In early spring my Dad would take the whole family into the woods in search of the native Pussy Willow (Salix discolor). This was a great adventure for us and we never came home empty handed. I fondly remember stroking the fuzzy catkins — soft as a kitten — lining the stems. This memory came back to me in March at a landscape conference I attended. I was offered pussy willow branches that were on display arranged in containers to take home. I was assured by the UNH Cooperative Extension staff that they were very easy to root so I decided to give it a shot!
I put the willow branches in a maple syrup bucket filled with water by my front door. It was a lovely accent while waiting patiently to see if they would grow roots. Coincidentally, I did find potted Pussy Willows at my local supermarket which I purchased and planted, just in case I was unsuccessful with my efforts.
It was many weeks later that I noticed the buds breaking and soft green leaves emerging. Most of the branches had grown roots. I planted the rooting branches in various locations throughout my landscape.
Although normally found in sunny wet areas, UNH has been growing them successfully in dryer locations. I am hoping(fingers crossed) to get them established and eventually find a home for them in one of my projects. If you don’t have the resources and time to root cuttings, look for container plants at your local garden center or online.
The Pussy Willow and Black Willow (Salix nigra) are a great addition to any landscape as they are important pollinator plants. Blooming at a time when much of the garden is still asleep, these woody plants provide nectar and/or pollen before much else is available. Nectar is the primary energy source for bees, while pollen provides the protein essential to brood rearing and the development of young bees. They are also host plants for Mourning Cloak and Viceroy Butterflies. Consider adding some willows to your landscape whether it is for children or pollinators!