How to Plant and Take Care of Pussy Willows

Pussy willows care tips
The pussy willow is a plant native to North America and some parts of Europe. It is a great decorative option to add to a garden, as it is very easy to grow and maintain, while adding to the aesthetic beauty of the area. This article will tell you the correct method how to grow, prune, propagate, and care for this versatile plant.
Quick Fact
The pussy willow got its name from its male flowering catkins, which look like tufts of cat fur during late winter and early spring.
The American pussy willow (Salix discolor) and the Japanese pussy willow (Salix caprea) are members of the Salix genus, and they carry symbolic importance, both in Asian as well as European cultures. For example, the Chinese consider pussy willow blossoms as a symbol of prosperity and happiness, while people in Europe and America use them as substitutes for palm branches on Palm Sunday.

These plants are a popular choice to grow in landscape gardens, as they form beautiful hedges and shrub borders, or they can be grown as trees too. Some gardeners also grow them for their cuttings, which bloom beautifully indoors, and look great in flower vases. These plants are not very difficult to grow and maintain if grown from cuttings, or if they are bought from nurseries and garden centers. Growing these plants from seeds can be comparatively difficult. Some species of pussy willows are classified as invasive, so make sure that the plant you are growing is not one of these species. Get the help of personnel at the nursery for this purpose.

Planting Pussy Willow Trees

If you are looking for a plant that will produce furry catkins, make sure your cuttings come from a male plant, as female plants don't produce catkins.

You Will Need
  • Pussy willow branch, 12 inches in length
  • Vase, 1
  • Mulch or compost
  • Shovel, 1 (small)
Directions
  1. The pussy willow come under the USDA hardiness level 4 - 8. So, ensure that your garden is suitable accordingly.
  2. Place the pussy willow branch, cut side down, in a vase filled with water.
  3. Let the branch develop roots. This may take several weeks. Keep adding freshwater when needed.
  4. Once the roots are fully formed, look for a place in your garden that is distant from any walls, fences, walkways, water pipes, and tanks. The area must ideally have wet soil and good sunlight, but these plants can survive in drier conditions with partial sunlight as well.
  5. Dig up some soil and add compost or mulch to give the plant a fertile environment.
  6. Place the branch in the hole that you have dug, and cover the base again with soil.
  7. Water the plant generously everyday, till the bush has adapted well to its surroundings.

Propagation

All varieties of pussy willows are very easy to propagate. One only needs branches that have grown recently which have at least a couple of buds. The branches should be as thick as a pencil, and around two feet long. Planting them in moist soil and regularly watering them for a few weeks will set the roots firmly in the ground.

Maintenance
  • Most pussy willows grow between 15 - 25 feet tall, and 12 - 15 feet wide if you let them. So, regular pruning and cutting of the branches is important, to be able to access the catkins for decorative purposes.
  • Heavy pruning after the blooms stop appearing encourages the plant to grow stronger. The best period to do this is during winter, when the shrub is dormant.
  • Remove all dead and damaged branches regularly to encourage better growth.
  • Prune around one-third of the bush to your preference at the end of spring each year, and cut it to the ground once in 5 years.
  • The important thing to remember is to prune the pussy willows only when the flowers have stopped blooming, or you will not get new ones next year.
  • Regular watering and care from pests and diseases will help in preserving your willows for a long time to come.

Diseases Pests and Other Problems
  • Mildew: If you notice whitish splotches on the leaves, the tree is probably affected by powdery mildew. In such cases, it is best to use a sulfur fungicide to solve the problem. Collect and destroy any of the dead parts of the plant.
  • Leaf Spot and Rust: Both these conditions can become very serious if not taken care of in time. These fungi cause the foliage of the plant to decrease, and eventually destroy the plant. If you see yellow, black, or brown spots on the leaves and branches, spray the plant with a copper fungicide as soon as possible.
  • Weak Wood: Sometimes, the plant stem and branches may break under the stress of heavy winds, snowfall, or ice. The only effective solution here is regular pruning, and transplanting the shrubs to a more sheltered area.
  • Pests: Insects such as aphids, weevils, borer, gypsy moths, scale insects, sawflies, etc., can attack your willows and destroy the leaves and branches. Effective use of pesticides that are specific to the particular insect is a good choice to solve this problem.

Pussy willows are gracious and flexible plants. Go ahead and enjoy the beauty of the catkins in your home, and its foliage in the garden, throughout the year.
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