Weeping willow (Salix babylonica)

The weeping willow is a deciduous tree

Image - Flickr / Carl Lewis

The weeping willow tree is a movie tree. It has a very wide crown, beautiful branches that hang almost to the ground, and lanceolate leaves that give it a very elegant appearance.. During the winter it loses its foliage, but this does not diminish its natural beauty nor its resistance; in fact, it is capable of withstanding frosts down to -18ºC, maybe even more.

But it has several drawbacks. Perhaps the most important is that its roots need a lot of space to have a good development, which is why it is not recommended to plant in small gardens; and although it is believed that it tolerates pruning, what it really does is shorten its life expectancy, since it makes it (very) vulnerable to attack by pests and infections.

Origin and characteristics of the weeping willow

The weeping willow is a large tree

The weeping willow is a deciduous tree native to East Asia, whose scientific name is salix babylonica. It can reach a maximum height of 26 meters, but in cultivation it does not usually exceed 8 meters.. It has a crown that becomes very wide, 5-7 meters, formed by hanging branches from which lance-shaped leaves sprout, between 8 and 15 centimeters long, which have serrated margins. In adult specimens, it can be seen that the upper part is green and the lower part is glaucous.

Its flowers are yellow catkins about 5 centimeters long. emerging between the leaves. These are pollinated with the help of the wind, and this is also the means of transport for the seeds once they mature.

The life expectancy of the weeping willow is about 50 years.

What uses does it have?

It is used to decorate gardens. They are often planted near ponds or in wet areas, as it is a tree that grows better in these conditions than in dry soil. It can even be on the lawn, as long as there is a distance of about ten meters from the tree and the irrigation system.

Another very interesting use is to prevent soil erosion, a common problem on riverbanks. Likewise, it takes care of the fauna, since its branches and leaves provide a lot of shade.

Finally, it should be known that on some occasions it is worked as a bonsai, but given its short life expectancy it is not advisable.

What care does the salix babylonica?

If you dare to have one of these trees, the first thing you should keep in mind is that the best thing for it will be to plant it in the ground as soon as possible. Although it can be in a pot for a while, it is preferable that it grows and develops in the ground since it is young. But, in addition to that, you have to make sure that their needs are going to be covered:

Weeping willow leaves are deciduous

Location

It is a tree that must be outside the house, exposed to direct sunlight, wind, rain, heat and cold. You need to feel the seasons changing, as this helps you stay healthy and make better use of your energy.

Earth

  • Flower pot: growing it in a pot is not the most convenient, but it can be kept for one or two years in a pot filled with universal growing substrate (on sale here).
  • Garden: grows in cool and/or moist soils, near rivers. Alkaline tolerant if they drain water well and quickly.

Irrigation

The weeping willow is a tree that needs frequent waterings. Therefore, if we live in a place where it rains little, it will have to be watered about 4-5 times a week during the summer, and about 2 times a week the rest of the year. In the event that it is planted in a pot, we can place a plate under it without problems.

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It must be paid in spring and summer, if possible with ecological fertilizers since this way we will not harm the environment. Some examples of this type of fertilizer are: animal manure, egg and banana shells, earthworm humus (for sale here), compost or guano. It will suffice to take one or two handfuls (depending on the size of the specimen), once every 15 days during the warm months and every 30 days during the cold ones.

Multiplication

You can multiply the weeping willow by sowing its seeds in the fall or winter, or multiplying it by cuttings in early spring:

  • Seeds: if we live in an area where winter temperatures are low, with frost and/or snowfall, what we will do is plant them in pots and leave them outdoors; but if the climate is warm, with very light frosts, it is preferable to plant them in a tupperware with vermiculite (for sale here) and put them in the fridge for three months, and then plant them in seedbeds that we will leave outside.
  • Cuttings: it is possible to propagate it by cutting semi-woody branches at the end of winter and planting them in pots with coconut fiber (for sale here) for example. They will be left in partial shade, and they will be watered so that the substrate does not dry out.

Plagues and diseases

The leaves are strongly attacked by miner insects, aphids, chrysomelae larvae (they are a type of beetle) and mealybugs. In Spain the weeping willow is a victim of poplar drills (Paranthrene tabaniformis), which destroy the trunk from the inside; and by the mite known by the name of the willow witch's broom, which initially makes the plant look a little ugly, but if it is not treated, it greatly weakens the tree in the end.

As for diseases, it is very vulnerable to fungal infections, such as powdery mildew, or fungus Fusicladium saliciperdum, causing the appearance of brown spots on the margins of the leaf.

Pruning

We do not recommend pruning it, unless you want to remove the dry branches. In any case, the time to do this is late winter.

Rusticity

Supports up to -18ºC (on some English websites they say more, up to -30ºC).

The weeping willow is a very graceful tree

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