Both known for their artistically draped foliage and water-loving natures, Wisconsin weeping willow (Salix x blanda) and Babylon weeping willow (Salix babylonica), also known simply as weeping willow, are perfect additions to a pond, creek or other watery landscape, where their gracefully waving branches are reflected in the water below.
Although some members of the Salix species are hardy in areas as cold as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 2, Babylon weeping willow does best in USDA zones 6 through 8, while Wisconsin weeping willow prefers USDA zones 5 through 9. Closely related to the Babylon weeping willow, the Wisconsin weeping willow is a cross between it and Salix pentachdra, though crosses with Salix fragilis may also bear the same name. It’s possible that Wisconsin weeping willow may survive in USDA zones 4 and above, but if you try to grow it there, make sure to place it in a protected location.
Both Babylon and Wisconsin weeping willow are usually globular in appearance, their spreading branches usually jutting out to the side and weeping back down toward the base. This gives them very round crowns in the spring, summer and fall, when they are in leaf, and more of an upright appearance when denuded in wintertime. While Babylon weeping willow usually grows to a height and width of 30 to 40 feet, Wisconsin weeping willow may top out at 20 feet or grow to similar heights and widths.
An Artistic Appearance
Both trees have droopy, swaying branches that hang down from their canopies in thin, graceful ropes of foliage. Both have lanceolate leaves with toothed edges, though the leaves of Babylon weeping willow are finely toothed and Wisconsin weeping willow rather more blunt. Another difference is the color: while the Wisconsin is dark green in leaf, the Babylon has leaves with a light green top and gray-green undersides.
Both types of weeping willow favor moist, well-draining soil, preferably the type available on the edges of waterways. Despite this, however, they will also grow in dryer landscape locations to form windbreaks or screens, provided they receive regular irrigation during times of drought. Both require full sun for best growth. Both trees are weak-limbed and short-lived, but they grow quickly and therefore work well for filling in a planting area in a short amount of time.
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