The Only Good Place For A Weeping Willow

July 17, 2016 | By | Comments (9)
weeping willow

The only site a weeping willow should be suffered to live. Photo: Christina Salwitz. Photo thief: Grumpy

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.



  1. Jeff Taylor

    Yep beware of Old Man Willow. He’ll lull you to sleep then swallow you alove

    August 5, 2016 at 5:06 am
  2. Johnny Alamo

    Made the mistake of letting a wild willow grow four or five years, sitting in the middle of my wet clay far back yard area. Went to cut it down and remove the stump. Guess what – it took three days of hard labor to get all the roots out, and even now I’m not sure I got them all, so more willows may arise in the spring, like zombies from a sorcerous cemetery, and much to my disgust. Next time I see one on my property, it’s getting dug out immediately, no more procrastination with willows, lest I’m the one doing the weeping.

    July 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm
  3. al mollet

    thanks for the info. I was going to plant on at the rear of our house next to a small lake. No I will have to go back to the drawing board for a substitute

    July 21, 2016 at 3:06 pm
  4. Kathleen Humphrey

    We had a beautiful willow planted on our pond bank. Unfortunately a gall wasp invaded the wood and killed it. Why it picked ours and not others, I have no idea. It didn’t even make it to 5 years old. We may try one more time.

    July 21, 2016 at 1:08 pm
  5. Gail McLamb

    What about corkscrew willow?

    July 21, 2016 at 12:17 pm
  6. Teri Harmon

    I’ve heard that a weeping willow can even drain a small pond.

    July 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm
  7. Gael

    We have a large weeping willow on the edge of Smith Mountain Lake that was beautiful for a good number of years. But this year half the branches are dead. Should we cut it down now? If we do, the power company will make us replace it, but if it falls in the lake, they’ll make us leave it there (thanks to FERC’s idiotic shoreline management plan).

    July 19, 2016 at 4:09 pm
  8. peppermintdragon

    We had a weeping willow that my dad planted when we moved into our house. He planted it at the back corner of the yard, in a gulley made by rain runoff. The thing was beautiful: tall, wide, graceful. For thirty years, it reigned in that corner–till lightening struck it, killing it. Made great firewood afterward.

    I’ll never have another, much as I loved it–not unless I have lots of land and water around for it.

    July 17, 2016 at 10:15 pm
  9. Madison Locklear

    Thank you for this post!

    July 17, 2016 at 1:48 pm

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