What Is the Difference Between Willow Trees and Weeping Willow Trees?

The weeping willow is the very well-known of all willow trees — but it is by no means the sole willow. Simply put, all weeping willows are willows, but not all of willows are weepers. In reality, hundreds of members of this willow (Salix spp.) Genus exist around the planet. When most Salix trees, shrubs and ground covers generally prefer similar growing conditions, willows vary considerably, especially in shape and height.

Willow Family

More than 100 species of willow grow within North America alone. These members of this Salix family can be divided into three categories — trees, shrubs, and dwarf alpines, or ground covers. Though some willow shrubs may grow as tall as 25 feet, they are classified as shrubs because they have smaller, multiple trunks as opposed to this one-trunk construction of willow tree species. Dwarf alpine willows are low-growing, reaching a height of only about 18 inches. Although some exceptions exist, even as a band willows prefer full sun and moist to wet soil.

Weeping Willow

The weeping willow (Salix babylonica) is the most typical of this Salix trees. It rises up to 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. The tree’s branches flow from the “weeping” divisions to the ground, providing privacy both supporting and directly beneath the tree. Like other members of the willow family, the weeping willow could be dangerous in the wild. However, for certain landscape dilemmas, the weeping willow could be ideal. If you’ve got a boggy part of your yard and need to screen an unsightly view, the fast weeping willow is ideal. The weeping willow can’t handle arctic regions, and it grows best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10.

Caring for Weeping Willow

Sandy, dry soil isn’t the place to plant a weeping willow tree. Rather, grow the tree in soil that receives constant moisture or which can be situated somewhere on your own property which makes regular watering functional. In either case, often check the soil in which you’ve planted the weeping willow to make certain it stays evenly moist. This is especially important during the initial year, while the willow is establishing its origin system. Late winter is the ideal time to prune the trees to contour branches and encourage lusher growth. Weeping willows do best in full sun and also enjoy a annual feeding of a balanced, general-purpose fertilizer.

When “Weepers” Won’t Work

If the space in which you want to plant a tree or tree can not be kept consistently moist, or in case a weeping willow is too big for your property, then consider different willows. The bayberry willow (Salix myricoides), which rises up to 20 feet tall, and the prairie willow (Salix humilis), which rises between 2 and 8 ft tall, are equally great candidates for dry and sandy states — quite the opposite of that which weeping willows want. They also endure infertile soil and powerful winds. Many species of shrub willow are known for their special characteristics, from corkscrew silhouettes to vividly hued stems and buds.


Salix trees and shrubs spread rapidly. If you’re interested in developing a weeping or other form of willow, especially if your property is in a heavily populated region, check with the local extension service to find out whether one or more species of willow are considered an issue in your region. In California, for example, no willow trees are presently on the nation’s Invasive Plant Inventory Database. However, the University of California warns that the Salix group has invasive tendencies and classifies them as “woody weeds” which are better suited to rural, instead of urban, settings.

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