Salix babylonica (Weeping willow)

Despite the beautiful foliage of this lake-dwelling dicot, numerous problems inflict the Weeping Willow. The root system often coils around pipes and drainage systems in residential areas; these deal poorly with harsh winters; the bark easily cracks; and a myriad of diseases and pests attack these. Still, the appearance is magnificent near large bodies of water in warm climates with its long, drooping branches and umbrella-shaped crown.

Salix babylonica (Weeping willow)
Deciduous: Yes, the leaflets turn greenish-yellow in autumn.
Hardiness Zones: 6-8 (also grow in zone 5)
Height: 9-12 meters (30-40 feet) tall
Diameter: 9-12 meter (30-40 foot) spread
Growth Rate: fast
Age: typically lives less than 50 years old
Root System: The root system is shallow and extensive, may be problematic in residential areas since they wrap around drainage pipes. Willow roots will occasionally come to the surface and produce “new” trees.
Family: Salicaceae
Subspecies: var “tristis’

Tolerates: deer, black walnut toxins (juglones)
Problems (major): The root system frequently wraps around pipes and drainage systems in search of moisture. Dry soils will very adversely affect weeping willows. The wood is susceptible to breaking, especially when ice or snow is present. Blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots, cankers, aphids, scales, borers, lacebugs, and caterpillars are all problems.
Problems (minor): The foliage may be bothersome once it drops.
Poisonous: presumably no

Soil requirements: requires constant moisture in well-drained soils, accepts clay and loam and sand, no pH preference
Air Requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: demands consistent water (high), does well alongside lakes/ponds
Sun requirement: full sun or part-shade

Needles: none
Cones (male): none
Cones (female): none
Leaves: light-green above, gray-green below, narrow, lanceolate leaflets grow to 18 centimeters (12 inches) long and 2 centimeters (1 inch) wide
Flowers: The silvery-green catkins appear in April and May
Fruits: look similar to cotton, formed in valve-looking capsules
Seeds require stratification: yes
Monoecious or Dioecious: dioecious (separate male and female trees)

Notable characteristics:
The drooping branches and foliage create a very unique appearance. The root system is notably deep, causing it to become coiled and problematic around drains and pipes. These don’t do particularly well anywhere except decently sized bodies of water (including lakes, ponds, retention ponds, etc.).

These cast a great deal of shade, and they will do well if planted in a proper area and cared for against pests and diseases.

Sources used:

A mature weeping willow with its drooping foliage alongside a lake
Light-green stems with thin, lanceolate green
A medium-sized weeping willow, with the lower bark broken off. The start of the trunk has been notably damaged and the newest stems are a pale yellow.


All of the images provided were taken by me. They may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this article/online journal is appropriately cited first.


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