With its overhanging, weeping branches, large size and fast-growing habit, willows (Salix spp.) are a majestic shade tree. Unfortunately they are not suitable for many sites due to their copious need for water and their immense size at maturity. But planted in a suitable site, willows will steal the show from any other trees in the immediate vicinity.
Preferring a wet location, willow trees are an excellent choice to plant near a body of water. Their majestic, weeping form seemingly connect the lake to the surrounding landscape and bring it into a "human" scale. The will grow to their full height of up to 70 feet in such a location, due to the high water table usually associated with large bodies of water.
Even though they are short-lived, willows make excellent shade trees for a large suburban yard. Their pendulous branches hang down, creating both privacy and deadening traffic noise. Take care to locate them away from underground water lines as the roots will seek them out and may eventually cause the pipes to burst. Because they are so fast-growing, a willow tree will reach maturity much faster than any other variety of tree commonly planted for shade in suburban or urban yards.
Public Park---Featured Specimen
A full-grown willow planted as a feature specimen among the manicured grass of a public park is a majestic sight. Fast-growing, they provide shade quickly and over a large area, due to the large size of the canopy. They do particularly well in lakeside or riverside parkland where the underground water table may be close to the surface.