The weeping willow is probably the most well known of the weeping trees. It is great for use as a focal point and in areas that are moist. These specimens love water, so do not plant weeping willows near sewer or water lines. If you do, there may be problems.
The willow tree produces salicylic acid, which was the model for our modern aspirin.
- Latin Name: The botanical name for this tree is Salix babylonica. The Salix genus is part of the Salicaceae (willow) family.
- Common names: This species is the weeping willow.
- Preferred USDA hardiness zones: You can plant Salix babylonica in Zones 4 to 9a. Make sure to choose a variety that will work in your zone. If you are able to keep it well watered, it can also be grown in Zone 10.
- Size and shape: The weeping willow grows to a height and width of 35 to 50 feet on average, with a weeping shape.
- Exposure: This tree should be grown in full sun.
- Foliage/ flowers/ fruit: The leaves of Salix babylonica are 3 to 6 inches long and lance-shaped. They turn yellow in the fall before dropping. The yellow catkins appear in spring. They are inconspicuous. The fruit is a 1/2 inch brown capsule.
- Weeping willow trees work well in areas that are naturally quite moist.
- Since they love water, Salix babylonica should not be planted near sewer or water lines, or septic tanks, as they will naturally grow towards them and potentially break them.
- Weeping willow trees do tend to shed a lot of leaves and twigs, and the tree is brittle, so avoid planting them where falling branches can cause damage.
- The bark is reddish-brown during the winter.
- Plan on this as a relatively short-term tree—they live, on average, for about 30 years.
This tree grows best in moist soil that is well-draining. It is salt tolerant, making it a good choice along streets and sidewalks. It is also tolerant of a wide variety of soils and pHs.
Propagation of Salix babylonica is through cuttings.
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
Pests and Diseases
Common pests include the gypsy moth, caterpillars, scales, aphids, and borers.
This tree may be affected by willow scab, crown gall, willow blight, black canker, fungi, cankers, leaf spot, tar spot, powdery mildew, rust, and root rot.
Although Salix babylonica is the most common in landscapes, there are some related species you might consider:
- Golden weeping willow (S. alba 'Tristis') has golden twigs. It grows in Zones 3 through 10 to a height of 50 to 70 feet tall and wide. Its green leaves turn golden in fall, adding autumn interest.
- Wisconsin weeping willow (S. babylonica x S. pentachdra) grows quickly to 30 to 40 feet tall and wide. For a weeping willow with even longer pendulous branches, try the cultivar 'Elegantissima.' Both types grow in Zones 4 through 9.