Choosing the Best Willow Tree Varieties for UK Gardens: Expert Tips on Care

Willows form the numerous and diverse genus Salix, which consists of over 400 species of deciduous shrubs and trees. Willow tree varieties come in many shapes and forms, from tiny creeping alpine willows through to stunning weeping willow trees. While their looks and origin might vary, most willows (except alpine varieties) thrive in damp conditions and feel at home in water meadows, wetlands, and riverbanks.

Weeping willow trees thrive in damp and boggy conditions.
Weeping willow trees flourish in moist soils. Their drooping branches and attractive growth habit make them the most distinct group of the species.

Many willow tree varieties are native to the United Kingdom. Species such as White Willow (Salix Alba), Basket Willow (Salix Viminalis) and the Goat Willow (Salix Caprea) have been thriving in the British Isles ever since the glaciers melted after the last ice age and they were still part of the mainland.

However, it is not only the UK native willow tree varieties that are fully hardy in our climate. Many stunning cultivars from China or the Baltics are very popular with British gardeners and assuch, are an important part of the Paramount Plants selection of willow trees for sale. To find out which of the various willow tree varieties is the best choice for your garden, as well as information about their care requirements, read on.

Willow Trees for Sale UK: Basic Care and Requirements

Easy to grow, propagate and care for, willows are hardy and low-maintenance trees. Additionally, they flourish in areas where not many trees would: boggy, wet, damp conditions are not a problem for willows. In fact- they prefer them.

Although there are many willow tree varieties, the basics of their care are largely similar. Most, if not all, thrive in moist, fertile soil and love a sunny spot in the garden.

Contorted willows are one of our many willow trees for sale.
Salix Erythroflexuosa is a gorgeous contorted cultivar that offers year-round architectural interest in the garden.

Willow pruning should be done when the trees are in their dormant phase, to avoid bleeding of the sap. Mature willow trees do not need much pruning except removal of dead and congested growth. It is the young specimens that will need a bit more trimming to promote an attractive growth habit later on.  Also, many willow varieties have attractive young stems in winter. To encourage these vibrant stems, it is necessary to hard-prune – at least every second year in March.

Weeping Willow Trees and Other Willow Tree Varieties: Which Should You Choose?

Most Salix species have narrow, lance-shaped leaves, bright green in the spring and maturing to a vibrant golden hue in the autumn. Before the foliage emerges, willow trees produce catkins, adding to their ornamental appeal. But, despite the similarities willow tree varieties share, each cultivar offers something unique.

The narrow, lance like leaves of the Salix Alba Darts Snake curl into twisted form.
Twisted Willow Dart’s Snake boasts not only contorted branches, but unique curly foliage, as well.

The hardest part about growing willows is choosing which of the varieties to grow in the first place. Weeping willow trees,contorted willows, pussy willows – your decision will depend on the intended role in the garden.

If you want an effective winter garden, plant colour-stemmed willows with Silver Birches and colour-stemmed Dogwoods. We recommend stunning cultivars such as the Salix Alba Chermesina with its scarlet branches, or the ethereal Salix Irrorata that flaunts lilac-blue twigs.

Salix irrorata is one of the many contorted willow tree varieties.
The pale bluish stems of the Salix Irrorata cultivar look even more striking in contrast to colourful Dogwood shrubs.

Willow hedges and windbreaks are also quite popular landscape use for the Salix species, especially in waterlogged soils where little else could be used. For this purpose, multi-stemmed shrubs are the best choice: Salix Integra Hakuro Nishiki is highly decorative with its pink and white new foliage and  Salix Purpurea Nana is a lovely compact cultivar. We also recommend Salix Sachalinensis Golden Sunshine for larger hedges and Salix Helvetica as an alternative for small gardens.

Weeping willow trees might be the most distinct and recognisable cultivars of the species. The drooping branches swaying in the wind and the imposing tree standing out in the landscape. There is a somewhat romantic, rustic appeal to the weeping willow trees. If you are looking to grow willow as a specimen tree, consider the AGM Golden Weeping Willow, or the native Kilmarnock Weeping Willow. The wispy looking, downward-arching Salix Babylonica is also a popular choice.

For architectural value and striking winter interest, it is hard to beat the twisted and contorted willows. The outstanding Salix Erythroflexuosa, Salix Alba Dart’s Snake, Salix Babylonica Tortuosa, and Salix Caradoc are some of our most sought-after varieties. Their gnarly, twisted form adds structural interest to the landscape and the branches look lovely as cuttings. Another willow prized for cuttings (among other things) is the Mount Aso Pussy Willow, with its charming pink, fluffy blooms.

Weeping willow trees make great specimen trees for gardens.
Weeping willow trees make ideal specimens. They have a romantic, rustic appeal.

Willows, in their many forms and shapes, make an ideal addition to any garden. From the focus of interest in the landscape to serving as a backdrop plant, these versatile trees and shrubs offer a lot and require almost nothing in return. Paramount Plants and Gardens offer you a vast collection of fully hardy and mature willow trees and shrubs. All you need to do is pick out your favourite.

And in case you still have any questions about our willow trees for sale or need advice on how to care for your newly purchased willow tree or shrub, feel free to contact us. We are happy to help!