Content Detail

Purple basket willow is a large, finely textured, upright shrub with reddish purple stems often used in basket weaving. The blue-green, narrow foliage has silvery undersides adding to summer interest.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Clay soil, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, early winter, late winter, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Broad, Multi-stemmed, Open, Round, Thicket-forming
  • Growth rate Fast

Size & Form: 

A large upright to oval shrub reaching 8 to10 feet high.

Native geographic location and habitat:  

Native to Europe, northern Africa, Asia and Japan

Bark color and texture: 

Very thin, narrow stems are purplish on the upper side of the stem and green on the underside of the stem.  Older stems are light gray.  Young, flexible stems are used for basket weaving.

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

Leaves are generally alternate, but may occasionally be opposite. The simple leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, and linear, with serrated leaf tips.  Leaf color is dark blue-green, and glaucous beneath.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Narrow, cylindrical catkins appear before the leaves in early spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The fruit is a loose capsule that splits open to release tiny seeds on white fluff (pappi).

Plant care:

Purple basket willow has suckering stems that form large colonies. Overgrown shrubs should be cut to the ground to start over.  It does best in moist to wet soils in full sun and adapts to poor soil pH, dry soil and drought once established.  This is a short-lived shrub

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

Intolerant of salt spray, stem canker, leaf spots, and mildew.  Tolerant of wet soils.

Dwarf basket willow (Salix purpurea ‘Gracilis’): 

Grows 6 feet high and wide with blue-green leaves and slender twigs.

Dwarf Arctic Willow (Salix purpurea ‘Nana’):

Striking blue-green leaves and compact habit.  This cultivar reaches 4 to 5 feet high.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift