Willows are moisture-loving, deciduous trees belonging to the Salix genus. Salix genus is a group of plants that are native to cold and temperature regions. There is a wide variety of willow trees consisting of over 400 trees and shrubs.
These trees are useful for a variety of reasons, including, holding back the soil and preventing erosion, medicinal purposes, and adding to the beauty of your garden landscape. Unfortunately, the roots have some disadvantages to go with the pros. One such disadvantage is that willow roots can seek out sewer pipes and cause plumbing issues.
Although, if an appropriate variety and location are chosen, a willow tree can do wonders for a garden landscape. Have a look at our 17 favourite willow tree varieties.
1. Dappled Willow
This small tree or shrub offers year-round interest owing to its brightly coloured branches and graceful stems, from which variegated foliage grows. Also called the tri-colour dappled willow, this tree provides a stunning visual effect. This is mainly because the colour of its leaves changes from a soft shade of pink to white. Even its stems turn to a bright coral red shade in the winter.
One thing to keep in mind when planting a dappled willow tree is that it has invasive roots. Therefore, DIY gardeners should plant it away from their septic systems and patios.
A few places the dappled willow looks magnificent when planted in are beds and borders, as an informal hedge, privacy screen, and along streams and ponds.
Having won the award of garden merit, this tree with arched branches is going to be a visual feast for anyone who plants it.
2. Bebb Willow
Bebb willow is one of the common willow tree varieties with multi-stemmed shrubs. It often grows alongside streams, lakes, and bogs as it prefers moist and rich soils. The hairy, pale grey-green leaves are one of its prominent characteristics.
The wood of a Bebb willow is commonly used for furniture making and securing river-banks. However, planting a Bebb willow will have short-lived benefits as it has a short life span and is prone to insect and disease damage. Still, once planted, the Bebb willow is drought tolerant, making it a great option for areas that receive less rainfall.
Bebb willow is sometimes even referred to by different names like diamond willow or long-beaked willow. But this tree occasionally hybridizes with other willow species making identification difficult.
3. Peachleaf Willow
As the name suggests, peachleaf willows have pointed leaves similar to those of a peach tree. Even the long, slender structure and the greenish-yellow colour on top matches the leaves of peach trees. This tree is most commonly found in large gardens and parks in North America, or near streams, ponds, and low areas in Southern US.
Peachleaf willow gives us the look of the North American untamed prairie, with a wide, oval crown of green leaves that does not droop down like weeping willow. At times, the trunk is straight and upright, while at other times, it breaks into enormous branches near the base.
To top it up, its dense and green foliage may provide a very calming backdrop for your garden, and it’s even a fantastic option for big groupings of plants.
4. Coyote Willow
Coyote willow is one of the most useful willow tree varieties for sunny sites and stream stabilization. Further on, it can even be used to prevent surface erosion on stream bottoms owing to its extensive root system.
This tree produces separate male and female plants that appear just after the leaves emerge, followed by clusters of capsules that have small seeds which can be dispersed by air or water.
Initially, the coyote willow grows as a small bush when young but eventually becomes a beautiful large shrub with a round or oval shape. This characteristic makes it mix well with other foliage, making it an ideal choice for traditional gardens.
5. Golden Willow
Golden willow is a stunning, tough, and low-branched tree that can add a warm and sultry look to any garden, giving a summer-like feel. It will grow to be 75 feet tall or more, with a broad spread, and should be planted in a large open space.
The golden willow features long golden-yellow pendulous branches and brilliant green spring foliage, while the autumn leaves are bright yellow. This tree’s weeping behaviour makes it quite attractive, adding to the elegance of a garden.
Moreover, this dense deciduous tree, with a rounded form and average texture, blends naturally into the landscape.
6. Brittle Willow
Also known as “crack willow”, the brittle willow has great ornamental value. One can see the beauty and shape of the branches through the foliage in the mostly spherical crown, which is rich and
extremely fine in texture.
The leaves are pointed and bright green, and when the wind blows, they give plenty of shade.
The tree can have a single big bole, or trunk when it is fully grown, but some varieties divide into huge twin trunks at the base.
To give it an ancient and protective look, you can shape it as a single trunk tree early in its life. However, by allowing it to have numerous trunks, it will seem more like a big shrub.
Brittle willow is a fast-growing willow tree that is popular among gardeners who want a huge green presence in just a few years.
7. Dwarf Blue Leaf Arctic Willow
The dwarf blue leaf arctic willow has bluish-green foliage throughout the season along with fine, whip-like branches. It has a consistent and rounded growth, is quite hardy, and responds well to pruning (get the right pruning shears for your garden).
These round, elegant shrubs with turquoise and blue foliage will look stunningly planted at the front door. Other than that, it can even be used in topiaries and formal gardens. To make optimal use of the shape and colour of this shrub, plant it in topiaries or formal gardens.
Taking care of a dwarf blue leaf arctic willow is effortless since it is highly tolerant of urban pollution and can thrive even in the inner city environment. It prefers to grow in full sunlight and in moist to wet soil. If you’re looking for trouble-free gardening for a cold location, we cannot think of a better choice.
8. Japanese Pussy Willow
Being one of the showiest willow trees varieties, the Japanese pussy willow produces ornamental fuzzy seed pods in spring. Furthermore, it has a large round crown of vibrant green foliage with slender and young branches.
These catkins, or fuzzy pods, are at their finest when they begin to swell in mid-to-late winter, and they form a lovely winter garden feature. Even after the flowering has stopped, the luxuriant foliage, which has a silvery reverse, provides a beautiful backdrop for other plants that are just starting to bloom in the spring and summer.
