Learn How to Use Fast-Growing Willow Trees

Learn How to Use Fast-Growing Willow Trees

Willow Trees

Did you know there are over 400 different kinds of trees and shrubs in the Salix genus?

We get a lot of calls from our customers looking for Willows to plant in their landscape. Willows are very popular, because they are so fast growing.

They can grow in most any soil including very wet areas - and even soils or land that can flood on occasion. Most people have seen a large Weeping Willow growing alongside a pond or riverbank and love these incredible specimen trees.

Willows are also used for those people who love to come home to a nice glass of wine on the patio and just chill out. You’d be amazed how relaxing it is to watch your swaying Willow tree.

Kids adore Willow trees, because the branches make natural swings. Please keep a watch out, but what fun memories to create with the little ones.

Read on to learn how to site a Willow properly. Please use caution when considering where to place a Willow. We want you to love your tree, not get mad at it. Use them wisely. Remember the Disney movie Pocahontas with the wise “Grandmother Willow” tree?

Well, please listen to the wise words Grandmother Willow whispers to you. “Don’t plant me near your water main, child. My roots are thirsty. And not too close to your septic tank, either. Plant me instead near water or at the edge of your property and let me do my thing.” (ok, we are paraphrasing!)

Grow Willows in Wet or Dry Soils

Maybe you live in an area with heavy clay soils that just do not drain well. Willow trees and shrub type Willows are used on sites where that might be the case. Willows are so forgiving in those tough sites.

Not only are Willow trees tolerant of heavier clay soils, or wetter sites, they are also quite adaptable to higher ground as well. In drier sites, Willows may grow a bit slower.

Where to Plant A Weeping Willow Tree

You could use this fast growing tree in your yard, but you’ll make more work for yourself. This plant will put on large amounts of growth and those branches will be hanging down across your yard making it hard to mow underneath. Or, you might be spending lots of time with a pruning shears keeping the branches from hitting the ground.

But, why not use it where you can appreciate what it does? Plant this weeping plant at the pond’s edge where it can grow and sweep across the top of the water. No worries about mowing grass beneath. Just pure movement with an incredible plant so worthy of a spot alongside a pond, lake, river or stream where you can just appreciate it.

Use this tree correctly, so you don’t have to worry about high maintenance. Yes, this tree has fragile, weaker wood that can shed. Not every tree is a yard tree, nor are they all Hardwoods. To use the magnificent Willow, simply site it correctly, so you don’t make more work for yourself.

Again, the Willow is not best used as a lawn tree but consider using it as a giant screening plant in a more natural area where the branches can be allowed to weep and hang to the ground. Picture a grouping of three plants as a beautiful backdrop to a wetland area.

Or, the most classic use is near a larger water feature. Plant one on the back side of a pond or river or stagger an informal grouping on either side of a stream or river. That way, too, you’ll be able to appreciate the tree’s reflection in the water. It’s a spectacular sight!

You’ll need to include a bench nearby to study the way the branches turn and sway in the breeze. Adding motion to your landscape is always appealing, and no better way to accomplish that than by planting a Willow tree.

Willow Tree Selection Guide

One of the Weeping Willow trees is called the Babylon Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica). It grows to be in a 30-50 foot range. 

The beauty of this tree is its amazing, soft and weeping form. Easy to grow, adaptable to most any soils, and it grows fast. No wonder everyone wants this tree!

Another Willow tree we offer is one geared for the colder regions. The Niobe Weeping Willow (Salix alba ‘Tristis’) is super hardy down to Zone 2 and all the way up to Zone 8. It is similar to Babylon in form, but gets a bit larger and is more suited for those landscapes in the north where it gets colder.

Willow In Spring

The Weeping Willows are one of the first trees to wake up in the spring. You will notice by all of the youngest stems turn an electric golden yellow color long before the foliage comes out. Beautiful!

Both of these two Weeping Willows have ascending main branches, and the secondary branches are the ones that weep. Use them in more natural areas where the branches can hang freely and be enjoyed with every little breeze.

Austree Willow Hybrid is a Super-Fast Growing Tree

If you want a privacy screen YESTERDAY, look at Willow Hybrid (Salix matsudana X Salix alba ‘Austree’). This tree gets quite big in a very short period of time.

Austree Willow Hybrid trees are incredibly fast growing, have few problems grown in almost any soil (including wet or dry) and make excellent screening plants for wide open spaces.

This plant is often used as wind break or shelterbelt to protect your house from wind and snow. Why not? These trees can put on over ten feet in a single season… and more! You can see why we have a hard time keeping these in stock. If you see them, buy them.

No one said that you have to plant them in a straight row. You can use them in a staggered row, or in a much less formal planting that will fit into the landscape with much more finesse. They can also be used as quick cover to eliminate unsightly views or as a large backdrop to your property.

The green foliage is a bit silvery on the underside of the fine textured leaves and the new growth is a bit kinky. This is similar to a Corkscrew Willow, so there is an interesting look to the plant. It grows so quickly you will be amazed.

Don’t cut off the bottom branches of this tree. They look fantastic when they are allowed to branch close to the ground. Plants with lower branching offer better wind reduction and better screening.

Flame Willow Gives a Tall Backdrop with Bright Red Stems

Flame Willow (Salix ‘Flame’) can grow as tall as 15-20 feet, unless you decide to prune it down to size. Try it as an excellent plant to screen an ugly view or use as a backdrop to a colorful shrub or mixed border.

When autumn rolls around and the foliage drops off, the stems come to life with orange and red coloration that remains attractive all winter. In late winter, it looks like a large flame from a distance. This is definitely a plant you will post a picture of when the bark color fires up.

You’ll LOVE their amazing color during the dormant period. This is called "Winter Interest" and it's a very welcome visual concept during the winter. Give yourself something bright and beautiful to look at during the short, cold days.

Flame Willows are also wildly adaptable to most soil types and conditions. They are fast growers and can screen off unsightly areas quickly and efficiently with the amazing color during the dormant period. 

To keep the bark color the most brilliant, you will want to selectively remove the thickest, heaviest stems by cutting them out right down to the ground – but leaving the younger and thinner stems in place. The renewal pruning method keeps new shoots emerging from the roots and keeping the plant vigorous and healthy with the removal of the older stems eliminates the potential for disease.

If it ever gets too overgrown or out of hand, simply cut all of the stems to the ground early one spring and you will be rewarded with all new young growth that will grow several feet in just weeks. Flame Willow is a colorful, “no brainer” selection for big, open areas.

Enjoy these fabulous trees. Use them in the right spot, and you won’t have a headache on your hands. Instead, you’ll have motion and sound to enjoy. And get ready for spring. Their bright green foliage knocks your socks off.

Need help? We are here to help. Email our expert plant lovers at info@naturehills.com

← Previous Next →