Salix alba var. vitellina

Common Name: golden willow 
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Native Range: Europe, northern Africa to central Asia
Zone: 2 to 9
Height: 6.00 to 70.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 50.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Grayish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: High
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil, Black Walnut


Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist soils in full sun.

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.

Var. vitellina, commonly called golden willow, produces new stems that are bright, golden yellow in color (especially noticeable and attractive in winter) which is the signature of the tree. Accordingly golden willow is often grown not as a tree but as a multi-stemmed shrub with the branches being cut back heavily each year in late winter to about 1' from the ground before new growth appears. Plant is fast growing and can produce up to 8' of new growth in one growing season. The botanical variety name is derived from Latin and means egg yolk.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

Specific epithet means white.


Susceptible to numerous foliar diseases, blights and cankers and many insect pests including aphids, scale and borers.


Golden willow is grown mainly for its yellow stems which are quite showy in winter, for its attractive foliage and for its ability to prosper in wet locations. As a multi-stemmed shrub, it can be effectively used as a screen or for erosion control or grouped in moist areas such as low spots. Very effective along streams or ponds where other shrubs or small trees may falter. As a tree, it is perhaps best grown in informal, naturalistic settings. May also be pollarded to showcase the new-growth, yellow stems.