Common Name: weeping willow, white willow
Species: S. alba
Hardiness Zone: 2 to 8
Height: 50 to 100 ft
Width: 40 to 70 ft
White willow grows at a fast rate new growth can be upwards of 24" per year. It has yellowish-brown bark and loose, drooping branches holding narrow, finely-toothed leaves. This is a dioecious species, with flowering catkins appearing on separate male and female trees. Male catkins are 2” long and somewhat showy, having tiny flowers with yellowish anthers and two stamens. Female catkins are smaller and non-showy, with greenish flowers. Narrow, lanceolate, finely-toothed leaves are 4” long are gray-green above and white-silky beneath. Fall color is generally a pale yellow, but this species is most well-known for its "weeping" form and bright red winter twigs.
Where it grows:
The white willow can thrive in a range of soil pH conditions from acidic to alkaline, and it does well in varying moisture conditions. It will grow especially well near a consistent water source. This tree will grow a large round-shaped spreading canopy when in the open.
How it’s used:
White willow is generally not recommended as a residential landscape tree. It may be an acceptable tree for areas with moist soils along streams, ponds, or in low spots in the landscape where other shrubs or small trees may falter. Not recommended as a shade tree or street tree because of weak wood, insect/disease susceptibility, moisture-seeking roots, and litter potential.
The white willow provides a food source for rabbits, beaver, and larger game species such as deer. It can also serve as a nesting place for small birds or mammals.
Where it is native to:
It was originally native to Europe, Northern Africa, and Central Asia until it was moved across seas by colonizers. It quickly spread and naturalized in much of North America.
Susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots, and cankers. The white willow can also be host to many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lace bugs, and caterpillars. The wood of this tree is weak and prone to cracking or breaking, its branches may be damaged by ice and snow build-up. The willow has shallow and aggressive roots that may clog sewers or drains and make gardening underneath trees difficult.
Known Varieties and Their Traits:
Golden Weeping Willow (Salix alba 'Tristis'): A large weeping tree reaching 75-80 feet high and wide. In spring the bright yellow twigs and graceful form are quite showy. One of the first trees to leaf out in the spring. Prone to storm damage. (The Morton Arboretum)
Golden Willow (Salix alba 'Vitellina'): This cultivar produces bright yellow stems. (The Morton Arboretum)