Weeping willows are fast-growing trees. They make wonderful shade trees and also fit in well around streams, ponds or water gardens. They have a long growing season, leafing out in early spring and holding the leaves late into the season. In milder climates, weeping willows often hold their leaves until Christmas. Weeping willows are easy to propagate and, once established, require little care.
Willows are one of the easiest trees to propagate, because of a natural plant hormone--indolebutyric acid, or IBA--that is found in many rooting compounds. As a result, they are easily rooted in water. Cuttings should be taken from soft, new growth from the lower stems of the plant or suckers. Cuttings taken lower on the plant contain more hormones that will encourage root growth. Cut 4- to 6-inch pieces, just below leaf junctions. Make clean, diagonal cuts. Place cuttings in a vase or container filled with water. Place in a spot where they can sit undisturbed. In two to six weeks, cuttings will sprout visible roots. Plant cuttings with visible roots directly into soil as soon as all frost danger has passed.
Willows tolerate most soils, even those that are poorly drained, but they do not do well in acidic soils. They prefer moist soil conditions and do very well near lakes, streams or ponds, but they have a moderate drought tolerance. Weeping willows will grow in most climates and will tolerate arctic to temperate zones. They will also grow in areas with partial shade to areas with full sun.
Planting rooted weeping willow cuttings is easy. Dig a hole 5 or 6 inches wide and deep enough to cover the highest root growth on your cutting. Fill it back in with equal parts of soil and compost mixed together. Make a smaller hole with your spade handle and place the cutting in it with roots aimed downward. Push soil back around the cutting, covering the roots completely, and firm the soil around the cutting. Weeping willows are somewhat weak-wooded and the main stem should be staked, especially in areas of high winds.
Grow weeping willows whereever shade is desired. They are also good choices for areas where you wish to prevent soil erosion, due to their massive root systems. Weeping willows will grow to 30 to 50 feet tall and can be equally as wide, but can be trained to create shade near a patio or deck.
Willows are susceptible to tent caterpillars, spider mites, borers and aphids, as well as blights and cankers. Lace bugs may also be a problem, causing molting and yellowing of the leaves. Crown gall, willow scabs and other fungi or diseases may attack willows, too.