Bowing gracefully at waterside, the weeping willow evokes romantic vistas of silvery foliage stirring with each breeze. Branches droop gracefully, stem tips gently stir still water into rippling circles. The beautiful weeping willow is a hardy deciduous tree, usually encountered growing in moist soils and often along lakes and streams. It forms a gracefully rounded crown to about 50 feet in height with a spread just as wide. It's bark is dark gray and deeply furrowed. Branches divide into many thin stems that hang in pendulous curtains to the ground. Leaves are typical of those of the willow family being lance-shaped up to 6 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. The leaves are olive green on top with silver undersides, but culitvars with bright yellow green leaves are also available.
Weeping willow is believed to be native to central Asia (western China). By an early date it had spread to the Middle East where it grew along the Tigris and Euphrates river, the site of ancient Babylonia which gives it's name to this species. Its graceful beauty and distinctive form have made it one of the world's most recognized trees.
This willow is very adaptable and will thrive in most soil type except for those that are very fast draining and very dry. Light: Likes bright sun. Is scraggly and poorly shaped under too shady conditions. Moisture: Needs moisture and loves wet conditions. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Will do well in Zone 10 if adequate water is available. There are hybrids available that are hardy to Zone 2. Propagation: Cuttings root easily in moist sand.
Use as a highlight on a large lawn or along the shoreline where the willow can weep into its watery reflection. This is NOT a good tree for small properties (see Warning).
Despite its shortcomings we love this tree nonetheless. No tree is more graceful, none more romantic. It is beautiful even when bare of leaves, the cascade of stems combing the water surface. One hybrid 'Aurea' has bright yellow stems that make a memorable impression against blue water and blue winter sky.
Unhappily, this willow's beauty greatly diminishes the closer you approach it. Weeping willow is a messy tree that: constantly sheds leaves and twigs; is often bothered by pests; invades and clogs pipes with its greedy root system; is impossible to garden beneath; is short lived; and has brittle limbs that tend to break off in storms.
Jack Scheper 02/20/99; updated 3/10/08
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Tallahassee, Florida USA