The Q&A Archives: Where to plant weeping willows

Question: I would love to have a weeping willow tree in my yard. My mom insists that I shouldn't plant one because I live in a town where everyone has a private well. She also says a weeping willows need to be planted near standing water (my property does not have any wet areas). I have done some research, but have not found anything that directly addresses her concerns. Can you help? Thanks.

Answer: I tend to agree with your mom. Weeping willows can reach 45' in height and width at maturity so you would need a really large yard to accommodate such a plant. Care should be taken not to locate Weeping Willows near underground water or sewer lines or close to septic tank drain fields where the roots could cause significant damage. Roots are aggressive and will spread about three times the distance from the trunk to the edge of the canopy and often grow on the soil surface.

It's important to locate Weeping Willow only where there is adequate space for its large, imposing form.

If you like the look of a weeping branch pattern, why not consider planting one of the following, better behaved trees?

Weeping European Birch (Betula pendula ?Youngii?) ? Hardy zones 3-5. This cultivar is smaller and more compact than some others growing to 25?. The silvery-white bark is beautiful, especially in the winter, providing interest through the bark as well as the silhouette. As with most birch trees, bronze birch borer and leaf miner pests can be a problem, especially if the tree is stressed from too little water. A stunning weeping habit makes this birch a standout.

Crabapple (Malus spp.) ? Crabapples are a favorite deciduous tree among gardeners. There are a several weeping cultivars that are popular such as ?Excellens Thief?, ?Louisa?, ?Molten Lava? and ?Coral Cascade? but I wanted to mention two outstanding crabapples with a bit more detail. You can find more information about Crabapples here.

?Red Jade? ? A small tree 10-12? tall and 20? wide with a wide, weeping form. In spring the dark pink buds become white flowers and in the fall the foliage turns bright yellow. The fruit is bright red and persistent.
?White Cascade? ? A bit more rounded in form, this tree is 15? tall and wide with white spring flowers, golden fall foliage and yellow winter fruit. A cascading weeping habit makes a lovely veil-like look.

Weeping Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida ?Pendula?) ? Hardy in zones 5-9. Like many dogwoods this small tree prefers light or half shade, average to rich soil and moderate water. This deciduous dogwood grows to 25? and has bright red to burgundy autumn foliage, beautiful spring blooms and of course, the unique weeping winter silhouette.

Weeping Higan Cherry (Prunus subhurtella var. pendula) ? Hardy zones 6-9. Another favorite deciduous fruit tree is the cherry. This cherry tree has a very dramatic weeping shape with pink flowers in the spring and dark green summer foliage. Grows 20-40" tall and wide. There are some extra cold-tolerant cultivars such as ?Wayside? that are hardy zones 4-8.

?Silver Frost? Weeping Pear (Pyrus salicifolia ?Silver Frost?) ? Hardy zones 5-9. Another fruit tree with graceful weeping branches, this pear has an intricate winter silhouette. Long branches are very pendulous and the tree grows 15-25? tall and 15? wide. The pear tree is covered in masses of white blossoms in the spring, and slender silvery leaves spring through autumn.

European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) ? Hardy zones 5-9. The largest of the deciduous trees discussed in this article, the European beech has a dramatic winter silhouette and can grow to 80?. The beech prefers slightly acidic soil and there are actually two varieties to choose from when consider adding a European beech to your landscape. The ?Pendula?, a green-leaved cultivar, has interesting foliage in the fall when the leaves turn bright yellow while the ?Purpurea Pendula?, a purple-leaved cultivar, has interesting foliage in the summer because the leaves are purple in hue.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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