Graceful, Fast-Growing Willow Trees
If you are looking for a tree to place on your landscape, Willows should be on the short list. You'll probably have fond memories of a Weeping Willow from your childhood. Now that you have a property, you might want to grow one for yourself.
These pretty trees are widely variable and do really well just about every USDA growing Zone in the United States - they are very cold hardy and heat tolerant. They are quite adaptable to many soil conditions, as long as additional moisture is available when needed.
In a beautiful landscape, plants that bring motion and gentle "susurrus" sounds that capture the breeze create delightful experiences. If you remember the movie 'Pocohontas' and her beloved Grandmother Willow Tree, you'll have a sense of why people all around the world love Willows. (While they will "talk" to you, we can't guarantee that they'll provide any guidance!)
Willow is Useful
There are over 400 species of deciduous Willows worldwide, and people have used Willow wood as a renewable crop for millennia. From pollarded Willow trees that give an annual crop of fire wood and fencing, to using for medicinal purposes (the inner bark of Salix contains the rudimentary ingredients of aspirin to help you feel better from headache!) to carvings, and to use when making your own trapping triggers, bows, arrow shafts, and in basket making. Willow “withes” have been harvested by humanity for a long time.
How to Use Willow in the Landscape
Today, a great place to use Willow trees is in Rain Gardens. If you have a low spot in your landscape that collects water, plant Willow to help soak up the runoff. Willows are fast growing and are extremely comfortable in wet areas, creek banks, and sites that can be irrigated during dry spells. (Just don’t plant them too close to your house, as their roots will aggressively seek water! You won’t want them in your sewer lines.)
Use Weeping Willows near ponds to create an incredible view from your porch. The bright green foliage that emerges in early spring is so pretty reflected in the water. They look like waterfalls of delicate foliage that shift and sway in every breeze.
If you live on a slope, plant Willows to help stabilize your soil and control erosion. If you need privacy, Hybrid Willows are very useful for screening because they are dense and super-fast growing.
Grow Willows in full sun for best results. They’ll give you a romantic, dappled shade. The Weeping Willows can be limbed up so you can walk underneath them. You’ll want to include a hammock or chaise underneath, so you can read and relax nearby. What a cool outdoor experience to gift yourself and the people you love!
Easy to Grow
Willows are quite adaptable to many soil conditions. They transplant readily, are easy to care for, and offer rewarding results, even for the beginner gardener.
Willows can actually handle a bit of drought once they are established (although you may see some dropped leaves.) If you do, give it supplemental watering.
Some people do those funky “pollard” pruning cuts by cutting it off all the branches at the same level. This is an ancient woodland management technique and was critical to help grow and gather free firewood for cold winters in Europe and by the early American settlers.
Willows grow so fast the new growth will hide any evidence of pruning by year’s end. If you are homesteading, consider using Willows as a readily available source of renewable energy.
The unique twisting branch shape of the Corkscrew, or the graceful branches of the Weeping Willow make an awesome focal point. Use the Flame Willow along a fence to give privacy and spectacular winter interest with its bright colored stems. French Pussy Willows develop those decorative catkins in early spring. Harvest branches and use in spring container gardens or bouquets. Don’t be surprised if your Willow branches take root!