Weeping pussy willow trees

The post and video I did about the pruning of a Weeping Pussy Willow has been surprisingly popular, to myself anyway, so I decided it was time to share everything I know about caring for this small weeping tree. My client up in the San Francisco Bay Area ordered the 1 you see here from Wayside Gardens about 15 years ago which I planted and then maintained. It’s not a plant commonly sold in those parts so I was very curious to see how it would do.

Although there were quite a few Pussy Willows growing around the pond on my childhood farm in New England, I didn’t even know there was a weeping variety. Many times gardening is experimentation and I love weeping plants so I said “why not give it a go” – you know what I mean?

The above photo is before pruning in spring of 2012; this pic shows it right after.

In short, the Weeping Pussy Willow tree of which I speak has been lovingly nicknamed “Cousin Itt” and is doing just fine. It has grown in width more than in height and turns into a massively foliated blob if not pruned a few times a year in our temperate coastal California climate. These plants are tough and are actually pretty easy to maintain. And yes, when now left unpruned, Itt turns into the leafy version of the amusing character from the Addams Family.

Here I am with a soon to defoliate Cousin It:

Here’s everything I’ve learned about caring for a Weeping Pussy Willow tree, whose botanic name is Salix caprea pendula:

Exposure

The Weeping Pussy Willow prefers full sun but will do fine in part sun as long as it’s afternoon sun. The 1 that you see here is planted in a very sunny spot but it’s right on the California coast so mornings can be foggy. Not enough sun equals poor flowering & a reduced growth rate.

Water

These plants like regular water & look much better if given an ample amount. The regular Pussy Willow (bush form) grows just fine alongside ponds & doesn’t mind having its feet moist. Cousin Itt is on drip & is located at a part of the garden where the water flows down a hill & collects in this spot. Despite our California drought, Itt keeps on keepin’ on!

Growing Zone

In accordance with the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, the Weeping Pussy Willow is recommended to be grown in zones 4-8. Zone 4 goes down to -24 degrees F. By the way, the 1 that you see here grows in zone 9b – 10a so sometimes you can push it a bit, depending on the plant & the low/high temperatures.

I planted Cousin Itt in spring but fall is fine too, just as long as it has time to settle in before a frost.

Here’s Cousin Itt in early December 2015 as the leaves start to change color.

Soil

Simply put, the Weeping Pussy Willow isn’t fussy about soil but prefers it slightly on the acidic side. You can amend the soil with leaf mold, coco coir &/or a good local compost – the plant will love you.

Feeding

I’ve never fertilized Cousin Itt but threw lots of leaf mold & coco coir into the hole upon planting. This garden gets a 2″ top dressing of a local, organic compost (over 10 cubic yards of it!) every 2 years which the Weeping Pussy Willow thoroughly enjoys.

Pruning

I love to prune & giving Cousin Itt a haircut is a creative challenge I actually enjoy. The best time to prune this plant is in the spring after it flowers. Because the 1 you see here grows in a temperate climate, it has to be pruned 3 times a year to keep it “de-blobbed”. I had to rescue it in 2011 from a really bad pruning job (a serious hack I tell you!) & because these weepers grow so vigorously & are so tough, it bounced back to its former self within a year or so.

I gave the Weeping Pussy Willow a year or 2 to get going before I pruned it. Here’s how I go about pruning this plant now that’s it’s older & more established:

1) I remove all the sprouts coming off the trunk

2) Remove the branches & ones that cross over other branches

3) Thin out main branches to open the plant up

4) Remove some of the smaller branches which are growing upwards. If you don’t want it to grow any taller, than remove all branches growing up. This plant is slowly getting taller because I leave some.

5) Remove some of the branches which grow laterally off the main branches. This branching tends to occur on the bottom half of the branches.

6) In all of the previous steps, be sure to take the branches you’re pruning off all the way back to a main branch. Otherwise, you’ll gets more lateral growth then you want.

7) I prune the branches up off the ground. Even though this causes lateral branching, I don’t want it smothering all the poor unsuspecting plants below.

