Salix babylonica

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 4 Professionals
Common Name: weeping willow
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Native Range: Northern China
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Spread: 30.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Silver green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Tolerate: Deer, Black Walnut

Culture

Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Thrives in moist soils. Avoid dry soils. Prefers full sun. Prune as needed in late winter to early spring. This species may not be reliably winter hardy in the St. Louis area, and is best grown in the southern parts of the U.S.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix babylonica, commonly called weeping willow or Babylon weeping willow, is a medium to large deciduous tree with a stout trunk topped by a graceful broad-rounded crown of branches that sweep downward to the ground. It grows to 30-50’ (sometimes to 60’) tall and as wide. It is native to China.

Many consider this tree to have the best form of the weeping willows available in commerce. Bark is gray-black. Branchlets are typically green or brown. This weeping willow can be a spectacular specimen at the edge of a pond with its branches gracefully weeping down to touch the water, however, it is often very difficult to site this tree in a residential landscape. It is dioecious, with male and female flowers appearing in silvery green catkins (to 1” long) on separate male and female trees. Flowering catkins appear in April-May, but are not showy. Narrow, lanceolate, finely-toothed leaves (to 6” long and 3/4” wide) with long acuminate apices are light green above and gray-green beneath. Variable fall color is usually an undistinguished greenish-yellow.

Some experts believe that the true species no longer exists in the wild in China and that plants being sold today under the name S. babylonica are primarily hybrids or mistakenly identified similar species.

Genus name is an ancient Latin name for willows.

The specific epithet means of Babylon and was given to this tree by Carl Linnaeus who mistakenly believed it to be the biblical willow of Babylon instead of a tree from China that was likely transported westward beginning in biblical times along the Silk Road trade route from China through central Asia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, eventually finding its way into Europe by the early 1700s. The trees growing in Babylon along the Euphrates River in biblical times were probably poplars (Populus euphratica) which are not willows but are in the willow family.

Problems

Susceptible to numerous disease problems including blights, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers. It also is visited by many insect pests including aphids, scale, borers, lacebugs and caterpillars. Wood is weak and tends to crack. Branches may be damaged by ice and snow. Litter from leaves, twigs and branches may be a problem. Shallow roots may clog sewers or drains and make gardening underneath the trees difficult.

Garden Uses

Weeping form of this tree is quite beautiful when the tree is planted in appropriate settings. Weeping willow may be grown most effectively in moist soils along streams, ponds or other water bodies. It is generally not recommended for use as a specimen in residential landscapes because of its susceptibility to breakage, potential insect/disease problems, invasive roots which seek out cracks in sewer and water pipes, litter potential, and overall mature size (this can develop into a very large tree).