How to Grow Goat Willow Trees

A dense, low-growing ground cover option

Goat willow tree with tall upward-growing branches in middle of sandy pathway

The Spruce / K. Dave

The Goat Willow (Salix caprea), is a hardy, fast-growing deciduous tree that can be an attractive addition to a spacious garden in cooler climates. They aren't too big, growing up to ten meters high, and are often shaped into a large rounded shrub.

They have oval-shaped leaves, rather than the long, thin variety usually seen on Willow species, and their soft, silvery catkins are fantastic pollinators that are attractive to bees.

They're one of two species commonly referred to as Pussy Willow and can be easily confused with the North American Pussy Willow (Salix discolor).

Although they're similar, the Salix Caprea is generally referred to as the European Pussy Willow, where it's a native species, and its larger catkins develop into long, attractive flowers.

The male variety of this plant is a preferred choice for ornamental purposes and adds a lot of interest in winter and early spring.

The woolly catkins that emerge before winter are larger and have a pretty pink-silver shade that turns yellow as they ripen. They're more eye-catching than the smaller green variety found on female trees.

Botanical Name Salix caprea
Common Name Goat Willow, Pussy Willow, Great Sallow, European Pussy Willow
Plant Type Deciduous shrub or tree
Mature Size Up to 10 meters
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Soil Type Tolerates a variety, but must be well-drained
Soil pH Preference for neutral or alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow/Green
Hardiness Zones 4 to 8
Native Area Europe and Asia

How to Grow Goat Willow Trees

Goat Willow Trees are a sun-loving species, and they prefer wet soils. They often grow in wetlands and bogs. If you have a garden that is prone to becoming water-logged, your Pussy Willow can help to drink up some of the excess moisture.

This tree has long, deep and creeping roots. You'll need to be mindful about where you plant them so that, over time, they don't interfere with things like water lines.

Goat willow tree branch with oval leaves closeup

The Spruce / K. Dave

Goat willow tree with branches growing upwards against blue sky

The Spruce / K. Dave

Catkins of the Goat Willow Tree
Aconcagua / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


This tree prefers to receive plenty of sun, although it can tolerate a partial shade position.


Goat Willow Trees aren't particularly fussy when it comes to soil types, although they thrive in a rich and moist variety. Unlike most plants, they prefer soil that isn't well-drained.

They can tolerate dry and sandy conditions too, although mulching around the base of the tree can be beneficial.


Goat Willow Trees are water lovers. They thrive in areas that have moist, even wet conditions. These trees do well in wetlands and bogs and are a great choice for gardens that have poor drainage.

Although they're relatively drought-tolerant too, in dry conditions their growth can be stunted.

Temperature and Humidity

These trees grow well in a temperate, mild climate and can handle cold winters too. In very hot regions, the growth rate is usually considerably slower.

Extreme and prolonged freezing conditions can cause branches to weaken and crack.


Unless you're growing your Goat Willow in a container, you won't need to fertilize the tree. Its spreading roots help it to find the nourishment it needs.

Propagating Goat Willow Trees

It's relatively easy to grow new plants from cuttings with this species. Make sure you select one from a new, reasonably thick branch that has at least a couple of buds higher up on the cutting.

They usually root without too much trouble directly into moist ground when the weather is mild enough. Make sure you water the cutting regularly and dipping it in rooting hormone before planting can help.

You can also place the cutting into a glass of water, and roots should begin to form within a few weeks.


Goat Willow can be coppiced without any problem. Cutting them right back to a stump every few years can stimulate good regrowth and usually results in larger catkins and longer stems developing.

If you plan to trim the tree, make sure you do this after the blooming season. The catkins form on the previous season's branches, and you don't want to risk diminishing that years display.

Growing From Seeds

Goat Willow seeds need to be sown close to the soil surface, and it should be done in late spring or early summer. You'll only be able to plants seeds from your own tree if it's a female. Males don't produce any seeds.

They're only viable for a short period, so they should be sown immediately for the best chance of success, and the soil should be kept moist.

Once they have developed into seedlings, they grow quickly - even when the conditions aren't all that favorable.

Be mindful of where you plant Goat Willow. Because it tends to be greedy when it comes to moisture, it can make it difficult for other plants to thrive when it's positioned beside them. The sprawling root system can also disrupt other species and can even interfere with things like septic tanks and pipework.

Common Pests/Diseases

Although the tree is hardy, it's susceptible to several diseases including powdery mildew, twig and leaf blight, and leaf spot.

Aphids and caterpillars are drawn to the leaves on this tree too.

Article Sources
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  1. Salix Caprea. Missouri Botanical Garden.