White Willow Care: Learn How To Grow A White Willow

A Large White Willow Tree
(Image credit: vili45)

The white willow (Salix alba) is a majestic tree with leaves that have a magic of their own. Tall and graceful, the undersides of its leaves are silvery white, giving the tree its common name. Read on for more white willow information, including tips on how to grow a white willow and white willow care.

What is a White Willow Tree?

White willows are lovely, fast-growing trees that can shoot up to 70 feet (21 m.) in your garden. White willows are not native to this country. They grow wild in Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa. White willow cultivation began in the United States in the 1700's. Over the years, the tree has naturalized in many parts of the country. Once you read up on white willow information, you’ll know why the tree has many fans. It not only leafs early, but it holds onto its leaves late into autumn. This tree is one of the first to leaf in the spring and one of the last to drop its leaves in the fall. The bark is furrowed and the branches droop gracefully, though not as much as a weeping willow. In spring, attractive catkins appear on the trees. The seeds ripen in June.

White Willow Cultivation

These trees thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 8 and generally do not require much care. If you want to grow a white willow, plant it in moist loam. The ideal pH range for white willow cultivation is between 5.5 and 8.0. Choose a sunny spot or at least one with partial sun, since white willows don’t do well in deep shade. These willows attract wildlife. Many different animals use the spreading branches for cover. They also provide food for caterpillars of different moth species including the puss moth, willow ermine, and red underwing. The catkins provide bees and other insects early spring nectar and pollen. On the other hand, before you jump into white willow cultivation, you’ll want to note the downsides. These include weak wood, a marked susceptibility to pests and disease, and shallow, moisture-seeking roots.

White Willow Care

For white willow care, irrigation is important–more rather than less. White willows can survive severe flooding but don’t do well with drought. On the other hand, they tolerate sea spray and urban pollution. Like many willow species, white willows love wetlands. For ideal cultivation, plant your trees around ponds or rivers. This reduces white willow care, since the tree roots have a source of water.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.