Courtesy of my friend, Seattle garden blogger and garden designer, Christina Salwitz, you are looking at the only kind of place a weeping willow should be planted. On the banks of a pond or lake. Nothing else around. With the owner’s house, driveway, sidewalk, pool, water lines, septic tank, pet cemetery, and all the neighbor’s houses a zip code away. Refusing this advice is to court disaster.
Let me be blunt (I’m known for this) — if you plant a weeping willow in the burbs, the best you can hope for is that it will die quickly.
Fortunately, there’s a good chance of that.
Why Weeping Willow Is Just Plain Awful
It grows very fast. On the face of it, that might seem like a good thing, but fast-growing trees — think willows, poplars, silver maple, mulberry — are the products of aggressive, wide-spreading, shallow root systems that crack pavement, damage foundations, protrude above the soil, and invade water lines. Plus the wood of just about any tree that grows lightning-fast is weak. Which means it breaks very easily in storms.
It needs lots of water. This is why weeping willow looks its best near a body of fresh water. It’s also why its roots snake into sewer lines and septic tanks, giving you a wonderful surprise when you flush the first time in the morning. Planted in drier soil, it sulks, looks ratty, and practically dons a sign that reads, “Cut Me Down Now.”
It grows too big for most yards. Weeping willow can grow 50 feet tall and even wider. And its branches sweep the ground. Which means it’s probably gonna swallow your entire yard. And unless you regularly prune the pendulous branches to head-height, forget about lounging under there.
It’s a target for just about every insect and disease pest. The list is too long for me to recount. You can’t control them. You can’t stop them. Which is why you’ll never encounter an ancient, 500-year old weeping willow. It died 485 years earlier.
Therefore, let us resolve to consign this tree to the only place it belongs. Beside a large body of fresh water. With nothing else around.