Content Detail

White willow, like other species of willow, is very tolerant of wet sites. It is a fast-growing tree with weak wood that is prone to storm damage. This species is best known for its weeping cultivars, known as ‘weeping willows’.

  • Family (English) Willow
  • Family (botanic) Salicaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 75-100 feet
  • Mature width 50-100 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil, Wet soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early spring, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Arching, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Highly susceptible to ice damage, Roots prone to invading sewer pipes, Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Birds, Insect pollinators
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

White willow is native to central and southern Europe, western Siberia and central Asia.

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is brown to yellow-brown, corky, and furrowed.

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

The leaves are alternate, 1 to 4 inches long, slender, finely toothed, and lanceolate. They are bright green to dark green, changing to yellow in the fall. Willows are one of the first plants to leaf out in spring.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The male and female flowers are borne in upright catkins on separate plants (dioecious) and are insect pollinated. The male flowers are showy.  

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The seed is a two-valved capsule.

Plant care: 

White willow is a great upright tree for moist, wet areas. The trees have a shallow root system. They prefer full sun and are pH adaptable. Be sure to add supplemental water in dry periods. The plants benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperature and conserve moisture. Prune the trees in summer to late fall.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

White willow has numerous insect and disease problems, including cankers, powdery mildew, leaf spots, willow leaf beetle, and scale insects. It is susceptible to ice and windstorm damage.

Golden weeping willow (Salix alba ‘Tristis’):

A large weeping tree reaching 75 to 80 feet high and wide. In spring, the bright yellow twigs and graceful form are quite showy. It is one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring. It is prone to storm damage.

Golden willow (Salix alba ‘Vitellina’):  

This cultivar produces bright yellow stems.


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