ARTICLE

From the Ground Up: Pussy willow trees are fun, easy to grow

I have fond memories of pussy willow that mom innocently planted and that dad, in typical fashion, ignored. That little bush then grew massive and encompassed a large area of a rather small backyard. It didn’t matter to me, though, because I loved that huge, overgrown pussy willow.

Pussy willow trees are one of the earliest to break bud in late winter/early spring with the appearance of the silky catkins of willows (Salix). When I see my pussy willow blooming, I know spring is finally here. Who can resist the soft little furry buds that then open to a flurry of little yellow flowers. Once the flowers have faded, the pussy willow tree leafs out and remains full until fall. But wait: Just when you think no more pussy willow buds until spring, a few warm days in late fall or winter and voila. Your pussy willow tree is budding all over again. What a treat to bring in new cuttings at multiple, unexpected times throughout the year.

Pussy willow cuttings last a long time with constant water changes and root very easily. Strip the leaves from the bottom 6 inch and place cuttings in a tall vase in bright sunlight. When roots grow to 3 to 4 inches in length and after the threat of frost have passed, plant away. What fun it is to give these unique stems away to fellow co-workers, friends and neighbors.

Willows are one of the earliest sources of food for pollinators and rely on insects to spread their pollen and to complete their life cycles. Willows provide sugary nectar and protein-filled pollen, vital food to pollinators. An advantage of early blooming in the spring is virtually no competition of pollinators. The pussy willows are magnets for bees and flies in early spring and, unfortunately, Japanese beetles in mid-Summer.

Pussy willows trees or multi-stemmed shrubs can grow up to 30 feet in height. Careful consideration in placement of these trees is necessary due to their invasive roots and the propensity to grow quite tall. Pussy willows grow fast and need constant pruning every year. Their branches are somewhat weak so yearly pruning after flowers are spent encourages new growth for next year.

Pussy willows grow ideal in wet or poorly drained soil and do best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. It is best to avoid planting away from sewer lines, water lines or septic tanks. Pussy willows prosper along streams or pond banks and are a good choice for holding soil on a hill.

• For gardening questions, call the Linn County Extension Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.