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Should I Plant a Weeping Willow?

Weeping Willow

Should I Plant a Weeping Willow?

Ask any gardener or landscaper this question and you’ll get some varied responses. These beautiful trees bring out strong opinions in people!

Since ancient times, Weeping Willows have been revered. Their flowing forms and fluttering, silver-backed leaves have inspired poetry, music, and art. Many of us today have fond childhood memories of a certain neighborhood Weeping Willow—scaling its branches that were made for climbing and holding secret meetings in the space inside its big, protective domed canopy.

Others who have had a bad experience with Willows will tell you to plant something else. They’re messy trees, they’ll say, or they’ll damage your underground pipes. So what’s fact and what’s fiction? Here are some commonly held assumptions about Weeping Willows, and what our experience has led us to believe is the truth:

Weeping Willows grow fast. Indeed they do. These are the fastest-growing trees we sell at Bower & Branch™. You can expect 3 to 4 feet of growth each year (older trees will slow down a bit). In a rainy year, you may get more. No tree will give you quicker privacy, and while they’re not evergreen, they are the “first to leaf and last to drop,” so they’ll have foliage for a large part of the year—when you’re more likely to be outside.

Weeping Willows are invasive. This one’s false. They don’t reseed (ours are male), and they don’t send up suckers in your neighbor’s yard.

Weeping Willows “seek” water. They do love water, but they can’t “sense” where it is. They won’t, for instance, tunnel under the driveway, “knowing” that there’s a pond on the other side. Their roots will grow faster and thicker where they happen to encounter wet soil. Because they love water, they’re great for planting in low areas that stay soggy. Their roots can soak up all that extra water and make a swampy part of the yard usable again.

Weeping Willow roots invade and clog underground pipes. Modern houses are plumbed with PVC, which rarely leaks, so this scenario is less likely than it once was, when clay, concrete, or metal pipes were the norm. They can’t “drill into” sound pipes. Still, Weeping Willows can interfere with underground lines and should be planted at least 50 feet away from any underground water, gas, sewage, or electrical lines. Don’t plant this tree within 50 feet of your neighbors’ utilities, either—remember that roots don’t abide by our artificial boundaries.

Weeping Willows are messy. They do drop a fair amount of twigs. You’ll be picking them up every time you mow, though many feel this is a small price to pay for the unique beauty of this specimen tree. They do lose larger limbs once in a while, also. Don’t plant this tree near the pool or next to the house. A large, open suburban lot may suit this plant well, and a house in the country is ideal. If you can site it by a pond, so much the better. It will look natural there and have all the moisture it wants (though it will grow in drier soil, too).

Weeping Willows have a lot of disease and insect problems. They do have a longer list than most trees. A disease called black canker can be particularly troublesome, and gypsy moths love willows. On the other hand, willows are also host trees to three pretty fabulous butterflies: the Mourning Cloak, Red-Spotted Purple, and Viceroy!

Weeping Willows are short-lived. Compared to many other trees, they are. You may get only 20 or 30 years out of a tree, or less, though with space to grow, abundant water, and a little luck, you could very well get 50 or more. The national champion, in Michigan, has a trunk 8½ feet thick. Now Willows grow fast, but that’s no youngster! If you like the idea of a quick screen, but want to plan long-term, you might think about planting a row of Weeping Willows in front of or behind a row of slower-growing, but longer-lived trees, like Oak. When the Oaks are big enough to do the job, the Willows can be removed.

No one will argue that Weeping Willows aren’t gorgeous, fast-growing, and kid-friendly. They might be tops in all these categories! But they aren’t for everyone. These aren’t trees for the small property, and they may not be in it for the long haul.

But when they’re well-sited and thriving? Perfection.

Some of our favorite Willow Trees:

14 Comments

  • Pat Rubio says:

    I have a weeping willow that you planted for me 3 years ago and I absolutely love it. However, I continuously have a problem with the leaves turning yellow and dropping. I have given it 20-20-20 fertilizer just 1 week ago, plus a dose of iron last month and I have been trying to give it lots of water by leaving the hose running lightly at it’s roots. So far to no avail. Can you help me please??

  • Wendi-Jo - Grow Team Member says:

    Hello Pat!

    We love that you love your Tree =)

    I spoke with our Growers about your Tree and this is what they had to say:

    Willows are heavy feeders – they are hungry hungry hungry! Our product – Elements Fertilizer – is perfect for this because it empowers the Tree to communicate with the surrounding soil and is therefore able to tell the soil what it needs to feed itself! For your Tree, as it is larger, you may want to use at least two bags to ensure your Tree is getting what it needs!

    If you have any other concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know! Or, if you’d like to speak directly with one of our Growers, we can set that up!

    Thanks!

  • Mike plake says:

    Can their roots clog ur pipe to the point you can’t get a snake through it?

  • Grower Joey says:

    Hi Mike!

    Thank you for your question!

    The quick answer is NO, the Weeping Willow roots will not clog your pipe.

    Trees and other plants cannot sense water sources. Some Trees and Plants can grow well in high water conditions, while some cannot. The Weeping Willow is one of those that can withstand very moist soils.

    Generally, the stories you hear of Willows growing into septic systems or pipes are just Old Wives Tales. In fact, roots actually stop growing when they reach a water source – then begin again when that source dries up. This growth of roots is not at all determined by where the water is, roots cannot sense water if not in contact with water.

    Please read through our learn Post on ‘Should I Plant a Weeping Willow?” and if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

  • Indre says:

    We have a lot of deer that have made their home in the wetlands near us. Do deer destroy willow trees? We would like to plant a willow near the wetter part of our yard, but are wary of the deer.

  • Wendi-Jo says:

    Indre – Great question!

    While Willow Trees are not usually a favorite for deer, they can still be a problem for young Willow Trees. Not so much from eating or browsing on the foliage though (Willows can grow through this quite well actually).

    The real challenge is that the bark on Willow Trees produce an aspirin like chemical that provide relief for the deer when new antlers are forming as they become very itchy. They seem to be attracted to the Willow for this reason.

    Our Growers combat this on the Nursery regularly, each Fall season in particular. This is why Bower & Branch recommends Plantskydd Deer Repellent for all our Trees and other products. Easy to apply, it provides protection from buck rub as well as browsing.

    Apply Plantskydd in the Fall, at the start of the season for buck rub. For best results, dip a rag into the Plantskydd and attach the rag directly to the Willow Tree. Repeat this effort about every three to four weeks for assurance, but many times on the Nursery we require only one application.

    I can assist you with ordering this product directly from us or you can visit one of our Certified Garden Centers near you if available. Please click HERE to find a Bower & Branch retailer in your area!

    If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

  • John Wittwer says:

    I live in N San Diego county 6 miles from coast in a single story home. I wanted to put one in my front yard but it may be to small. The yard is 20 X 28, would the tree get too big? How tall do they get? Any other tree suggestions that are colorful and lose their leaves?

  • Wendi-Jo says:

    Hello John!

    Thank you for contacting Bower & Branch!

    I am sorry to say that the Weeping Willow is going to be a bit too big for your yard. When mature, the Willow can be about 50′ tall and 40′ wide and they are considered to be a very fast grower (can add over 3′ of growth a year!).

    There are other deciduous Trees that may fit the bill though!

    The Mimosa Tree (a.k.a. Silk Tree) is a gorgeous specimen with its delicate green leaves and feathery pink flowers that appear during the Summer.

    Another fantastic option would be the White Fringetree – this Tree has green leaves that turn a golden yellow in the Fall and its fluffy white flowers add a delicious fragrance to your landscape.

    The Tuscarora Crape Myrtle will provide you with a beautiful pop of deep pink color during the Summer months followed by a blazing Fall show of red and orange.

    If you’d like a few more suggestions, you can reach out to us via our Live Chat on our website, email us at customercare@bowerandbranch.com or give us a call at 866-873-3888.

    Thank you & enjoy your day!

  • Ryan Bentley says:

    Hi. I live off the coast of Savannah, Ga. I just bought a house and planted a Willow about 30′ from the house. I didn’t do any research on Willow trees. Big dummy. I don’t want to cut it down because I love how big it has become and we desperately need a shade tree but all the stories I am reading about Willows are real scary. My house was built in 1989, so all the plumbing is pvc, I’m sure. Just wanted your thoughts, thanks!

  • Wendi-Jo says:

    Hello Ryan,

    Thank you for your question – we understand your concern, however, our Growers feel that you are good to go =)

    As you believe your home has PVC plumbing and it most likely has a solid, concrete foundation, our Growers don’t believe you have anything to be concerned with.

    Please continue to enjoy your Willow as it grows! They are most definitely a beautiful Tree as they mature!

    Let us know if you’ve got any other questions, you can reach us via our Live Chat on the site, emailing us at customercare@bowerandbranch.com or calling us at 866-873-3888.

    Thank you!

  • Catherine Toppin says:

    Our Willow has some lower limbs that we would like to trim. When is the best time of year to do this? Also, how far back can you trim the branch? It is a branch coming off one of the lower branches.

  • Wendi-Jo says:

    Hello Catherine,

    Thank you for reaching out!

    The best time for you to prune your Willow Tree would be right now actually =)

    When it comes to how far back to prune, you do not want to prune the branch flush against the other branch. You want to leave the branch collar attached. The branch collar refers to the ‘bump’ at the base of the branch that you are pruning – it is about the first quarter of an inch of the branch. The branch collar is a part of the of the main Tree, so if you cut the branch collar, you are wounding the Tree itself which can leave your Tree vulnerable to disease and pests.

    If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

    Thank you and good luck!

  • Sean says:

    Is there a particular time of year the tree should be put in the ground? Very interested in adding a second willow to the rear of my property near my creek, the first one is getting up there in age.

  • Wendi-Jo says:

    Hello Sean,

    Thank you for contacting Bower & Branch!

    The absolute best time to plant a Tree is in the Fall – at that time, the soil temperature is still warm enough that it will encourage root growth well into the start of Winter. This will give your Tree a head start for the Spring growing season. It will also help better prepare your Tree for the intense heat that usually comes with Summer.

    Let us know if you have any other questions!

    Thank you & happy planting =)

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