White willow, Salix alba, features graceful stems and are great trees for wet soils. Get all the facts and information you need on this moisture retentive deciduous tree. This willow is often chosen because it gives a landscape a burst of fall color.
Growing the White Willow Tree
Salix alba grows in Zones 2-8 and has a weeping, rounded form. It will grow 75-100’h x 50-100’ wide. It is among the few large trees that will grow in wet places. It is also one of the first trees to leaf out in spring and one of the last to hold its leaves in fall. White willows have a fine texture and are a fast growing species that requires full sun.
The leaves will turn a bronzy yellow. Ice an wind break the weak wood and create almost constant litter under trees. The spreading, suckering root system can damage sewer and septic lines. It is at its best when planted so the branches can hang over ponds. It is a short-lived tree that requires a good deal of maintenance. It is NOT recommended for small lawns or for street plantings because of its size.
White Willow Care
Apply a 2-4” layer of organic mulch such as shredded bark or wood chips to help conserve moisture. Avoid injuring with garden tools and power equipment, which can provide entry points for diseases and insects. Prune in summer of fall, if needed, to avoid bleeding sap in spring.
Propagation is done by sowing seeds in place, or by taking softwood or hardwood cuttings at any time of year.
*Salix alba produces a chemical called Salicin of which aspirin (salicylic acid) is a chemical derivitive of.
Golden weeping willow ‘Tristis’ is the most common and perhaps hardiest cultivar. The stringy, pendulous branchlets are a bright straw yellow that is prominent in winter.
Pussy willow ( Salix caprea) is an erect tree growing to 15-25’. It has large male catkins that appear in March and early April. It is hardy in Zone 4.
Corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana) ‘tortuosa’ has contorted branches. It si reliably hardy in Zone 5.