Salix caprea
Common Name: pussy willow 
Type: Tree
Family: Salicaceae
Native Range: Eurasia
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 12.00 to 25.00 feet
Spread: 12.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: March to April
Bloom Description: Pinkish gray (male); green (female)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Wet Soil, Black Walnut

Culture

Grow in average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers full sun. Thrives in moist soils, but tolerates somewhat drier soils better than most other willows. Prune as needed in late winter to early spring. Plants may be cut to the ground every 3-5 years to maintain a smaller shrub shape.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Salix caprea, commonly called pussy willow or goat willow, is native to Europe and Asia. It is a large shrub or small tree that typically grows to 12-25’ tall and to 15’ wide. It also may be trained as a smaller hedge. It has escaped cultivation and naturalized in parts of Eastern North America. This is a dioecious species (male and female catkins appearing on separate trees) that many consider to be the best of the “pussy willows”. Before the foliage emerges in late winter, male trees produce a showy display of catkins (1-2” long) that are pinkish gray and woolly. These catkins are larger than the pearl gray male catkins that appear on the American native plant most commonly called pussy willow (Salix discolor). Female trees produce smaller greenish catkins. Broad elliptic to oblong leaves (to 6” long) are dark green above and gray-hairy beneath. Variable fall color is usually an undistinguished greenish-yellow.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word meaning goat.

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 may 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 plants difficult.

Garden Uses

If growing this plant as an ornamental, make sure to purchase a male plant which will produce the showy late winter catkins. Goat willow may be grown in moist soils along streams, ponds or in low spots in the landscape where other shrubs or small trees may falter. It will also grow in average garden soils. Plants may be regularly cut back for use as a hedge.