Small Willow Tree Types

Updated February 21, 2017

The familiar weeping willow (Salix babylonica) grows 50 feet tall with a width of up to 40 feet. While many willow species may be too large for the home landscape, smaller willow types are available. Some species can be pruned to shrubs or allowed to grow into trees. Not all willow species are the weeping variety

Laurel Willow

Although not the smallest willow species, the laurel willow (Salix pentandra) is a small-to-medium sized tree that grows about 25 feet tall. Despite its height, laurel willow generally grows into a shrubby, nonweeping form. The bark is grey-brown and the leaves are a rich green. Laurel willow is hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 3 and enjoys moist, but well-drained soil. Plant laurel willow around water features or as an ornamental specimen in the yard in full sun to partial shade.

Golden Willow

Golden Willow (Salix alba var. vitellina) grows from 6 to 70 feet tall. The difference is in the way it's maintained. Golden willow is a weeping, multistemmed plant that grows up to 8 feet per year. In late winter, cut this species down to about a foot tall without damaging the plant. Golden willow's long, 4-inch leaves have silvery undersides. The leaves turn different shades of yellow in the fall. The plant produces upright catkins up to 4 inches long in spring, as leaves appear. Golden willow grows well in USDA zones 2 to 9. Plant golden willow in moist, loamy soil with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0 in full sun or partial shade. Plant several for a screen or plant around ponds, streams or other moist areas.

Coral Bark Willow

In the wild, coral bark willow (Salix alba subsp. vitellina Britzens) grows 80 feet tall. In the garden, this upright willow variety may stop growing at about 15 feet. Coral bark gets its name from its winter display when stems turn a deep, orangish-red. Prune coral bark willow heavily in late winter before new growth appears for maximum colour the following winter. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8, coral bark willow likes full sun and moist, well-drained soils.

Violet Willow

The violet willow (Salix daphnoides), hardy in USDA zones 4 to 7, grows from 7 to 20 feet tall and produces silvery-white catkins from April to May. The tree's stems turn purple from early fall to midwinter. This upright willow can be pruned and kept as a shrub or allowed to grow into tree form. The catkins appear in early spring before the leaves and are useful for dried flower arrangements. Violet willow likes medium-to-wet soil in full sun or partial shade. Grow violet willow as an ornamental tree or shrub in the garden or around ponds. Plant several for a screen.

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About the Author

Audrey Lynn has been a journalist and writer since 1974. She edited a weekly home-and-garden tabloid for her hometown newspaper and has regularly contributed to weekly and daily newspapers, as well as "Law and Order" magazine. A Hambidge Fellow, Lynn studied English at Columbus State University.