Weeping willow trees are graceful, large trees, typically found growing near a river or stream. There are several types of weeping willow tree but the most common are the babylon weeping willow, Salix babylonica, and the golden weeping willow, Salix x sepulcralis var. chrysocoma, which is a hybrid of Salix babylonica and our native white willow, Salix alba. Dwarf weeping willow trees include Salix integra ‘Pendula’ and Salix caprea ‘Pendula’, also known as pussy willow.
Weeping willows are so-called for their graceful and slender, arching habit, although some suggest ‘weeping’ refers to the way raindrops fall from their branches. Most species have delicate, narrow, light green leaves, which turn a beautiful shade of yellow in autumn. In spring, fluffy catkins appear on bare branches.
They do best in moist conditions are are perfect for growing near water. Weeping willows are fast growing and can reach a height and spread of over 15m over 50 years, so are suitable for large gardens only.
How to grow a weeping willow
Grow weeping willow in moist soil in full sun to partial shade. Water well until it becomes established.
Where to grow weeping willow
Grow weeping willow near a large pond or stream, or as a focal point in a large lawn. Ensure your soil is moist enough to provide the optimum conditions – it will lack vigour in dry soils.
How to plant weeping willow
Plant weeping willow as you would any tree.
- Dig a square hole and soften the edges with a garden fork
- Check the depth of the hole before planting – look for a soil ‘tide mark’ on bare-root trees and ensure the top of the rootball sits level with the soil for pot-grown trees
- When you’re happy with the depth, fill the hole with soil and firm gently
- Add a stake, fixing it with a tree tie, to prevent root rock, and water well. Keep the stake in place for around two years
How to care for a weeping willow
Weeping willow trees need very little care. There’s very little need to prune willow trees, although you may consider removing damaged and crossing branches in the first couple of years.
Advice on buying a weeping willow
- Bear in mind that weeping willows can grow very big, so make sure your garden is big enough for it to grow
- Look at specialist nurseries for a wider choice of cultivars
- Check trees for signs of damage or disease before planting
Where to buy weeping willow trees
Weeping willow varieties to grow
Salix babylonica – the classic weeping willow. Height x Spread: 12m x 8m over 50 years.
Salix x sepulcralis var. chrysocoma – the golden weeping willow has golden yellow young leaves that mature to fresh green. H x S: 12m x 8m over 50 years.
Salix integra ‘Pendula’ – this dwarf weeping willow has narrow, slightly twisted, fresh green leaves. A grafted tree, it won’t grow taller than 1.5m and is suitable for small gardens and even pots. H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m.