Propagate this plant from cuttings and remember to irrigate it properly. Lastly, since it is prone to certain pests and diseases, watch out for aphids, caterpillars, and leaf beetles.
9. Corkscrew Willow
Also known as the curly willow or tortured willow, the corkscrew willow can be identified by its long, graceful leaves and curly, twisted branches. The branch structure of this tree becomes especially prominent in winter when it is bare.
One of the biggest disadvantages of this tree is that it does not have a long life and is highly susceptible to breakage and insect problems. Yet, growing a corkscrew willow tree is worth it, and one can maintain it for several years with proper care.
Use this tree as a special accent, since not many trees give so much visual appeal in the winter months. While in fall, the foliage turns to a beautiful, golden yellow hue, enhancing the colour of your yard.
10. Scouler’s Willow
Scouler’s willow is a shrub or small tree that can grow up to a height of 35 feet. It is among the smallest willow tree varieties and exhibits multiple fibrous and wide-spread stems, keeping the shrub strong for extended periods.
The upper surface of the shrub is dark green, while the lower side is white and covered with rusty-coloured hair. The leaves are generally broad in the centre and taper sharply towards the ends. It also has a deep brown bark and produces catkins and tiny hairy fruits.
Scouler’s willow can endure moderate dry conditions better than other willows. The willow’s wood is utilized for sculpting. Not to forget, it’s also used to prevent soil erosion and heavy water bodies.
11. Arctic Willow
This lovely but modest willow bush is ideal for rock gardens, where it will only grow a few inches amid the stones and rise just a few inches from the ground, with little clusters of finely formed glossy leaves.
It may also be used as a partially carpeting plant, perhaps in beds or to soften the margins of a gravel walk, as it does not completely cover the ground, but rather breaks it up with patches of green.
The purplish-red catkins of this small willow, on the other hand, attain their full artistic potential in spring. This is when they resemble miniature painted hare tails rising just above the ground – an appearance that will not go wrong in your garden.
12. Purple Osier Willow
This multi-stemmed shrub has a bushy appearance and large branches. The branches are grey and grey-brown with fairly smooth and thin bark.
The arching stems have a pronounced reddish-purple colour, making the tree look attractive throughout the year. It has slender and glossy green leaves, which have a blue-ish underside. These leaves look especially stunning in windy situations when they flutter and display their vibrant colours in wave-like patterns.
Great to use for screening, windbreaks, and as specimen shrubs, the purple osier willow is even used for commercial purposes. A few commercial uses of this tree are basket-making and fencing. Also, one astounding fact about this tree is that the first aspirin was derived from its bark.
Commonly found alongside waterside and coastal sites, this tree does well in sandy and chalky conditions.
13. Almond Willow
Almond willows, also known as Salix triandra, are native to Europe, Western Asia, and Central Asia. The name almond willow originates from the dull, dark green almond-shaped leaves. Both male and female catkins, as well as new leaves, are produced in early spring, much like other common willows.
The tree may be used for a variety of purposes. The plant is utilized in the honey business in Russia to produce nectar for honeybees. Even better, the small-growing plant is also a great way to generate biofuel energy.
In some regions of the world, the shoots are utilized to make baskets. However, this moisture-loving willow has a wide range of culinary applications other than that. The inner bark can be dried and grounded into powder form, which is used to make bread in many parts of the world.
One thing to keep in mind is to plant the tree at least 10 meters away from buildings since it has an extensive root system.
14. Pussy Willow
The pussy willow is one of the first trees to break bud in late winter, making any garden look attractive in earlier months. It bears furry catkins that add a charm to any garden landscape, which is followed by a bloom of whiteish-yellow flowers. All of this occurs when most of the garden is dormant, thus helping add life to it.
The catkins these tree bears are fuzzy as it helps provide a soft coating of hair as insulation against harsh winter weather.
The pussy willow is a shrub or small tree that may be cultivated. It has numerous branches that grow out of the ground naturally. However, these may be cut away, leaving the strongest branch to form a trunk if you want to mould it into a tree.
This plant’s branches are extremely attractive, and they’re commonly utilized in flower arrangements and landscape design.
15. White Willow
This tree is native to Europe and western and central Asia. To ensure it thrives, plant it under direct and full sunlight.
The white willow can grow up to a height of 50 to 100 feet. Furthermore, the leaves of this tree are white on the underside, explaining why it got the name ”white willow”.
One of the first trees to bloom in spring and among the last to shed its leaves, this is one of the few willow tree varieties to show leaves through spring and autumn.
However, these trees are highly susceptible to infection by pests and diseases, which can damage the weak branches and stems. Yet, if planted in the right conditions, this tree can live up to 30 years.
16. Weeping Willow
The weeping willow is one of the most recognizable and well-known landscape trees. It is native to China and gets its name due to its structure. To elaborate, the branches and leaves of this tree drop from above and hang over the ground.
It thrives in full sunlight and almost every soil type. Additionally, it shows some ability to be drought resistant, and also grows better near water. Remember, these trees can grow up to a height of 30-45 feet and a width of 35-40 inches.
Add it to your informal garden landscape or at the edge of a pond or lake to compliment the setting.
17. American Pussy Willow
The round shrub of this tree fills with green leaves late in the spring, giving it a round and fresh appearance. But the most attractive feature is the male plants that produce highly beautiful catkins with a silky texture and pearl colour before the leaves appear.
As a result, it will have a magnificent display of cotton buds. One will see these small clouds hanging on the slender and dark young branches of this lovely tree at some point throughout the year. When looking for a plant that is hard to miss, American pussy willow should be the first choice.
When looking for trees to add to your garden landscape, willow trees must be considered. Irrespective of whether you are looking for something big, small or elegant, willow tree varieties have it all. Happy planting!