salix / willow
While you may think of willow trees mostly as interesting-looking plants that sway in the wind, there are a lot of interesting facts about these trees you might not have realized. Willows have their own distinct appearance and special care needs. Even though you might be most familiar with weeping willows (Salix babylonica), this is not the only type of willow tree you might find. Few trees add more grace to the landscape than the Willow.
prairie cascade willow
Salix 'Prairie Cascade'
This introduction from Morden Research Station has the hardiness and glossy foliage of the laurel willow with the cascading habit and golden stem color of the weeping willow. A hardy weeping willow for northern areas, it prefers plentiful moisture.
Height: 35 - 45 ft
Spread: 30 - 40 ft
Fall Color: Gold
USDA Zone: 3 - 9
care and pruning:
The presence of a willow adds tremendous aesthetic presence to a landscape. They are a popular tree for their graceful appearance. They are tolerant of a wide variety of soil types from acidic to clay (alkaline) soils. They can be drought tolerant once established but prefer to grow near areas that have plentiful moisture.
Willow have a tendency to be a rather "shrubby" tree. They are prone to suckers developing from the root base and require some maintenance if they are to be a desirable yard tree.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to willow is their susceptibility to diseases. Although they are a resilient and fast growing tree we have found that they are very susceptible to canker on young wood. This means that they should be given special attention when they're young. Once they mature they are a relatively carefree tree.
Additionally they have a root system that is known to be quite invasive. It searches hard for water. These trees especially should not be planted near septic or sewer systems as the rich water available will soon be sought out by this tree and can result in some costly problems down the road.
The optimal pruning time for Willow trees is late summer and early fall once the leaves begin to change color. Willow are subject to consistent pruning and cleanup as they do break branches and shed dead material throughout the season.
For more on identifying old wood and new wood see our page on care of woody plants.