The graceful sweep of weeping willow branches makes for an attractive addition to a home landscape. Weeping willows have a short lifespan compared with some other trees, reaching about 30 years old. They grow up to 45 feet tall and can spread almost as wide. These are water-loving trees that do well in moist soil, but can tolerate drier areas with regular watering.
A weeping willow tree requires a lot of room. Its roots spread almost three times the distance from the trunk to the ends of the branches. Some of the roots grow near the soil surface and can lift and break sidewalks, as well as underground water or sewer lines. You should locate your tree well away from any structures that can be damaged by the widespread roots.
Your weeping willow requires full sun for best growth, but can tolerate very light shade. It can handle most soil conditions, as long as you provide adequate water in drier soils and stick to a good fertilization schedule.
Handling Young Trees
Plant your young weeping willow tree as soon as possible after purchase. If you can't plant it immediately after purchase, store it in a cool, dry place, such as an unheated garage or basement to help keep it in a dormant state until you can plant it. You'll need to sprinkle water on the roots periodically to keep them from drying out. After planting, your willow will need to be pruned and trained so it grows a strong central trunk and wide branch crotches.
Plant your willows at least six weeks before the first frost in your area according to the USDA Hardiness Zone Map. Planting this early allows your tree to recover from the stress of planting and adjust to its new home before freezing weather sets in. To plant your tree, dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball and place the tree upright in the hole with the root ball intact. You can then refill the hole, packing the soil firmly as you go to prevent air pockets.
Pests and Diseases
Weeping willows are affected by insects such as caterpillars, borers and aphids; monitor your tree carefully for these pests and treat as needed. Willows are also susceptible to fungal diseases; you can cut down the risk of these diseases by sticking to a regular watering and fertilization schedule to maintain the tree's health and ability to resist disease. If your weeping willow becomes infected with crown gall, a disease that causes galls to form at the soil line or higher, remove the infected trees and don't plant in that spot for at least two years.