The Pussy Willow

I’ve Been Setting Aside Money To Plant Some Pussy Willow Shrubs…It’s My Hedge Fund!

As the weather slowly warms more areas of the yard are becoming visible exposing a lot of mud lol.  The daylight hours continue to lengthen  and there is a significant increase in the hours of sunshine for which I am grateful as I find this one of the hardest times of the year as I patiently wait for more signs of spring.  The stems of many shrubs and trees are turning colour indicating life and one of the very first signs of spring is the Pussy Willow.  It will appear before the Crocuses or even the first signs of Daffodil or Tulip.  I was just given by a good friend, some cuttings of her Pussy Willows and I am thrilled that I will now have my own.  Thank You! 

It can be a tree through grafting or a shrub that can grow up to 20 feet high although new varieties usually only grow to 8 to 10 feet.  There are several varieties of Pussy Willow which includes The Giant, Black, Japanese Pink, Rose – Gold and the Goat Willow.  The cuttings I have been given have a slight pink tinge and am told it is a French Pussy Willow.  They are famed for their fussy nubs called Catkins and their colourful fall leaves.  They are used in floral arrangements, wreaths and basket making.  They are easy to propagate by either placing stems in water or directly placing the stems in moist soil.  The cuttings should be at least a foot in length and the thickness of a pencil.  These cuttings  should always be planted in the direction that they grow.  They prefer a slightly acidic soil that is well drained but do need continuous moisture and they will also benefit from some added compost.  They are long lived and do not require a great deal of maintenance. 

Pussy Willows are a good plant for pollinators and birds due to there early arrival after a long, cold winter  while other pollinating and nectar producing plants are scarce and they also produce lots of both pollen and nectar.  It can be an aggressive plant with its deep spreading roots and care should be taken to avoid planting near water or sewer pipes, septic fields or tanks and swimming pools.  They are  extremely good for areas that are experiencing soil erosion  issues.  Although they are prone to a variety or pests (especially deer) and diseases they are seldom affected enough to affect their growth.  The Pussy Willow is Dioecious which means they come in male and female plants of which only the male produces the actual fluffy nubs that give them their name.  The catkins actually protect the upcoming flowers by insulating them from the cold.  the flowers themselves are hardly glamorous and are short lived. The plants are not pollinated by bees or other pollinators but by the wind which means they produce a lot of pollen which may not be suitable for people with allergies. 

Care of the Pussy Willow is easy as it needs not much more than plenty of water.  Pruning is easy as well, you can severely prune every few years by cutting the plant down to 6 to 12 inches above the ground or you can prune to shape by cutting back old growth (thick and grey in colour), any weak branches, any branches which are growing in toward the centre or any growth outside your desired shape. Sever pruning ( called Coppice pruning) encourages the shrub to grow straight, strong limbs.  Both of these methods of pruning should be done before active growth occurs in early spring.

Samantha Nason
BS Ranch & Greenhouses
250 547 6567 • samanthanason@hotmail.com

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