Content Detail

Pussy willow is a short-lived, fast-growing, native tree or large shrub with a rounded crown. In early spring, the silky furry catkins open before the leaves appear to signal spring is on the way.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Native locale Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Broad, Round, Weeping
  • Growth rate Fast

Size & form: 

Pussy willow is a small, erect tree to large shrub reaching 15 to 25 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide.  It is often confused with goat willow (Salix caprea).

Native geographic location and habitat: 

C-Value: 2.  Commonly found in marshy and swampy areas.

Bark color and texture: 

Slender greenish-red buds grow on gray-brown stems.

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

The alternate leaves are  elliptical to oblong, measuring 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide. The leaves have entire or slightly toothed margins. They are dark blue green above, and pale to white beneath.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

The plant is dioecious (separate male and female plants).  Male and female flowers (catkin) are 1 inch long, fuzzy, silvery gray. Willows are wind pollinated.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Small brown capsules in clusters

 

Plant care:

Pussy willow does best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil. Tolerant of wet soil once established. Prune in late winter to early spring.  This tree/shrub can be cut back to the ground every 3 to 5 years to maintain size. It can also be pruned into a hedge. This plant is shallow-rooted and can develop surface roots with age. Short-lived.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Mildew, blights, leaf spots, cankers, borer, aphids, are all problems on this plant. The leaves and stems can be messy. Tolerant of deer, wet soils, black walnut toxicity.

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