Plant Pussywillows in Your Garden

The pussywillow is loved by children and is often used in spring floral arrangements, both dried and fresh. The pussies are actually the male flowers, called catkins, which open in early spring before the leaves appear. Native Pussy Willows are usually bushy shrubs that grow in wet areas, but you don't have to go out searching for them in a ditch full of cold water. You can grow Pussy Willow in almost any garden.

Choosing varieties
The native North American shrub willows all produce furry catkins to some extent, but for impressive large catkins, plant French Pussy Willow, Salix caprea. Pussy Willow flowers come in soft shades of gray, but they also come in black, Salix melanostachys, and pink, Salix chaenomeloides, Mt. Also. Salix apoda from Eurasia has a ground-hugging habit with showy, large catkins of orange and pink in early spring. Most varieties sold as Pussy Willows in catalogs and nurseries will be male plants.

There is a wonderful small Weeping Pussy Willow tree, Salix caprea, Pendula, that has huge, furry gray catkins cascading down its stems in the early spring. After the catkins are gone, it's graceful weeping form still creates interest. It makes an excellent specimen plant or the focal point of a perennial bed.

Planting and care
Willows are one of the easiest woody ornamentals to grow. Plant your Pussy Willow in full sun for best results, although they will tolerate some shade. Keep young plants well-watered until they are established, but after that they will do just fine in average garden conditions. If you have a wet area in your landscape, Pussy Willows may be the perfect plant to use in that location. Fertilizer is rarely needed for willows. Do not plant Pussy Willows, or any other willow, too close to septic fields or water lines. Their roots will go a long way in search of water and when they find it they invade, often clogging pipes and septic fields.

In the garden you will want to keep the Pussy Willow shrub pruned to a compact, manageable shape. You can prune them after the catkins have dropped, taking out about 1/3 of the older stems each year and cutting the whole plant back to the height you want it to remain. Pussy Willows spread quickly through suckers coming up from the root system, so you will want to control the spread before they take over the garden.

Using Pussy Willows
You can have early Pussy Willows in the house by cutting branches in the early spring, just as the buds begin to swell, and putting them in water inside the house. Left in water after the catkins have dropped, some of these cuttings may actually root. I have taken nice Pussy Willow branches out of floral displays and rooted them in potting soil or damp sand. If you see an impressive Pussy Willow, ask for a cutting of it, and you may be able to start your own plant. The best cuttings come from the ends of young branches and are about as big as a pencil. They should be about 6 to 12 inches long. Early spring is the best time to try this, but willows root so readily that it doesn't hurt to try it at other times. Insert your cutting in damp sand or potting soil and cover the container with a plastic bag to raise the humidity. Keep the cutting in a well-lit area but out of direct sun. If you see new growth, your Pussy Willow has rooted.

Willows have so much of the plant hormones that promote rooting that they can be used to help root other plants. Pinch off the buds and ends of small, actively growing willow stems and crush them or chop them coarsely. Put a couple cups of willow pieces in a gallon of warm water and let it steep in the sun as you would do with sun tea. Then dip the ends of cuttings you want to grow in the solution before inserting the cutting in potting medium in a container. Use the remaining mix to water the containers as they become dry.

To dry Pussy Willow catkins for floral arrangements, you can just cut them when they have expanded to the size you prefer and place them in a jar without water in a dark, cool area. Or you can place them in any mixture used for drying other flowers, such as silica or borax.

Related Life123 Articles

There are many easy-to-grow landscape shrubs. The key to success is finding shrub varieties that will thrive in your soil and climate conditions.

If you like gaudy, showy, outrageously flashy flowers, then hardy hibiscus is the plant you want to grow.

Frequently Asked Questions on Ask.com
More Related Life123 Articles

So beloved are lilacs that they were one of the first plants that early settlers brought to America.

Blue Mist, Bluebeard, Blue Spirea or Caryopteris--whatever you want to call it, this delightful late-summer bloomer is a magnet for butterflies and a big asset in the late-summer border. Caryopteris has true blue flowers and is hardy, tough and easy to grow.

Learn how to cultivate Leucothoe fontanesiana, the Rainbow Fetterbush.

© 2014 Life123, Inc. All rights reserved. An IAC Company