Content Detail

Prairie willow is a dwarf, shrubby willow reaching 4 to 6 feet high, but can grow as high as 10 feet with branches reaching low to the ground. Often found in upland open prairies, along roadsides, and disturbed sandy soil. One of the first shrubs to flower in the spring before the leaves emerge.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Road salt
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Fast

Size & form:

A rounded, medium-sized shrub reaching 4 to 6 feet high, with a suckering habit

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 6. Found throughout the eastern and central United States in prairie remnants, disturbed soils, sandy soils, and rocky bluffs.

Bark color and texture:

Slender stems are dark brown and covered with whitish hairs.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Alternate, linear, lanceolate leaves up to 4 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. Margins are wavy with few rounded teeth. The leaf tip is pointed. Medium gray-green on the upper surface, it is silvery-gray beneath.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Dioecious, male and female flowers (catkins) are produced on separate plants. Flowers before the leaves emerge in spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Dry dehiscent capsules have a pinkish cast with silky hairs. Tiny seeds are attached to white fluff.

Plant care:

Prairie willow requires full sun in a dry to moist soil. It is tolerant of clay to sandy loam soils.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Susceptible to leaf blight, canker, borers, scale insects, and aphids.


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