Weeping Willow Tree Salix babylonica

The weeping willow tree makes a lovely specimen in a large lawn; it casts a light shade which will not hinder the growth of grass, but Salix babylonica really shines when planted by water.

Buy Weeping Willows at Low Prices

There is no more attention-getting landscape plant than a weeping tree.  The pendulous branches contribute grace and charm to any planting, and, among these landscape stars, there is not one greater than the willow.

Several trees of the Salix group display this growth habit.  Of these, S. babylonica is the best known and most widely grown.  This is the staggeringly beautiful Babylon weeping willow.

Willow tree branches dipping into water.Weeping willow leaves.

When spoken aloud, even its botanical name has a melodious sound. 

Salix babylonica

It was dubbed this by an 18th century Swedish botanist who believed the species had originated in the Middle East.  It was later discovered to be native to China, but the name stuck, and I, for one, am glad.  This romantic and somewhat dramatic name suits it.

When grown in full sun, which it prefers, S. babylonica may be expected to reach a height of 25-40 feet with a similar spread.  Its branching structure is actually upright.  It is the young, auburn, whip-like stems which grow from the upright main branches that sweep the ground and create the desirable weeping effect.  These are lined with narrow, pointed, lance-shaped leaves.

The deciduous foliage is lustrous green on top with a grayish reverse.  The serrated leaves turn yellow before dropping in late fall.

Salix babylonica is one of the first deciduous trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to strip naked in fall.

Weeping Willow Tree Care

A weeping willow growing in the parking lot of a big box store in central Florida.

Weeping willow trees (all species) prefer to be planted on a light, constantly moist soil.  As the picture above proves, they can also grow and perform quite well on dry soil.

The most important thing to remember when planting a weeping willow is this: 

Its roots will travel long distances in search of water.

Plant it far away from your septic system or any other underground pipes you don’t want clogged.

Also, avoid planting a weeping willow on nematode infested soil.  Root knot nematodes have been known to stunt the root system of this species, making the tree vulnerable to toppling in high winds.

No Room for a Big Willow – Grow a Bonsai!

Weeping Pussy Willow Bonsai Tree (Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’)Weeping Willow Bonsai Tree (Salix repens ‘Boyd’s Pendula’)Weeping Pussy Willow Bonsai Tree (Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’)

Choose the Best Variety for Your Yard

Most Cold Hardy Weeping Willow – Niobe GoldWillow, Weeping PussyCorkscrew Willow

The species is hardy from USDA zone 6-8.  The golden weeping willow, Salix alba ‘Tristis’, ‘Chrysocoma’, ‘Britzensis’, and ‘Niobe Gold’ are all hardy from zones 4-9. ‘Niobe Gold’ is so named because of its highly ornamental, bright yellow new stems.

Salix matsudana, ‘Tortuosa’, the popular corkscrew willow tree, is hardy in zones 4-8.

The petite weeping pussy willow tree, Salix caprea ‘Pendula’ is also cold hardy in zones 4-8.

Pruning a Weeping Willow Tree

Dwarf Blue Leaf Arctic WillowWillow Tree, DappledFlame Willow

Pruning Tip:

Once the tree has at least 3 sets of scaffold branches, remove the first set to raise the canopy enough to allow the cascading new branches to grow naturally.

When:  Winter

How: Train young weeping willow trees to a strong, tall central leader.  Do this by removing any upright shoots that compete with the shoot you have selected to be the trunk.

As the tree grows, select evenly spaced, strong scaffold branches. These should spiral around the trunk.  Remove any excess branches growing between your scaffolds.  Each set of scaffolds should be 2-3 feet above the previous set.

Willows grow quickly, so you will probably be selecting at least one set of scaffold branches each season.  Do this until you have at least 4 sets of scaffold branches.

Thereafter, remove dead or damaged branches, trunk sprouts, and twigs that hang too low.  The lowest branch tips should just touch the ground.

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