How to Grow and Care for a Weeping Willow Tree

weeping willow

The Spruce / Erica Lang

The weeping willow tree is probably the best known of the weeping tree species, featuring lance-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall; rough, gray-colored bark; and gracefully arching stems that dangle delicately and shiver in the breeze. Weeping willows are fast-growing trees that do best with moist climates, full sun exposure, acidic to alkaline soil, and temperatures between minus 20 degrees and 80 degrees. When the tree blooms in late winter or spring, yellow catkins (flowers) appear.

Common Name Weeping willow
Botanical Name Salix babylonica
Family Salicaceae
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 35–50 ft. tall, 5–50 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Bloom Time Winter, Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 4–10 (USDA)
Native Area Asia

Click Play to Learn How to Grow a Weeping Willow Tree

Weeping Willow Care

  • Plant weeping willows in the fall to let roots establish before warmer weather.
  • Choose a large spot that allows for the tree's mature size of 50 feet in height and width.
  • Plant in an area with consistently moist soil.
  • Opt for areas with full sun in colder regions or partial shade in warmer regions.
  • Avoid planting weeping willows where falling branches can cause damage or injury.
  • Fertilize (optional) to encourage fuller growth.


Weeping willows should not be planted near sewer drains, septic systems, or water lines: Their aggressive root systems can stretch wider than the tree is tall. Seeking the nearest source of water, the roots are attracted to nutrients around septic systems and oxygen in drainage lines.

closeup of weeping willow
The Spruce / Erica Lang
weeping willow
The Spruce / Erica Lang


Weeping willows grow best with full sun exposure in colder regions, while partial shade is better in the southern end of their hardiness range. These trees need at least four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.


This tree is tolerant of a wide variety of well-draining soils and soil pH levels (4.5-8.0). Although it prefers moist, slightly acidic soil, it grows well in alkaline, loamy, rich, sandy, and clay soils. If your soil is too alkaline, add some organic matter to lower the pH. 


Willows like standing water. Their long, far-reaching root systems can be helpful in clearing up puddle- and flood-prone areas of a landscape. They also like to grow near ponds, streams, and lakes.

Temperature and Humidity

Weeping willows have some drought tolerance and can handle the winter cold. The tree can also tolerate summer desert heat as long as greenery and water are not too far away.


A mature weeping willow does not require fertilizer if it is planted in rich soil, its leaves are a healthy green, or nearby lawns are fertilized regularly. However, you can supply fertilizer to support lush growth.

Perform a soil test before adding any soil amendments, with the exception of slow release organic fertilizers, such as mulch.

Types of Weeping Willows

There are several excellent varieties of weeping willow, including:

  • Golden weeping willow (S. alba 'Tristis'): This variety has green leaves that turn golden in fall, adding autumn interest.
  • Wisconsin weeping willow (Salix x pendulina): This hybrid grows quickly to reach sizes between 30 and 40 feet tall and wide.
  • Thurlow weeping willow (Salix x pendulina 'Elegantissima'): This pyramidal weeping willow has longer, pendulous branches.


While the tree is young, prune it so that there is only one central leader. It should also be trained to have wide branch crotches to help prevent breakage, as the tree is somewhat brittle and can be susceptible to wind damage.

It's best to prune a weeping willow in February or March, snipping back all of its branches. This will trigger the sprouting of new branches and give the tree more vigor.

Propagating Weeping Willows

Weeping willows can be propagated to grow new specimens. The best method is to propagate via hardwood cuttings. This should be done in the fall or winter so the root system can become established before hot temperatures return in late spring. Here's how:

  1. Take cuttings from the base of a mature tree when the tree is dormant in the fall or winter, after the leaves have fallen in autumn and temperatures are consistently below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The cuttings should be all hardwood with no soft tissue and at least 2 feet long.
  2. Make a straight cut at the base of the cutting below a bud, then make a second diagonal cut at around 9 inches above a bud (you'll get two cuttings out of one piece).
  3. Place cuttings directly into the soil with the straight cut down, about 4 inches deep in the ground. Mark the location well. A more controlled way of rooting the cuttings is to plant them in pots filled with compost, also 4 inches deep. Dipping them in rooting hormone is optional; willow often roots on its own.
  4. Keep the soil evenly moist. You should see new shoots in the spring. Let the saplings develop strong roots for at least one growing season before transplanting.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Weeping willows can be struck by several pests, including the gypsy moth, aphids, and borers. These insects are difficult to control—especially on large trees—but targeted spraying with pesticide can help. Young weeping willows are also tempting to deer, elk, and rabbits; place a collar around young trees to protect them from wildlife.

This tree may be affected by several ailments and diseases, including willow scab, crown gall, willow blight, fungi, cankers, leaf spot, tar spot, powdery mildew, rust, and root rot. Symptoms include branch or twig dieback and defoliation, but in some cases, the disease can kill the tree. To minimize problems, provide adequate water to keep the tree healthy, since healthy trees are better able to fend off disease. Rake up and remove leaf litter promptly, to control the spreading of disease. If these methods do not work, fungicides may be effective.

How to Get Weeping Willow to Bloom

Bloom Months

Your weeping willow tree will bloom in the spring, often between April and May. Some trees may bloom as early as February in the warmer southern regions of its growing zones.

How Long Does Weeping Willow Bloom?

The blooms on weeping willow trees typically last for a few weeks at a time.

What Do Weeping Willow Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Weeping willows produce catkins, or clusters of flowers that dangle from the tree's delicate stems. These catkins contain small, vibrant yellow flowers that have no fragrance.

Caring for Weeping Willow After It Blooms

Weeping willows do not require additional care to stay healthy after blooming, though debris like leaves and flowers from the tree may fall and become a bit messy. Gardeners may need to clean up these areas to maintain their landscape or mow grass below the tree.

Common Problems With Weeping Willows

Weeping willows are generally easy trees to care for, though they can experience a few growing problems. Issues are commonly related to improper drainage or exposure to sunlight, so planting this tree in the right area is essential.

Leaves Turning Yellow

If the leaves on your weeping willow tree are turning yellow, the tree likely is receiving too much or too little water. If your willow is planted in a spot with plenty of water—like flood areas or near a lake or pond—the tree may be overwatered. Installing a supplemental drainage system nearby can be beneficial. If the tree is not located near water and rainfall is not sufficient, watering the tree manually each week can help it grow healthier.

Brown or Crispy Leaves

Similar to yellowed leaves, weeping willows with brown or crispy leaves are typically affected by watering issues. In this case, the trees generally need more water after being exposed to too much sunlight or hot temperatures. Increase the tree's watering schedule (especially during the summer months) if a natural water source is not readily available.

  • Are weeping willow roots invasive?

    Weeping willows are a species with roots that can cause major problems. The roots are not invasive in the sense of damaging other plants, but they aggressively grow towards sources of water—including sewers and septic systems—potentially reaching farther than the tree's height.

  • Do all weeping willows have flowers?

    Weeping willows are dioecious trees; they are either male or female, and both types have catkins that contain the flowers.

  • What is the difference between a willow and a weeping willow?

    The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is one of the 400 species in the Salix genus containing willow trees. Its distinctive feature is the drooping branches.

  • How long can weeping willow trees live?

    Weeping willows are fast-growing trees, adding up to 10 feet per year when young, but their average lifespan is a relatively short 30 years.

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  1. SALIX BABYLONICA: WEEPING WILLOW. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.