Willows belong to the genus Salix, and they are characterized by lateral twigs that break off easily and soft, light wood. They range in size from shrubberies to trees. Some willows produce fruits with cottony hairs and narrow leaves. More than 400 types of willows survive in warm and cold weather zones, although most thrive in moist climates.
The weeping willow is the most familiar of the willow tree varieties because of its unique structure. The branches face downward, which provides the source of the tree's name because the willow appears to be weeping. Weeping willows are capable of reaching heights up to 40 feet, and the spread may reach up to 30 feet. It has soft, green, narrow leaves that sometimes have white undersides with a silky texture. Weeping willows need moderate moisture levels to thrive.
The branches of the contorted willow make it a popular tree among landscapers. Every season, the branches twist and turn in different directions, making it a favorite for those who do not have enough room for many trees. Contorted willow trees are generally small to medium in size and may reach up to 40 feet in height with a 15-foot spread. Branches come out from the trunk and grow nearly parallel with the trunk until turning horizontal again. The contorted willow has green foliage, and like almost all willow tree varieties, it thrives in a moist environment.
If you live in colder climates and want to plant a willow tree, you should consider the black willow. Unlike many other willow plants, it can endure cold climates. Reaching a height of up to 50 and a spread of up to 40 feet, black willows are typically larger than most willows, although some trees may be very small, almost like a willow shrub. Black willows have large, and often lean, trunks. Their bark is thick and scaly in appearance.
Corkscrew willow trees, also known as curly willow trees, have branches that twist, turn and curl. Due to its unique appearance, corkscrew willows are popular among photographers. The tree grows rapidly, 10 feet or more each year, and they eventually reach a maximum height of 30 feet with a spread of 15 feet. The corkscrew willows shallow push up as the plant ages, which may cause problems with sewer lines, sidewalks and driveways. Its unusual structure also makes it susceptible to damage during storms.
Looking more like a willow shrub, the pussy willow is a flower-bearing tree. Generally described as an ornamental tree, the pussy willow grows up to 25 feet high with up to a 25 foot spread. The tree grows fast and needs a lot of sun to thrive. It is capable of growing in various soils, including soil with poor drainage. Unlike the corkscrew willow, the pussy willow has strong, upright standing stems that make it much more durable during high winds.
Japanese Dappled Willow Shrub
The Japanese dappled willow is a beautiful choice to use as a privacy screen between two yards and much less expensive than a fence. The plant, however, sheds its leaves in the fall, so it will not provide privacy year-round. When it has matured, the Japanese dappled willow reaches a maximum height of 6 feet. Like the weeping willow, the Japanese dappled willow shrub has branches that grow out of the crown in almost every direction and then bow downwards. This willow shrub thrives in moist soil, although it is very adaptable.
Pussy Willow Shrubs
Pussy willow shrubs are ideal shrubs for landscaping in wet or poorly drained areas. Many different species of animals use this shrub as cover and for food. Pussy willow shrubs are very soft and grow very quickly. The shrubs may grow to be quite large, so trim them down each year when they become dormant in winter.