Have you ever wondered about the longevity of willow trees? Why do they tend to fall apart only several years after planting them? How often do you need to provide the beautiful willow tree with tree service and care?

A little background on willows.

Salix. species (weeping willows) are native to China. Willows tend to live near freshwater. You may see them most often near ponds and creeks here in Grand Rapids. Because of the abundance of water they collect, they tend to be very drought resistant, meaning they can survive several days without rainfall. Speaking of rainfall and water, willow trees love rich and moist soil that is slightly acidic in pH.

Willow trees tend to grow best in hardiness zones 4 through 10. Zones 4, 5, and 6 make up Michigan. Refer to the map to see the state’s water sources in relation to hardiness zones around Kent County. These trees bloom in the late winter/early spring. Their leaves grow anywhere between three and six inches long. Then, in the fall, the leaves turn yellow and drop. This perennial has bark containing deep ridges.

The roots of a willow tree are extremely aggressive. Because of the aggressiveness, they should not be planted near sewer drains, septic systems, or water lines. If you have a willow that is planted near one of those, you should consider a tree removal. With aggressive roots come a strong uptake of water. This is why they can withstand the summer heat as long as they are getting nutrients and water from nearby.

When do willow trees start to fall apart?

Willow trees tend to start to fall apart around 20 years of age. It is possible to have them reach 50 years with proper care. When they have lived their lifespan, you should have the trees removed to keep up on a healthy ecosystem. The reason that the longevity of willow trees is relatively short is because of pests and diseases. Pests and diseases work together to deteriorate trees in general, but work even harder when it comes to willows! We know that willows love areas of rich, moist soil and cool to moderate temperatures. What areas do pests and diseases love? You guessed it! Rich, moist soil and cool to moderate temperatures are, most often, perfect breeding zones for pests and diseases.

Here is a list of common pests and diseases of Willow trees!

  • Japanese Beetle
  • Chrysomelid Beetle
  • Potato Leaf Hopper
  • Giant Willow Aphid
  • Willow Sawfly
  • Gypsy Moth
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Tar Spot
  • Leaf Rust
  • Willow Scab from the fungus Venturia sciliciperda
  • Black Cancker from the fungus Glomerella miyabeana
  • Willow Blight from a combination of Willow Scab and Black Cankers
  • Crown Gall from Agrobacterium tumefaciens
  • Anthracnose Tip Blight from Collectotrichum spp. (Spp. Means multiple species of the Genus Colletotruchum and sp. means one unknown species of the Genus Colletotruchum.)
  • Other Cankers from Dothiorella spp., Botryosphaera dothidea, Cytospora spp., and Leucostoma spp.

Many of the pests and diseases listed above vary in size from small to microscopic, so it is best to reach out to an Arborist or Tree Service Expert for additional information. In some cases, they may recommend only removal of a small infected portion, or having the infected tree removed. Feel free to contact us at any time, as we have an Arborist and Tree Service Experts ready to help you! You can also learn more about Michigan pests and diseases you should be on the lookout for at DNR – Forest Health (michigan.gov)

How can you help the longevity of willow trees?

To help the longevity of willow trees, you can have a couple of things done. First, you can have fertilizer applied. It is recommended to apply a 20-20-20 (N, P, K) formulation. This formula contains the three most needed nutrients of any plant. Second, you can have it pruned every year. You need to make sure your willow contains only one central leader. Pruning in February and March is the best time to prune willows because they aren’t blooming yet. Pruning also helps to promote new sprouts, protects against wind damage, balances the level of wood quality, and provides a strong central leader. It also will help remove any pests or diseases that may be overwintering in the branches. Check out our pruning services at Tree Pruning – Great Lakes Tree Service

If you have a willow tree you would like looked at, please consider calling our tree service at (616)430-4274! We are happy to assist in any way we can! If you have any questions or topics you would like covered in our future posts, please feel free to email us at admin@greatlakestreeservice.net or fill out our contact form!