Flowering

These harbingers of spring are not only loved for their weeping form but also for their flowers. Pussy willows have catkins which are actually inflorescences of many tiny flowers. The grey furry “pussies” (no dirty minds here please, we’re taking plant parts!) are what we love to cut on long branches & put in a vase in spring; or for us, it’s like winter. The masses of tiny yellow flowers will later emerge from those furry nodes.

Here are 2 reasons that your Weeping Pussy Willow may not be flowering:

1) Not enough sun OR

2) A late frost strikes after the catkins have started to appear & wipes out the flowering.

You can see a few of the catkins emerging here.

Size

Cousin Itt is already over 7′ tall. The width is about the same. I believe they max out at 8-10′ but I’ll let you know in a few years!

Important To Know

1st to know: This plant is grafted (I show the graft in the video & also below). A Weeping Pussy Willow is grafted on top of of regular Pussy Willow trunk. So, never completely cut below the graft because the plant will revert to bush form.

2nd: The Weeping Pussy Willow is deciduous so don’t worry when it starts to loose its leaves.

Never prune off below the graft (the bulbous, swollen part the arrow is pointing to) unless of course you’d rather have a Pussy Willow bush rather than a Weeping Pussy Willow Tree .

Weeping Pussy Willow trees are easy as pie if you don’t mind doing a bit of pruning every now and then. This 1 grows in a windy valley just 7 blocks away from the Pacific Ocean and blew completely over when it was about 7 or 8 years old. A few days later we uprighted it and added a bigger stake. It has a bit of a lean today but it’s so full it’s hard to notice. Cousin Itt is slightly off but very resilient I tell you!

Happy Gardening,

How to Prune a Salix Caprea Pendula

The Kilmarnock willow (Salix caprea ‘Pendula’) is usually grafted upon another willow tree trunk to create a large mounding shrub or small weeping tree for use in ornamental garden displays. Growing 5 to 6 feet tall (or more if the graft on the trunk is higher) and 6 feet wide, it develops a dense head of thick yellowish brown twigs that bear gray and yellow catkin flowers in spring. Eventually, grayish green leaves emerge. Grow Kilmarnock willow in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 8.

Trim the tips of any branches that are dragging on the ground. Make the cuts with hand pruners 1/4 inch away from a dormant bud or leaf on the drooping branches so the branch tip after pruning is 6 to 12 inches above the soil.

Remove vertical branches that jet up from the dense, weeping head of the Kilmarnock willow. Although these upright branches will eventually weep over with great length, they will change the size and character of your plant. Make pruning cuts to remove the upright errant twigs 1/4 inch above the point of attachment at their base. Extension horticulturists at Kansas State University recommend removing smaller upright twigs first before large ones; this allows you to visualize the plant and view your pruning work as it progresses.

Scan the weeping mass of branches in the willow and look for any dead, diseased or broken twigs. Prune these away. Also look for any branches that are growing horizontally across the interior of the plant. This should also be pruned, because they do not allow air and sunlight to penetrate into the center.

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (Kilmarnock willow)

Botanical name

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’

Other names

Salix caprea var. pendula, Kilmarnock willow, Kilmarnock weeping willow, Weeping great willow, Salix caprea ‘Pendula’

Genus

Salix Salix

Variety or Cultivar

‘Kilmarnock’ _ ‘Kilmarnock’ is a compact, dense, deciduous tree with pendent branches bearing ovate, dark-green leaves, grey-green beneath, and, in spring before the leaves emerge, large, grey catkins with yellow anthers.

Native to

Garden origin

Foliage

Deciduous

Tree shape

Compact, Small weeping

Create your free Shoot garden

Create your free SHOOT garden and make a record of the plants in your garden.

Add your own photos, notes, get monthly email reminders on how to care for your plants, and connect with other gardeners. Get started now.

Colour

Flower

Silvery-grey, Yellow in Spring

Dark-green in Spring; Dark-green in Summer; Dark-green in Autumn

How to care

Watch out for

Specific pests

Aphids , Caterpillars , Leaf beetles (willow and poplar) , Sawflies

Specific diseases

Anthracnose diseases , Rust

General care

Pruning group 1

Propagation methods

Grafting

Get access to monthly care advice

Create a free SHOOT account and get instant access to expert care advice for this and other plants in your garden.

