Salix alba
Common Name: white willow 
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Native Range: Europe, northern Africa to central Asia
Zone: 2 to 8
Height: 50.00 to 80.00 feet
Spread: 40.00 to 70.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow anthers (male); Green (female)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil, Black Walnut


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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix alba, commonly called white willow, is native to Europe, central Asia and northern Africa. It was brought to the U.S. in the 1700s by European settlers and has since escaped and naturalized in many parts of North America. This is an upright, fast-growing, deciduous tree than grows to 50-80’ tall with erect branching that typically forms a broad, loose, open crown. Bark is yellowish-brown. The species is now rarely sold, but a number of cultivars are very popular, including plants noted for weeping form and for showy red or yellow winter twigs. This is a dioecious species, with flowering catkins appearing on separate male and female trees in May. Male catkins (to 2” long) are somewhat showy, having tiny flowers with yellowish anthers and two stamens. Female catkins are smaller and non-showy, with greenish flowers. Narrow, lanceolate, finely-toothed leaves (to 4” long) are gray-green above and white-silky beneath. Leaves gradually taper at the bases. Variable fall color is usually a pale yellow, but sometimes appears as a quality yellow.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

Specific epithet means white.


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 trees difficult.


White willow is generally not recommended as a residential landscape tree. Regardless of availability, white willow may be an acceptable selection for areas with moist soils along streams, ponds or in low spots in the landscape where other shrubs or small trees may falter. Not recommended as a shade tree or street tree because of weak wood, insect/disease susceptibility, moisture-seeking roots and litter potential.