Plant Profile: Pussy Willows (Salix discolor)

The American Pussy Willow (Salix discolor) is a harbinger of spring. It makes a great decoration indoors or stuck in amongst other early spring flowers in a container. Yes, I said “other” flowers as the fluffy catkin is actually the flowering part of this plant.
Like its willow relatives, the Pussy Willow sends out deep tap roots and prefers a wet soil location. It also likes full sun and some room as it can get up to 20 feet high and 12 feet wide.
Pruning is advisable to control the size and shape of the Pussy Willow, which can be trained into either a tree or shrub form. You will want to prune it by taking cuttings for display indoors. Cut them before the yellow pollen appears and do not put them in water. They will dry and stay nice for several years.
To propagate and pass-along new Pussy Willow plants to others, just cut a branch in spring and stick it cut-end down into a pot of soil. It will quickly take root and can then be planted outside.
Another benefit to this native shrub is that it is the host plant of two native butterflies – the Mourning Cloak and the Viceroy – whose caterpillars sustain themselves on Pussy Willow foliage.
There are also non-native Pussy Willows that have been cultivated to produce a range of different catkin colors from the Japanese pink Pussy Willow (Salix gracilistyla) ‘Mount Aso’ to the sleek, black Pussy Willow (Salix gracilistyla) ‘Melanostachys’.
Try planting a Pussy Willow in your garden today – you can grow that!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine and edited by intern Emily Coakley.

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