You’ll also receive handy monthly email reminders of what needs doing. Create your free account.

Where to grow

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (Kilmarnock willow) will reach a height of 2.5m and a spread of 2.5m after 10-20 years.

Suggested uses

City, Low Maintenance

Cultivation

Plant in deep, moderately fertile soil in full sun.

Soil type

Clay, Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral

Light

Full Sun

Aspect

North, South, East, West

Exposure

Exposed, Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5, Zone 4

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (Kilmarnock willow)

Common pest name

Scientific pest name

Agrilus fleischeri

Type

Insect

Current status in UK

Absent

Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Pest of poplar; native to East Asia. Likely to be damaging if introduced to the UK. Protecting against the risk of entry via wood packaging material and other means remains a priority. A Europe-wide assessment would be helpful; to consider strengthened regulation.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (Kilmarnock willow)

Lance nematode; Nematode; Lance

Hoplolaimus spp.

Nematode

Absent

Nematode species potentially affecting a wide variety of crops; prohibition of soil likely to mitigate risk substantially; keep under review in light of interceptions or findings should they occur in the EU.

Defra’s Risk register #3

Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (Kilmarnock willow)

watermark disease of willow; willow vascular wilt; willow watermark disease; willow wilt

Brenneria salicis

Bacterium

Present (Limited)

Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Bacterial organism causing watermark disease; which affects willow used for cricket bat production. Established in parts of England; despite long-standing powers for local authorities to take action; which have now been revoked.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

pussy.willow.weeping.jpg

A weeping pussy willow.

(Submitted photo)

Q:

When is the best time to plant a weeping pussy willow tree in Cumberland County? How tall will they grow? What care do they require?

A: Two good times to plant pussy willows are early spring and early fall.

The weeping version of pussy willow is a grafted plant that doesn’t grow as big or as fast as a standard, upright pussy willow. I’d still classify it as a moderately fast grower, though.

How big it gets depends on how and when you decide to prune it. I looked up what four different nurseries were saying about size, and you’d think they were all talking about different plants. I saw sizes ranging from 5 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide up to 15 to 25 feet tall and 12 to 15 feet tall.

(I did an article once on trying to make sense out of estimated plant sizes.)

Weeping pussy willow, from what I’ve seen, grows more upright than wide. I think a good planning size is around 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide if you’re using it in a garden bed and plan to prune it once a year once it hits that size.

If you’re planting it out in the open and don’t plan to prune, then 15 to 20 feet tall and 12 feet across in 10 years or so is a good guess.

The main need on a pussy willow’s wish list is soil moisture – and lots of it. This is one tree that actually does fine in wet and even soggy and occasionally flooded soil. A damp stream or wet, sunny, low-lying area is perfect.

Pussy willow grows best in full sun but will do part shade. Neutral soil is fine. It doesn’t require a lot of acid.

Pussy willow is adaptable to drier spots, but you’ll likely have to soak it weekly in hot, dry weather.

Weeping Pussy Willow

How to Grow

The Weeping Pussy Willow is trained to grow upright and forms an umbrella-shaped canopy, which provides the coolest spring show when it’s covered with fuzzy catkins. If left alone, this weeper can also grow as a ground cover or low shrub. This special tree is simple to grow and likes full sun but will also do well in partial shade. The Weeping Pussy Willow is a fast grower that does well in moist, but not wet, soil. They have their share of pest problems, but none of them are serious enough to cause major concern. Whatever pest they may have, your tree will outgrow them all. During the fall months, apply a medium rate fertilizer. This application only needs to be done once a year. When it comes to pruning, a common mistake is that it is not pruned enough. If the weeping branches are left alone, they will “weep” all the way down and continue to grow and root along the ground. Whenever you need to prune the bottom of the “skirt” on your Weeping Pussy Willow – feel free. But when pruning branches higher up on the canopy – resist the urge to do so after July 4th. The catkins start to form around that time, so if you prune, you will prune off those buds and your tree will not have as many fuzzy catkins for the following spring.

