Weeping willow tree problems

Problems With Weeping Willows

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The weeping willow tree is part of the Salix genus of plants. The crown of the plant is round, with long branches that hang down towards the ground. Due to its massive root system and large body, the weeping willow requires requires regular pruning to ensure it reaches a mature age of 30 years, says the University of Florida.


Weeping willows require placement away from residential structures, sewer pipes, septic systems or draining fields. The roots will otherwise interfere with the structures, causing damage. Weeping willow roots are aggressive and spread around three times the size from the trunk of the tree to the tree’s canopy edge, says the University of Florida.


Weeping willow is susceptible to a variety of diseases. Root rot, caused by fungi or the roots’ extended exposure to heavy flooding, prevents the tree from absorbing water and nutrients from the ground. Willow scabs or twig blight develops on the midribs of leaves as black or brown spots, says the University of Minnesota, and causes the leaf to drop. Cytospora canker, another common willow disease, causes small sunken areas of flesh along the branches, which, if left untreated, causes the branches to die back.


Weeping willow trees are a host to an array of insects, including scale, caterpillars, borers and aphids. The weeping willow canopy does not attract bird wildlife, leaving these bugs to breed and multiply. Borers can cause the tree to become yellow and lose leaves, says the North Dakota University extension. Aphids, borers, leaf beetle and others can cause limb and leaf death, and eventually the death of the willow, if left untreated.

Weeping Willow Tree Problems

Are you concerned about the problems you are facing with your weeping willow? Keep reading to know how to care for these trees, about the different problems associated with it, and their remedies.

Weeping willows (Salix sepulcralis) are graceful trees that have been mentioned in literature many times. These trees look extremely beautiful and stand out nicely in any landscape design, which is why they are so popular as ornamental trees. These are also one of the fastest growing trees that provide excellent shade. After the initial years of the tree’s growth, very less maintenance is required for it. But, in the initial years, one needs to take great care of the young tree to prevent any problems associated with it.

Pest infestation is one of the most common problems with this tree. The pests that usually attack weeping willows are scales, borers, aphids, caterpillars, and gypsy moths. Let us look at the problems and diseases faced by these trees.

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  • Tree appears dead when planted near drainage:
    Never plant a weeping willow near drainage ditches or sewage lines, as the roots of this tree grow deep and can break these lines, causing damage for the surrounding area and the tree itself in the process. However, if you observe your tree shedding its leaves and looking almost dead, and know that it was planted near a drainage ditch, scrap off a little piece of the bark and check if it is green. If you find that it is green about 6 inches below the surface, that means the tree is alive. If you find it brown, it means that the tree is dead. If the tree is alive, replant it elsewhere; but if it is dead, get rid of it.
  • Old tree with rot:
    Rot is a sort of bacterial or fungal infection. In this disease, the roots of the tree at the base of the trunk can be seen to be turnind red. The average life span of the weeping willow is almost 30 years. If the tree is over 30 years and has got rot disease, better get rid of it as it might fall down and damage the surroundings.
  • Brown spots on the leaves and shoots:
    This is a disease called marssonina canker or black canker. In this disease, dark brown spots appear on the leaves, and white lesion with black rings can be seen on the twigs and stems. Trim out the infected branches and treat the tree with fungicides or bactericides. If this still doesn’t work, get rid of the infected tree to protect the rest of your garden.
  • Olive-green infection on leaves and stems:
    This is a disease called willow scab, and it occurs mostly during the growing season of the tree, which is usually April and May. It causes olive green colored infection on the underside of the leaves that is more prominent at the veins. To protect the tree, prune out the diseased branches and treat it with a good fungicide. Sometimes, willow scab and black canker affect the tree together, and this disease is called willow blight.
  • Round bulges 1-3 inches in size:
    These could be cysts formed due to eggs laid by insects. These cysts are harmless, however, cut open a bulge to check what it contains.

