are invasive, but many are and you do not want their root system all over your planting bed.
Provide a collar around young trees to protect them from wildlife. Young trees are especially susceptible to the nibbling of deer, elk and even rabbits. They need to be kept quite moist but not soggy as the roots establish.
Willow Tree Care
Willow trees are easy to grow and require moderate care. Prune young trees to keep lower limbs up for easier maintenance. Otherwise, willows do not need trimming and only removal of old and dead wood is required, though many people prefer to keep pussy willows trimmed.
Willows flourish in moist organic-rich soils. If your soil is poor and has limited nutrients, work in compost at the time of planting and fertilize with an all-purpose plant food in early spring.
Water willows in periods of drought and watch for pests and disease. Willows are not bothered by many problems but it is easier to nip them in the bud at the first sign rather than wait until the plant’s health is compromised.