The Weeping Pussy Willow Delivers an Early Spring

Why Weeping Pussy Willows?

Nothing will add a more dramatic impact to your landscape than the Weeping Pussy Willow. For starters, this ornamental tree is compact enough to be planted almost anywhere and will be the focal point of your yard. And it’s versatile since it can be pruned to create the size and shape that you desire for your particular space.

Even better? It’s beautiful in cut arrangements. Each year, in late winter or early spring, you will be greeted with soft-white catkins. Clip a few blooming branches and bring them inside, where they can be displayed on their own or added to other floral arrangements.

And if you’re anxious for an early spring, cut a few branches from your Weeping Pussy Willow while it’s still budding. When you place them in water near a sunny window, they will bloom before your eyes while everything outdoors is still sleeping. Your Willow will bloom for up to four weeks each year; and when the blooms have faded its branches will be covered with lovely green leaves, still adding a dramatic touch to your landscape.

Plus, it couldn’t be easier to grow. Plant your Weeping Pussy Willow in early spring or fall for best results. It loves moist, almost soggy soil, making it the perfect choice for planting near your spring or pond and it has a deep spreading root system that makes it ideal for hillside planting and erosion control.

Why Fast-Growing-Trees.com is Better

It’s nearly impossible to find a Weeping Pussy Willow this healthy and robust from your local garden center or big-box nursery.

In fact, most big-box retailers sell their plants bare-root, giving you a lower chance of long-term success in your own garden.

But when you order from Fast Growing Trees, we ensure that your Pussy Willow is planted, grown, and meticulously nurtured from day one. We take the time to ensure your plant is well-rooted in nutrient-rich soil and delivered in the same pot it’s grown in.

Be the envy of the neighborhood…order your Weeping Pussy Willow today!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: Creek beds or pond-accenting spots are favored but as long as you irrigate properly and ensure the proper sun exposure, your willow can thrive anywhere.

Dig a hole three times the width and just as deep as the root ball of your tree. Then remove any debris like rocks, grass or soil clumps from the hole and use a shovel or a pitchfork to loosen the soil around the sides of the hole. Position your tree and make sure that the root collar (the area where the roots meet the trunk of the tree) is level with the surrounding soil. Next, gently backfill the soil and tamp it down as you go. After this process is complete, give your tree a long drink of water until the soil becomes evenly moist.

Finally, spread a layer of mulch that’s about three inches thick around the base of your tree.

2. Watering: Your Willow will need a deep watering roughly 2 to 3 times weekly (depending on the weather) to keep the soil consistently moist. Mulching really helps with retaining soil moisture so you will not have to monitor as often.

A good method is to leave your garden hose next to the base of the tree on a slow trickle for about 10 minutes once weekly.

3. Fertilizing: Feed once yearly in the fall season, after it has become established (about 2 years after planting). Use an all-purpose fertilizer.

4. Pruning: Prune back new shoots right to the main trunk and remove some of the older main branches in spring. Pruning isn’t necessary, but you’ll get a neater, cleaner form by removing these older branches and shoots.

Fast Growing Trees Planting Kit survival trees Tree Spikes willow trees //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Weeping_Pussy_Willow_450_MAIN.jpg?v=1549670463 //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Weeping_Pussy_Willow_450_1.jpg?v=1549670463 29170220171316 2-3 ft. 139.95 89.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/weeping-pussy-willow?variant=29170220171316 OutOfStock 2-3 ft. 31508997505086 3-4 ft. 99.95 99.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/weeping-pussy-willow?variant=31508997505086 InStock 3-4 ft. 13940852326452 4-5 ft. 89.95 89.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/weeping-pussy-willow?variant=13940852326452 OutOfStock 4-5 ft. 13940852359220 5-6 ft. 79.95 79.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/weeping-pussy-willow?variant=13940852359220 OutOfStock 5-6 ft.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *