Home » Outdoors » 12 Types of Willow Trees (Custom Graphics)

12 Types of Willow Trees (Custom Graphics)

When you hear the name Willow tree, the first image popping into most people’s minds is the infamous weeping willow tree. However, there are over 400 species that classify as Willows!

We’ve put together a list of some of the most common types of willow trees. We also explain more about the Willow species Salix, including the different sizes and identifying traits. Regardless of size, most willow tree species prefer moist soils, doing exceptionally well when planted near a source of constant water. 

Keep reading to learn everything you’d want to know about willow trees, including twelve of the most common types of willow trees. 

What Are The Different Types of Willow Trees, Shrubs, & Bushes?

To list every species of the Willow tree and its unique features would take a ton of time to write and even longer read. For simplicity’s sake and to save you time, we’ve found twelve various types of willow trees, shrubs, and bushes commonly used for landscaping. 

1. Weeping Willow

  • Sunlight: full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 6-8
  • Height: 30 to 50 feet height and spread at maturity

Weeping Willow – aka Salix Babylonica – is the most traditional Willow and the easiest to identify by appearance. A signature identifying feature of Weeping Willows are the long, flexible branches that droop down to almost touching the ground.

Although native to China, you’ll see these classic trees growing worldwide, including throughout the US. They’re often planted around ponds and lakes, golf courses, and other larger landscapes. This species has a lifespan of 30 years, so they aren’t as long-lived as other Willow species.

2. Dappled Willow Tree

  • Sunlight: part shade to full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 4-9
  • Height: 8 to 10 feet tall and wide

The Dappled Willow tree – Salix Integra’ Hakuro-Nishiki, Nishiki willow, Albomaculata, tricolor willow, variegated willow, Japanese variegated willow, and Japanese dappled willow – is more of a flowering shrub than a tree with variegated pink, white, and green leaves. In winter, the branches turn red. 

This shrub works excellent for rain gardens or shrub borders due to the low growth of multiple stems. Although native to northeastern China, Japan, Russia, and Korea, many people throughout North America plant these trees with success.

3. Dwarf Willow Tree

  • Sunlight: Partial shade to full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 4 – 9
  • Height: up to five foot tall; 4 to 6 foot wide

The Dwarf willow tree – Pendula Waterfall; dwarf weeping willow; Kilmarnock – is a miniature version of a weeping willow, hardy enough to grow in any soil type. Similar to the weeping, the dwarf willow features weeping branches and slightly twisted bright green leaves.

This small shrub is perfect for decorating balconies, patios, courtyards, or small gardens where a full-size willow isn’t possible. 

4. White Willow

  • Sunlight: partial to full sun
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Height: 50 to 75 ft tall; up to 35 feet in width

White Willow trees – Salix alba ‘Tristis’ – are a golden willow with thin yellow drooping branches and a stout trunk that’s often confused with Chrysocoma – another golden willow. 

Their name comes from the leaves’ color changing from bright green to a golden yellow, shedding in fall and leaving behind cascading yellow twigs. 

5. Goat Willow

  • Hardiness: 4 to 9
  • Sunlight exposure: partial shade to full sun
  • Size: 20-50 feet height; 13 to 25 feet wide

The Goat Willow – Salix Caprea, Pussy Willow, Pink Pussy Willow, or Kilmamock Willow – hails from Britain. This luxurious deciduous tree forms multiple low branches, which resemble small trunks. 

These woody string branches spread wide and turn a warm grayish brown with cardboard textured bark. Many people choose this willow species for hedges, ground covers, and privacy barriers.

6. Peach-Leaf Willow

  • Hardiness: 3 to 5
  • Sunlight exposure: partial shade to full sun
  • Size: 30 to 40 feet height; up to 40 feet wide 

The Peach-Leaf Willow – Salix amygdaloides, Wright willow, or almond willow – is a short-lived, fast-growing willow tree with yellow branches and green leaves with silvery bottoms that resemble a Peachtree.

Many landscapers plant this tree for erosion control and to fill empty areas. When growing in nature, you see this species growing next to cottonwood trees throughout southern Canada and the US.

7. Purple Osier Willow

  • Hardiness: 4 to 9
  • Sunlight exposure: full sun
  • Size: 8 to 15 feet tall; 10-15 feet wide

The Purple Osier is another low-growing Willow shrub with purple branches and green-blue leaves (as juveniles). Many people use these plants for controlling erosion around lakes and streams or planted as a privacy hedge.

The stems and flowers can work for making crafts or as a medication for treating pain due to salicin in the bark. Other names include Alaska blue willow, blue Arctic willow, basket willow, or purple willow. This shrub grew native in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia and planted throughout North America.

8. Coyote Willow

  • Hardiness: 2 to 9
  • Sunlight exposure: partial shade to full sun
  • Size: 15-20 feet in height and width

Coyote Willow – Salix exigua, gray willow, dusky willow, or Narrowleaf willow – is a shrubby tree used for building materials and flexible poles and rustic furniture due to the appearance of the furrowed gray bark. 

This bush grows naturally through North America, although it’s labeled as endangered or threatened. Many people also use this plant for landscaping due to its drought and flood tolerance. 

9. Scouler’s Willow

  • Hardiness: 3 to 9
  • Sunlight exposure: partial shade to full sun
  • Size: 20 to 50 feet in height and 6.5 to 50 feet in width

Scouler’s Willow – Salix scouleriana, black willow, fire willow, or western pussy willow – is another multi-stem tree with higher tolerances for low water than other Willows. The name came from John Scouler, a naturalist from Scotland who discovered the species.

Many use this willow for hedges or controlling erosion, although you have to use caution when planting, as this species is invasive. The Scouler’s Willow is native to the Western US, ranging from the northern mountainous states to Alaska. 

10. Crack Willow

  • Hardiness: 4 to 7
  • Sunlight exposure: full sun
  • Size: 33-66 feet height; up to 50 feet spread

Crack willow – Salix Fragilis, brittle willow – is a fast-growing ornamental willow with a spherical crown of fine-textured, flexible yellow-brown twigs.

These trees have dark brown bark that forms deep fissures with maturity. The name comes from the tremendously loud noise the branches make when they break.

 11. Arctic Willow

  • Hardiness: 1 to 6b
  • Sunlight exposure: full sun
  • Size: 2″ to 5″ tall

The Arctic Willow – Salix arctica or rock willow – is a small shrub that’s favorable to rocky, cold tundras and heavy snow-covered grounds. This species holds the world record for growing in the northernmost locations in the world where most plants can’t thrive.

These shrubs bloom with reddish-purple catkins in spring, resembling tiny painted hare tails. You can use these for rock gardens, as a carpet plant, or along gravel paths. When planted, the rock willow will grow in patches that won’t completely cover the ground. 

12. Bebb Willow

  • Hardiness: 2 to 4
  • Sunlight exposure: Shade to full sun
  • Size: 10-30 feet height; 10-15 feet width

The Bebb Willow – Salix bebbiana, long-beaked willow, gray will, beaked willow, or diamond willow – is a small tree or shrub with multiple stems. This type of willow grows along with wet locations such as bogs, streams, and lakes. 

This species grows naturally in wetlands throughout the northern half of North America. While the wood is excellent for carving, there are few uses for this shrub in landscaping due to its short longevity and high susceptibility to disease and pests. 

Where Are the Best Places to Grow Willow Trees?

Willow trees grow well in locations with full sun and moist soil, although some varieties can handle dry soil. Many types of willow trees are planted to control soil erosion. However, these burrowing root systems can become invasive or cause issues if planted in the wrong location.

Know what’s beneath the ground before you plant your trees. If there’s anything underground, you’ll want to avoid planting your tree in that spot. Common things to avoid are septic tanks, water lines, sewer lines, sprinkles, and near foundations of buildings. 

Most willow trees do well when planted near a significant water source, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and creeks. 

Can I Grow Willow Trees in my Garden?

Whether you choose to grow a willow tree in your garden will depend on the amount of available space. Willow trees vary in size from small varieties that work as shrubs to giant trees that can reach the top of your house.

You’ll need to consider how tall the willow you plan to plant will be and how wide it will grow. And it’s also crucial to ensure there’s enough room between the tree and the other plants, as willow roots can smother other plants. 

Should I Grow Willow Trees in my Landscape?

Willow trees are an incredible beauty to add to large open landscapes with plenty of bare lands. If you have a body of water on your property, planting a sizable Weeping willow will give you an almost-ethereal feel. 

But if you’re short on overhead space but you have plenty of ground space to cover, you can choose a sprawling or shrub willow. Many varieties work well for hedges and privacy walls. 

In What Parts of the United States, Do Willow Trees Grow?

Willow trees grow throughout the United States, as far north as Ontario and as far south as Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana. They do best in states east of the Mississippi. 

However, many people successfully plant willow variations throughout the Midwest as far as Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and even southern and central California.

What Types of Caterpillars & Bugs Eat Willow Trees?

Multiple types of insects like to feast on Willow tree species. Aphids pierce the leaves and stems, sucking out the juices and nutrients. Unfortunately, these pests are a year-round problem in some locations, so you’ll need to do regular exams of your trees. Parasitic wasps and lady beetles are helpful ways to treat aphid infestations.

Spider mites also enjoy feeding on willow trees. When a willow tree gains an extensive collection of these insects, severe harm can occur. The most common sign of spider mites is leaves with speckled gray spots. It’s best to use lady beetles and keep your willows well-watered to treat and prevent spider mite infections. 

Gypsy moths are a considerable danger that can decimate a willow tree once infected. Once female moths lay eggs on a willow tree, the hatched larvae will feed on the foliage night and day until the tree is bare. Covering the trunk with duct tape covered in Vaseline or tar paper can stop larvae from crawling up the tree. 

Carpenterworms bore through the willow’s trunk, causing blocks that prevent nutrients and water from flowing through the tree properly – referred to as girdling. These caterpillars start as brownish-red caterpillars. Adding nematodes to the dirt around your tree can treat infestations.

How Many Types of Willow Tree Varieties & Species Are There?

There are over 400 species that fall under the Willow tree umbrella of the genus Salix. These deciduous plants are also called osiers (tall with narrow leaves) or sallows (shrubs and small trees) and can classify as trees or shrubs. 

It’s hard to correctly identify the exact number of species because many types can breed with willows of other species. It can be difficult to identify many species by sight due to so many similarities. 

What Are the Most Popular Types of Willow Trees & Shrubs?

There are quite a few popular willow trees and shrubs. Trees are larger in height and width, while shrubs are often short with bushy foliage. 

Willow Trees

The most well-known willow tree is the weeping willow, a magnificent towering behemoth that reaches 40 feet and a spread of 30 feet.

The peach-leaf willow is another famous large tree that grows to a maximum height of 50 feet with glorious yellow drooping limbs. 

Two willow species that commonly get confused due to name are the American pussy willow and the goat willow, which some refer to as a pussy willow. Both get up to 25 feet tall. 

The corkscrew willow is another giant tree that gets up to 40 feet in height and spread. These trees have interesting branch twists and go well in winter landscapes. 

Willow bushes

Dappled willows are small trees that barely reach six feet in height, with pink, white, and soft green foliage. In winter, the branches turn a bright red. 

The Purple Osier willow is another favorite for landscaping due to its beautiful purple stems and blue-tinted purple leaves. This tree tops out at ten feet and tolerates shade and dry soil. 

How Big Are Willow Trees?

Willow trees vary in height and width by species. Some varieties only grow a few inches above ground level, spreading out more than up. 

Then there are gigantic trees which require a lot of space height-wise and width-wise. All willow trees will need enough space around them that the roots don’t encounter anything it can harm.

The height for willow trees can range from two inches tall up to sixty feet tall. The canopy spread or how wide the tree is can vary from a foot up to forty feet. 

Willow Tree Identification Tips

Many variations of willow trees can be tricky to distinguish from each other from a simple glance. It often takes a closer examination to view specific details to help identify the exact species. Try these willow tree identification tips.

  • Trees are identifiable due to lance-shaped (lanceolate) leaves with light feathery veins and serrated leaf edges.
  • Willow trees are also the first trees to produce leaves in the spring. 
  • Osier (basket) willows have long, narrow leaves, narrow canopy spreads, and medium heights. 
  • Sallows have oval leaves with toothed edges. 
  • Weeping willow species have cascading branches that fall in curtains around the trunk, nearly reaching the ground. 
  • Pussy willows are identifiable by their fuzzy catkins that start as gray, then turn yellow and form flowers
  • Goat willows classify as a follow and are identifiable due to their broader leaves and locations in damp environments.

What is the difference between a willow tree and a weeping willow tree?

A weeping willow tree has branches and leaves that droop down towards the ground. When the wind blows, these flexible limbs can dance with the storm, although they may experience damage from severe winds. 

But not all willow trees classify as weeping. Many species grow upright, with many branches spreading out into wide canopies, or growing short and dense as shrubs, or even grown to crawl along the ground through rocks. 

Conclusion

Willow trees are majestic, water-loving trees that grow well in various soil conditions, USDA hardiness zones (and throughout the world), and have benefits such as erosion control, privacy, and ground cover. However, you have to use caution when planting most willow trees, as the aggressive root systems will attack any moisture nearby, no matter the source.