Other Problems

There are many other problems that affect weeping willow trees. Some problems can be fixed, some problems can be avoided, while some have no other solution other than the removal of the tree. Here are some more problems that might affect this tree:

  • Wilting or browning of the tree due to severe drought conditions.
  • Physical damage due to any accident might result into premature loss of the tree.
  • If the tree is standing in a watery-logged region for long, it can create anaerobic conditions, which results into the decaying and dying of the tree.
  • Extremely cold weather might cause vertical cracks in the trunk, which might invite various diseases, like cancer or rot.

One can always prevent these hazards by taking good care and maintaining a healthy weeping willow.

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globe willow – Knowledgebase Question

Globe Willow is Salix globosa. This tree is a round-headed upright branching, fast-growing tree that may reach 50 feet or more in height. It has slender green leaves and is said to be a very tough and hardy, and long-lived tree adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, including deserts.
The tree’s branching habit results in its globe shape. Multiple branches normally grow from the trunk, often starting at a height of 4 to 5 feet giving the topiary effect desired in many oriental gardens. From a distance it looks like these trees have been sheared into a perfect globe on a slender stem. These trees, however, are genetically designed to produce that shape.
Colorado State University advises against planting these trees because of their water needs and because they are subject to winter kill. Here’s their take on the problems: “Globe willow are usually planted in lawn areas where they receive an abundance of water and fertilizer late into the fall. This may keep the tree from properly acclimating for winter, resulting in increased winter damage including the development of cracks. A tree “hardens” from the tips of the branches back toward the trunk. When numerous branches originate at or near the same point on the trunk, it takes an extended period of time before that area properly “hardens”. These non-acclimated areas are especially susceptible to winter injury.
The lack of rapid and proper acclimation also may help explain why there are very few successes with the Globe Willow on the Front Range (the Eastern plains of Colorado), and many other parts of the nation. This tree does not appear to be able to withstand sudden changes of temperature, or the limb- breaking storms that are common in many areas.”
The root system is deep and wide on a Globe willow and it needs lots of water.
Hope this information is helpful!

Weeping Willow Tree Diseases and the Ways We Can Tackle Them

Weeping willow tree diseases may be of many types and if left untreated, they might rip this elegant tree off its beauty. Know about these diseases and how to manage them.

Mostly found in the Northern hemisphere, the weeping willow tree is among the most popular deciduous tree types which people choose to add to the beauty of their landscape. Scientifically known as the Salix Babylinoca, the weeping willow tree is one of the fast growing shade trees. It can attain a height of about 10 ft in just about a year with proper care and maintenance.

Ponds, streams and lakes are the common areas where the Weeping Willow tree mostly grows. It can also adapt to different types of soil. It is drought-tolerant to some extent, and prefers moist and cool conditions.

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A weeping willow tree is characterized by its rounded, drooping branches which are again accompanied by lush green foliage and long, thin leaves. Depending upon the type of the tree, the leaves wear colors of light yellow-green shade to an eye-catching blue color, in the fall. Fall is the time when the trees shed their leaves and during summers, the weeping willow is ideal for its use as a shade.

Diseases that Commonly Affect the Weeping Willow Tree

# A weeping willow tree is mostly affected by root rot which has its ill effects on the roots of the tree and eventually leads to its decline. This disease is often a result of over-watering. Excess watering deprives the roots of air required for the plant’s survival thus, causing them to decay and eventually death of the plant.

# Willow trees are also vulnerable to develop crown gall, a bacterial disease of plants (especially of pome, stone fruits, grapes and roses which forms excrescences on the stem near the ground). It is responsible to form galls near the soil line, and farther up the plant. Galls are abnormal swelling of plant tissue caused by insects, microorganisms or injury. This disease may also cause the tree to contract secondary diseases that attack the tree through the decaying galls.

