Pussy Willow: Pollinator Favorite
Pussy Willows are one of the earliest blooming plants in the landscape, making it a vital food
source for early-emerging hungry pollinators.
It is easy to grow!
Pussy willows are happy in average to wet soils.
They can thrive in full sun to part shade
Because they like moisture, they’re a good choice for planting near a pond, lake or stream
Growing Pussy Willows Is Easy.
All you need to do is put cut pussy willows in water and wait for roots to sprout in about 2 to 3 weeks.
Pussy willows are dioecious, meaning there are both male plants and female plants.
Only male plants produce the fuzzy flowers (catkins). Home gardeners may be disappointed if they
wind up with a female tree, but the flowers on female plants are equally funky — they just look more
like greenish hairy caterpillars.
This native shrub provides some of the earliest flowers which means that they provide plenty of
pollen for our native bees! The foliage of pussy willows also host to native butterfly caterpillars!
Many native bees emerge from their snug nests in the ground or in hollow stems early in the spring, a time
when few plants in Wisconsin have just begun to produce the flowers that provide the nectar and pollen
critical to bees’ survival.
These bee species are dependent upon ephemeral spring flowers in forests,
early blooming non-native bulbs in gardens (like scilla and crocus), wind-pollinated deciduous trees such
as red, silver and sugar maples — and the pussy willow. The earliest blooming of these are the pussy
Pussy Willow Plant Profile
||10-20 feet tall
5-10 feet wide
||Full Sun, Part Shade
||Clay, Loam or Sand
||Moist to Wet
||3, 4, 5
One of springtime’s happiest sights is pussy willows. These soft silvery catkins are native wetland
plants that thrive in Wisconsin. They are a wonderful addition to spring flower arrangements and
equally attractive by themselves in a tall vase. You can buy pre-cut bunches at local nurseries, but
you can also grow your own.
Cut a pussy willow branch and put it in water and wait for roots to sprout. This takes 2 to 3 weeks.
When the pussy willow stems have produced roots that are a few inches long, you can either plant
them outside or you can bring them along for a few more weeks in a pot filled with potting soil and
a cup or so of peat.
Plant to a depth of about 2 inches and leave at least a few bud nodes above ground. They will root
in a few weeks.
Be careful when choosing a place for your pussy willows. Like all willows, they have deep, spreading
roots that can wreak havoc with water lines and septic systems.
Pussy willows benefit from an addition of peat, leaf mold or compost.
Once your pussy willows are established, you can prune them after their spring blooming season.
Every few years you can cut the tree back to a 6-inch stump. It will come back stronger and with