Connected Sustainability | Weeping Willow
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Salix babylonica L.

Weeping Willow


How to Recognize Me

Native to China and best grown in the southern parts of the United States, weeping willow has a broad rounded crown of branches that weep to the ground. The bark is rough and gray. Narrow, lanceolate, finely-toothed flat leaves up to 6” long and 3/4” wide are light green above and gray-green beneath. Branchlets are typically green or brown, with fall color usually an undistinguished greenish-yellow. Cuttings of twigs or branches root easily in moist soil.

This dioecious tree can be a spectacular specimen at the edge of a pond or stream with its branches gracefully weeping down and touching the water. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in spring and last to drop leaves in Fall. However, it is often very difficult to site this tree in a residential landscape. It is rapid growing, but short-lived compared to many other trees. It is susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers. It also is visited by many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lacebugs and caterpillars. Branches may be damaged by ice and snow. Litter from leaves, twigs and branches may be a problem. Shallow roots may clog sewers or drains and make gardening underneath the trees difficult. The wood is weak and tends to crack. Pruning should be completed in late winter to early spring.


I Am Special to People

Willows have long been used for wickerwork and basketry. Before plastic was invented, willow wickerwork was used to make an array of containers. They have also been used to manufacture charcoal, cricket bats and made into a dye for tanning leather.

People have taken advantage of the medicinal properties of willow trees since as early as 400 B.C. when it was discovered that the bark was an effective way of treating fever and inflammation. The bark contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to the active ingredient in aspirin.

I Hold a Special Place In History

Over time, the tree has come to represents vitality, growth, rebirth and immortality. This symbolism stems from its ability to grow easily from cut branches. Nevertheless, the association between weeping willows and grief persisted throughout history, and were a common gravestone ornament by the 19th century.


The Facts

  • Height: 30’ to 40’
  • Spread: 30’ to 40’
  • Sun: full sun to part shade
  • Soil: medium to wet, well drained; avoid dry
  • Bloom Time: April to May
  • Bloom Description: silver green Flower: silvery green catkins on separate male and female trees Fruit: insignificant
  • Tolerate: deer, black walnut Suggested Use: rain garden, shade tree
Noted Trees