# Weeping willow fungus diseases known as scabs attack the freshly sprouted leaves and cause the formation of blackish or reddish-brown blotches which infect the leaf stocks and cause them to wither and fall off. If left untreated, the scabs can infect the twigs and branches of the tree. You may also notice black cankers (caused by a fungus Physalospora miyabeana) in the form of grayish or pale brown depressions. Whitish gray lesions with black borders appear on the twigs and stems. A combination of black canker and willow scab is known as willow blight. Due to these two tree diseases, defoliation occurs year after year, and eventually the tree dies.

# Many types of fungi cause leaf spots, and the powdery mildew gives the appearance of a white coating on the leaves of the Weeping Willow. At times yellow spots can also be detected on the lower sides of the leaves, which are caused due to rust. In severe cases, defoliation is common. The leaves may also carry harmless black, raised spots known as tar spot.

How To Care for a Weeping Willow Tree

# For countering crown gall, you should get rid of the infected plants, and do not replant in the same area until after two years.

# For countering willow scabs and black canker in Weeping Willow trees, prune out infected branches and use resistant species.

# Regular fertilization and raking up the fallen diseased leaves are essential to keep away all kinds of fungi from affecting the Weeping Willow.

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# Common weeping willow pests are the gypsy moth, caterpillars, scales, aphids, and borers. In order to get rid of such pests, you can go for insecticides or natural weeping willow pest control. Before deciding on any such pest control, seek proper advice from the dealer or someone who is well acquainted in this field.

# Planting your weeping willow tree in loose, healthy soil is important. Before placing the tree, ensure that the hole which you dig in is twice the size of the root ball. After placing the tree do not leave the roots exposed; cover them well with soil. Thereafter, using a sprinkler or a hose allow the tree to soak well in water. Take a note that the plantation of the tree must be done about six weeks before the first frost of the season, to allow the tree to get adjusted to its new environment.

# In places where there is extreme heat, the potted weeping willow tree must be placed in a well-shaded area. As it grows older it will start getting used to such a temperature. In the summer months, the tree must receive water during extended dry spells. If the leaves are drooping then it may indicate under or over-watering. So, keep a check on the watering. Crisp, healthy looking leaves show that the tree is receiving adequate amount of water.

# In the first year, keep weeds and grass away from the tree and keep the use of fertilizer to a small amount. Prune a matured weeping willow tree regularly, as it helps in the healthy growth of the tree the following year.

Good soil, proper feeding and adequate watering keeps the Weeping Willow healthy, and helps it to maintain its prosperity. If all these factors are well looked after, then you should not be concerned, even if your tree looks dead in the winter months. In the fall, the tree would shed its leaves and the trunk will turn brown, indicating that the tree is going into a dormant state. It’s a natural process which all deciduous trees go through.

Keep a close eye on the common diseases that could affect your tree, and wait for the spring when you can enjoy seeing it flourishing with health and beauty.

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Thorny problems: what is wrong with my weeping willow?

Euphorbia mellifera

For several years we were really pleased with the success of our Euphorbia mellifera, which grew to 6ft at the corner of our terrace. The two cold winters of 2011 and 2012 took their toll and we thought for a while it would die. However, fed and rained on, it seemed to rally last summer, but it has never grown back to its original magnificent height. Is there anything we can do?

Marie Colby, via email

Euphorbia mellifera is the loftiest of the evergreen/shrubby euphorbias, but as you have said, it does take a bit of a hammering during prolonged cold spells, “wilting” alarmingly when frosted – although not generally killed. For those who don’t know this lovely and impressive plant, I should mention that the additional buzz you get by giving it the large amount of space that it needs – looking best, I think, all on its own with the shelter of a sunny wall behind it – is the strong honey scent of its numerous and huge late-spring/early-summer flowers.

