giant pussy willow: salix chaenomeloides

giant-pussy-willowTHE GIANT OR JAPANESE PUSSY WILLOW is screaming for attention out by the road today. Not that it wants me to actually do anything; just to ooh and ahh at how flashy its catkins are, at nearly 2 inches long. I suppose that warrants a closer look, no?

Salix chaenomeloides is just one of various rough-and-tumble shrubs I planted the last year or two out alongside the road, between the parallel rows of my two-part front deer fence. I wanted another layer of botanical interest, and a little more buffer from the dusty dirt road I live on. Fast-growing toughies like the giant pussy willow, too coarse for most beds but a great companion in earliest spring in just such a spot, were perfect for the job.

The shrub (Zones 5 or 6-8) is 10 feet high in just two years, and promises to be 12-15 and equally as wide in time. Its leaves are nothing spectacular, just willow-like. I’m told there will be yellow-orange anthers as the catkins mature, but even in the current silvery state, they’re fine with me.

The catkins of S. chaenomeloides opened from reddish buds that are somewhat flashy, too, though I don’t spend much time in winter out by the road looking at it, truth be told. Maybe that’s why it’s shouting at me now that all the snow and ice the plows had piled up alongside it all winter is finally gone. Come see, it says, I’m in my prime.

Sources:

Ask your local nursery, or order by mail:

13 comments
March 28, 2009

comments

  1. says

    I miss seeing pussy willows each spring. Where I grew up there were plenty in our yard. Now, on a small urban lot, I don’t have that luxury. Although, here in Buffalo, Dingus Day is quickly approaching and there’ll be bunches of branches for sale everywhere.

  2. says

    Love those kitty-toes (as we used to call them)! Is pussy willow as invasive as the weedy willows suckering their way into my yard? I’d love to have one that was more self-contained!

  3. says

    This is one variety that I don’t have (Yet!) Your post along with description of the vatiety in Christopher Newholme’s book “Willows, The Genus Salix” made me put it on my list – we certainly have the space here for this large variety.

  4. gardenden says

    We” live in a house by the side of the road” as well. This gives me hope that there is something tough enough to protect us from the dust that sometimes threatens to take over the porch.
    Thanks for another wonderful tip!

  5. benjia says

    I am in Lakeville,Ct…I have a small stucco house that faces north. To the west of my front door “hangs”a utility box.
    When i first moved in, a local landscaping put in a dwarf cypress…IT DIED. No tragedy. Now what? it has to be no taller than 10-12 ft. and not very wide…any suggestions?
    Stunning would be nice.. thankyou..benjia

    • says

      Hi, Benjia. I think you want an evergreen, no? And I also think you are saying it is a shady spot (north exposure). How much light please at what time of day?

  6. Kathy M says

    I have just recently developed a love of Pussy Willows but have found out my local deer also enjoy them. I have a large Japanese Fan Tailed Willow which I love to use in arrangements and share them with friends since they root so easily. I also had a great black pussy willow which was about 5 yrs old when it suddenly up and died . Yet to find out why. I replaced it with a red pussy willow which is doing quite well.
    I do need to know how to prune my willows because I have heard that there is specific method. Thanks for any help.

  7. Dillon T says

    What will happen if a giant pussy willow is trimmed on a very hot day at the end of June. Will the bushes(10) die???

    • says

      Hi, Dillon. I was just thinking the same thing. : )

      I have done such things (I prefer to do it in April or May)…but I have then watered like mad in the months that follow, to give the victim a chance to recover. I want to say you nearly can’t kill this plant, but there are always exceptions — and I don’t know how severe we are talking. Do you plant to go all the way to right above the base, to rejuvenate, or just haircut? Haircut=no problem at all. Rejuvenation=give it the TLC after for sure all summer.

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