Photo by Melody

Salix - How to Grow Willow Trees

By Mitch Fitzgerald (MitchFNovember 25, 2008

There is little that is more romantic than the couple together in a little boat on the edge of a pond under a massive weeping willow. But how do you get that little whip you bought to grow into the big tree you long for? Look no farther--here are your answers.

Gardening picturePeople love them, people hate them. Some try to kill them and never can and others try to grow them and never can. Only the simple, and yet classic, willow can stir such strong emotions in hearts and minds of gardeners everywhere. From the newest in willows with white and pink on the leaves to the old fashioned green weeping willow, there is a willow that will fit into your garden - if you have the right place for them to live.

Life Span

Over all, willows are fast growers and thus have very weak wood. This means with every storm they are going to be breaking in the wind with from a few twigs to major branches breaking off. They are not, on the whole, long lived. With the exception of a few wonderful examples, they are not going to be in your garden for more than 30 years. This is the bad news. Even given all the perfect places, perfect ground and soil, they are not going to be there forever in your garden.


Salix love rich soil. They love to live in the rich soil on the sides of rivers and streams gathering all the rich nutrients from the soil washed down with the water. They will thrive in soil with lots of compost and love to be fed. The down side is, this means they will grow faster and thus be more brittle for the wind to break. If the soil is not rich to some extent, they will not thrive and, if they live, they will be stunted and never look like a healthy plant.


This is simple. We all know that willows love the water but what about dry areas? I had never thought about willows growing in dry areas until I took a trip to New Mexico and saw this tree growing in the desert. So, being me, I asked and was told they are very short lived and only grow where you can find water close to the soil line. Thus, even in the desert, they are living in a water zone and will die off when the water disappears. There are some wonderful huge trees grown in gardens in arid areas that are watered by faithful gardeners. So can they go without water? Sure they can. They will stay there and they will live for a while but they will have die-back and even death if they go without water for too long.

So why grow them?

Why grow this tree that is so short lived and needs water in a world where there is less and less water? Why plant a tree that will be gone in twenty to thirty years with some exceptions? Simple, really. It is the look the willow gives and the things that can be made from the branches that brings people back to planting this tree in their yards and gardens. Is this a tree I would plant? Not in my garden, but I stand in awe of a well grown willow spreading it's branches over a pond. The romance is still there and if I ever owned a large pond I would be tempted to plant one - just for the few years it would give me that look that I long for.

 Thank you to htop for this image.

  About Mitch Fitzgerald  
Mitch FitzgeraldI am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.

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