Sadly, this euphorbia, like others of its tribe, tends to burn itself out and thus has a relatively short life, and it sounds to me as if yours might have had its best years. I’m presuming that last summer it made a lot of new growth from close to ground level, some of which will be rather skinny and lax. If I were you I would remove quite a lot of this since it won’t flower anyway and also cut one or two much-branched older stems. Take care not to let the white sap get on your skin, since it is known to be an irritant. Thus pared down, your plant may look and behave better this year than last, and you have another season in which to search the garden for its seedlings, since there are bound to be some around. Pot up one or two in readiness for the inevitable day when you will have to dig this plant out and start again.

Mother’s Day hydrangeas

My children gave me a blue flowering hydrangea on Mother’s Day. The wee card included says it is an indoor plant. Is this true? Will I not be able to plant it outside? If I do, would it need to come back in next winter? The flowers kept collapsing/wilting, so I put it in a basin of water. I now see the card says to keep it moist, but I should avoid overwatering “at all times”. Oh, dear!

Mary Arkless, Aberdeen

I hope this response doesn’t come too late to save this glorious but quite possibly ill-starred hydrangea, definitely an outdoor plant. I have, in my time, seen numerous casualties of this sort: wizened little scrappits in plastic pots of desiccated multipurpose compost reluctantly abandoned after many a dinner party/birthday/Mother’s Day, et cetera. I have even on occasion seen several horticultural relics stacked outside the back doors of particularly popular/sociable people, whose non-gardening guests/relations assume that they would prefer to be given something with roots on, rather than just a bunch of tulips. (Wrong, very wrong: posh flowers are always gratefully received – so many of us can’t bear to pick the ones that we grow in our gardens… but sorry, I digress).

The problem with what I rather dismissively call “florist’s” hydrangeas is that they have been elaborately forced into blooming at the wrong time, all emphasis put on flower rather than root development. Their physiological clocks are therefore all at sixes and sevens, and the considerable effort and patience needed to get them back in the right time zone is quite reasonably considered by most of us to be a horticultural challenge too far. What you should do with these exotic things is, as the label suggests, keep their roots just moist while they bloom. In due course, remove the faded flowers, cutting back the stems to a pair of leaves.

After this the plants have to be kept just ticking over, somewhere light and really cool – they hate centrally heated conditions – until mid-May or thereabouts. They can be potted on into a larger pot of something suitable (50/50 loam-based John Innes No 3 and multipurpose compost) and put outside in a fairly shady place for the hottest part of the summer while they recover their composure, growing leafy and even hopefully making a few new stems. Regular watering is important. You can get them into the ground in the autumn and they will have every chance of winter survival and may even flower a little the following summer. The next spring (my goodness, this is beginning to sound like a real marathon… it is, but I have done myself, it so I know it works) they can be properly pruned and thenceforth should go onwards and upwards. Remember that since your flowers were originally blue, you should treat the plant with Hydrangea Colourant (from Vitax) to keep them that way.

Alternatively, bin the poor thing and have a kind but firm word with your children.

A weedy driveway

James and Sarah (by email, no surname) want to know whether they can restore a worn weed-infested driveway in their garden by simply topping it up with a thick layer of new gravel or, they ask, should they weed it first.

The mere idea of weeding a drive by hand is enough to make grown men (and women) weep, so I suggest that these two use a weedkiller. Some of the weeds are likely to be tough-rooted perennials, such as dandelions, and would be virtually impossible to dig out of compacted ground anyway. Pathclear 3 is specially formulated to see off annual and perennial weeds on paths and driveways, and has an additional magic ingredient that also stops seed germination for several weeks, if not months. It has to be used with care, of course, as it can adversely affect plants with shallow, underlying roots: I once used Pathclear on a bricked area that had become intolerably weedy between its cracks, and gave a serious headache to an adjacent matt of osteospermum whose roots had wandered in under the bricks in search of water. It revived eventually, but was hideous for weeks. If you don’t like the idea of using such a powerful weedkiller, then go ahead and top up the layer of gravel, and just spritz any tough perennial fighters individually with glyphosate as they appear (it will probably be those dandelions, I have to say.)

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