Pussy Willow, Salix discolor

Pussy Willow: Pollinator Favorite

Why Plant Pussy Willows?

  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 Willow Sex

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.

Pussy Willows Attract Pollinators

Pussy Willow, Salix discolor

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 willows.

Pussy Willow Plant Profile
Botanical Name: Salix discolor
Plant Type: Herbaceous shrub
Mature Size: 10-20 feet tall
5-10 feet wide
Sun Exposure: Full Sun, Part Shade
Soil Type: Clay, Loam or Sand
Soil Moisture: Moist to Wet
Bloom Time: Early spring
Flower Color: White
Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5
Native Area: North America

How To Plant And Care For Pussy Willows

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 bigger catkins.

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