Pussy-willow, American Pussy-willow

Salix discolor

Family: Salicaceae (sal-i-KAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Salix (SAL-iks) (Info)
Species: discolor (DIS-kol-or) (Info)
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Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

Flowers are good for drying and preserving

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade



Bloom Color:


Dark Purple/Black


Bloom Time:

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer




Provides winter interest

Other details:

This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From woody stem cuttings

From softwood cuttings

From semi-hardwood cuttings

From hardwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Dothan, Alabama

Pueblo, Colorado

Stamford, Connecticut

Ringgold, Georgia

Montpelier, Idaho

Lisle, Illinois

Litchfield, Maine

Dundalk, Maryland

Attleboro, Massachusetts

Taunton, Massachusetts

Redford, Michigan

Kasota, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Bucyrus, Ohio

Cleveland, Ohio

New Vienna, Ohio

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Solon, Ohio

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Kempton, Pennsylvania

Wakefield, Rhode Island

Conway, South Carolina

Knoxville, Tennessee

Wytheville, Virginia

Sheridan, Wyoming

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Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 26, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

I have only really seen one specimen in the Northern Illinois Collection at Morton Arboretum and one planted in the natural garden on Hawk Mountain in se PA that is the American Pussy Willow. I have seen lots of the European Pussy or Goat Willow (Salix caprea) planted around in landscapes, that is similar. I have not seen any wild specimens in the upper Midwest or in the Mid-Atlantic myself. It has a large native range over southern Canada and the northern USA. It is fast growing of about 3 to 6 feet/year and lives less than 50 years.It should be planted into native, naturalistic landscapes so it is represented.


On Mar 10, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A great plant to encounter in the wild in late winter/early spring when the catkins are on display. The males are much showier than the females.

An inferior choice for a landscape situation, because it needs to be cut to the ground annually to keep the flowers at eye level, and to keep it from turning into a tree. Also, it's highly prone to a canker disease in North America, to which many other willows are resistant.

A much showier and easier plant is rose-gold pussy willow, Salix gracilistyla---not the widely hyped cultivar 'Melanostachys', but any male selection of the plain species, which covers its branches with big silver-pink catkins in mid-January. It's a shrub that won't get much over 10' tall even if you don't prune it. It's also resistant to the cank... read more


On Mar 4, 2013, beachwoman from South Kingstown, RI (Zone 5b) wrote:

February in Massachusetts can be quite bleak. Once a sunny day comes along, I snip some new stems from our pussy willow and bring them inside (along with some forsythia) to cheer us all up! Once catkins appear, I remove most stems from the water for us to enjoy. The remainder stay in water, rooting rather quickly, ready to be planted by friends and family in late March. This experience delighted my own two children and the first graders I taught as well. The pussy willows always popped! I found this poem to match their experience,
"Pussy willow soft and gray, made her first spring call today. It was soooo cold, she wore her furs! Pretty pussy willow!"


On May 3, 2010, jlt77 from Montpelier, ID wrote:

We have two very large PW plants in our yard, over 10 feet high. They already have their gray catskins and are turning green and yellow, getting ready to bloom. My mother wants some starts from ours but I'm not sure how to go about that. Could anyone tell me, in detail how and when to cut a start from a PW tree?


On Jul 17, 2008, 2hot2plow from Garden Grove, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

When my son was a little boy, we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, where pussy willows grow wild in the woods. He called them Pussy Pillows. I think that's rather logical! Now, I live in Southern California, just received a probably one-year cutting, going into the ground today. Keeping fingers crossed it will grow in my sandy soil with 24-hour per day sun. Since it's a willow, know it needs ample water. Will post pos or neg.


On May 2, 2008, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

Would be decent if I had the room, but it was too greedy and took over everything. I cut it down before it got too big.


On Sep 11, 2007, rhondarp from Nacogdoches, TX wrote:

I have recently purchased a pussy willow/salix discolor. I would like to see either a full grown photo or at least one that is more than a few years old to better know where to place it in my landscape. Any info would be welcomed!


On Jun 18, 2007, Motozappa from Stamford, CT wrote:

A few notes on Salix discolor - Pussy Willow

They are small weak wooded trees which can be a danger!

In order for them to get the fuzzy catkins they should be
pruned yearly after flowering in the early spring. If they do
not flower prune them early also!

When you buy these as a dried flower or if you cut them
yourself, do not put them in water or they will continue to
grow & lose the dried fussy catkins you desire most.


On Sep 4, 2006, isabella from Taunton, MA wrote:

My pussy willow grew out of the rootstock of a girards azalea. Four years ago my azalea put out what I thought was water sprout, and I cut it off. second year I let it grow and prunned it in the fall. Third and fourth years I just let it grow, and this spring I got rewarded with the grey catkins. This fall the PW is nearly 9 feet tall. The plant is attrative and fast growing. The obvious attraction are the grey catkins in early spring. For people coming out of winter any sign of spring coming is a welcome sight.


On Jul 23, 2005, StarGazey26 from (Zone 10a) wrote:

I bought this plant, last spring 2004, bare root, at Wal Mart, it only had one twig and was about 6 inches.. Now it is almost as tall as my two story house with 3 branches, it has been growing like crazy, and i havent fertalized it at all. Last year it had a lot of spider mites, so watch out for them! Other than that, it is a nice plant, well tree. :O)


On Sep 5, 2004, lego_brickster from Lawrenceville, PA (Zone 5b) wrote:

Our local nursery has a maturing specimen of this shrub/tree, perhaps 20' or more tall. They were giving out cuttings last year, and we took two, but only one of them rooted.
We used a well draining mix. According to our nursery, only the current season's growth is suitable for making cuttings. Any branch that has turned brown and woody is not likely to do well. Cuttings should only be taken from the softwood. Also, the twisting branches that hold all the catkins do not seem to root well either.

Our biggest problem with propagating this willow is the deep taproot that it sends out. The plant immediately started showing severe signs of stress when the root hit the bottom of the pot. (Loss of leaves and color.) It rebounded quickly when planted in the ground. I t... read more


On Jul 9, 2003, Fritaly from Cleveland, OH wrote:

I think this is the one in our back yard- didn't realize it was a pussy willow till I saw the fuzzy branches! The tree branches out very close to the bottom- many branches, hardly a trunk. The branches look quite random too.
I gave my mother two clippings and not a single one took.
We used to have on there before we got a pool... of course it and many other trees were removed to make room. Now she wants it back, and it won't cooperate. Perhaps someone could help? They did have to survive a 2 hour car ride in a plastic cup w/ water, with a clipping of crab apple blooms as well.