There are over 400 known varieties of willow. They can be any size from a dwarf shrub to a large tree. Willows grow quickly and need deep soil. Most willows produce catkins of some kind, and the ones on male trees can be striking. Each species of willow is prized for a different reason, from the familiar shape of the weeping willow to the bright red stems of the Japanese variegated willow.
The weeping willow is perhaps the most recognisable kind of willow. Long, thin, sweeping branches characterise this tree, which can reach heights of 70 feet. It can thrive in light conditions from partial shade to full sun. The weeping willow tree needs well-drained soil and grows quickly in moist soil. It can withstand a drought, but not without losing leaves. Give your weeping willow plenty of water during dry seasons to prevent this. The weeping willow produces inconspicuous yellow flowers in the spring.
The goat willow grows rapidly, more than 18 inches per year, reaching its final height of 3 to 4 feet quickly. Blooms are yellow and occur in midspring to early summer. The goat willow produces catkins and is often called pussy willow. The goat willow likes moist soil.
True to its name, the corkscrew willow branches are contorted and twisted, producing interesting patterns against the winter sky. They begin growing almost parallel to the trunk before flattening out to horizontal. The corkscrew willow is a fast grower, reaching heights of 35 feet with a spread of 20 feet. The leaves of this tree turn yellow in the fall. The corkscrew willow grows in part shade to full sun and is moderately drought-tolerant.
Japanese Variegated Willow
The branches of the Japanese variegated willow grow upright, unlike their weeping cousins, and the stems turn bright red. New leaves are coloured with pink, white and green, and mature to cream and green. This willow grows to only 6 feet with an equal spread, enjoys lots of sunlight, and doesn't need as much water as other willows.
Blue Arctic Willow
The blue arctic willow grows to be 10 feet or more. It enjoys sun and moist soil. The arctic willow doesn't thrive in a combination of heat and high humidity, but tolerates cold well. It produces light green to greenish-yellow flowers in midspring.