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willows – classification by size

Willows, belonging to the genus Salix, are renowned for their graceful appearance and versatility in various landscapes. With over 400 species distributed across the globe, willows exhibit remarkable diversity, catering to a wide range of gardening needs. Among the diverse array of willows, three main types stand out: dwarf, shrub, and tree varieties. Each type possesses unique characteristics, making them suitable for specific landscaping purposes.

Here we explore some differences from this wonderful and diverse species.

How to determine willow sizes - dwarf, shrub, tree

Dwarf Willows

Dwarf willows are characterized by their compact size, making them ideal for small gardens, rockeries, or container planting. Despite their diminutive stature, these varieties exhibit the same grace and charm as their larger counterparts.

Genus: Salix

Type: Dwarf

Family: Salicaceae

Species and Varieties:

Salix repens (Creeping Willow): This low-growing species forms a dense mat of foliage, featuring silver-gray leaves and yellow catkins in spring.

Salix boydii (Boyd’s Willow): A small, creeping shrub with blue-green foliage, Boyd’s Willow is ideal for ground cover in moist soils.

Salix purpurea ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Purple Osier Willow): Renowned for its purple stems and rounded leaves, this compact shrub adds ornamental value to any garden.

Height and Width:

Height: Typically grows up to 1-3 feet tall.

Width: Spreads to around 2-6 feet, depending on the variety.

Planting Information:

Soil: Well-drained, moist soil is preferred.

Sunlight: Partial to full sun exposure.

Watering: Regular watering, especially during dry spells.

Maintenance: Pruning to maintain shape and size.

Shrub Willows

Shrub willows encompass a diverse range of species known for their bushy growth habit. These varieties are valued for their ornamental foliage, attractive catkins, and adaptability to various soil conditions.

 Genus: Salix

Type: Shrub

Family: Salicaceae

Species and Varieties:

Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’ (Japanese Dappled Willow): Noted for its variegated foliage, featuring pink, white, and green leaves, this shrub adds a splash of color to the landscape.

Salix caprea (Goat Willow): Also known as Pussy Willow, this species produces fluffy catkins in early spring, making it a favorite for floral arrangements.

Salix purpurea (Purple Osier Willow): With slender purple stems and narrow leaves, this shrub offers year-round interest in the garden.

Height and Width:

Height: Typically grows between 4-10 feet tall.

Width: Spreads to around 4-8 feet, depending on the variety.

Planting Information:

Soil: Adaptable to various soil types, but prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade.

Watering: Regular watering, especially during the establishment period.

Maintenance: Pruning to encourage bushy growth and remove dead wood.

Tree Willows

Tree willows are characterized by their tall, upright growth habit, making them suitable for providing shade, windbreaks, or focal points in large landscapes. These majestic trees offer a striking presence with their sweeping branches and graceful foliage.

Genus: Salix

Type: Tree

Family: Salicaceae

Species and Varieties:

Salix alba (White Willow): One of the most recognizable tree willows, White Willow features silvery foliage and is valued for its medicinal properties.

Salix babylonica (Weeping Willow): Known for its pendulous branches and cascading foliage, Weeping Willow adds a dramatic element to water features and landscapes.

Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’ (Corkscrew Willow): This unique variety boasts twisted branches and contorted foliage, creating visual interest throughout the year.

Height and Width:

Height: Typically grows between 30-50 feet tall, depending on the species.

Width: Spreads to around 20-40 feet, forming a broad canopy.

Planting Information:

Soil: Tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but prefers moist, fertile soil.

Sunlight: Full sun exposure is ideal for optimal growth.

Watering: Regular watering, especially during hot, dry periods.

Maintenance: Pruning to remove dead or damaged branches and maintain desired shape.

weeping willows