In art and music, a weeping willow tree is often used as a symbol of sadness and death because of their weeping branches. In reality, the weeping willow is a beautiful tree with soft curtains of branches that droop gracefully downward sweeping the ground with elegant form.
Weeping willow trees originated in China where they symbolize vitality and rebirth. Their history dates back to 400 BC with Biblical references to the city of Zion with grief and weeping along the rivers of Babylon. Throughout the ages, willow trees have been used for medicinal properties. The bark contains a chemical called salicin which has similar features to aspirin. More recent research shows that willow bark has antiseptic and antioxidant benefits to help relieve back pain, headaches, and osteoporosis.
Weeping willows can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in areas with temperate and cold climates. They thrive in wet places like the swamps with standing water and moist soil. They grow about ten feet each year and quickly reach heights of 30 to 50 feet and spreads of 35 to 40 feet. New trees can sprout from cuttings and fallen branches that remain moist in soggy soil. These gentle trees spring up quickly dominating the landscape with giant clusters of weeping branches. Willow leaves are long, thin and bright green. In the fall, leaves vary from light yellow-green on top to dark gray-green on bottom enhancing an oasis of shade under the weeping branches.
Since weeping willows thrive in wet places, they have aggressive root systems that actively seek out water. If planted too close to buildings or houses, the roots can grow into pipes causing drainage problems and cracks. It's best to plant them in open areas where they have room for spreading roots. If planted in problem areas, they can help promote soil drainage and stop erosion.
Planting and Care
Weeping willows create a beautiful landscape with little maintenance, but they need adequate space to grow. Plant your willows in healthy, loose soil at least six weeks before frost appears. When planting your Weeping Willow, make the hole twice as large as the roots. Place your tree in the hole and cover all roots with soil. Water thoroughly after planting.
For the first two years, water regularly to keep roots moist. Check the leaves regularly for dryness. A healthy willow tree getting the right amount of water should have fit, crisp sheets. If leaves are droopy, you are under or over watering. Use an organic fertilizer sparingly around the base of the tree and keep the tree pruned.
In late fall, the tree will become dormant. The trunk will turn brown, and the leaves will fall off. The tree may look dead during winter, but don't worry. In the spring, your tree will return with its soft curtains of branches that droop gracefully downward to the ground. Your weeping willow will provide years of beauty with an air of elegant whimsy – just like the ones in the magical world of Harry Potter.