How Long Do Willow Trees Live?

Also know why the average healthy willow tree lifespan is 30-45 years…

Willow Tree Lifespan

VLIET/Barry Winiker/Aimintang/Bob van den berg photography/gettyimages


When someone mentions the willow tree, most people immediately relate it to the weeping willow or the Salix Babylonica. But, broadly, there are over 400 species of Willow Trees, and the willow tree lifespan is different for every variety.


Their standout feature is the trailing, long branches, characteristic of their glorious sweeping in the breeze, providing a welcome shade to the wildlife and bark goers.


They can grow up to 10 meters or 50 feet tall with a 40 feet spread. Some have a long lifespan of three centuries and some just live for 30-45 years. So, how long do willow trees live depends on the specie of the willow.


You can typically spot the willows in a boggy, wet environment. Hence, you will spot most willows near lakes, streams, and rivers. While young, the willows have a fast-growth rate, but it soon tapers off, and you will see a noticeable decline after two decades.


But, can you alter how long can a willow tree live? Yes, there are definite ways to prolong the lifespan of some of the short-lived willow trees and make them reach at least four to five decades.


First, you must ensure that you pick the suitable variety for the USDA growing zone and then cater to all the planting and care guidelines. So, when you offer the right conditions and care how long do they last? Continue reading to discover.


In This Article


The Lifespan of Different Willows

As discussed already, the lifespan depends on your planted species. So, below we will discuss the average lifespan of 10 top varieties of willows.


Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana) Six decades
Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana Tortuosa) At least three decades
Goat Willow (Salix caprea) Three centuries
Dappled Willow (Salix Integra ‘Hakuro-Nishiki) At least four decades
Peach-Leaf (Salix amygdaloides) Two to five centuries
Pussy Willow Variety (Salix discolor) Two to five decades
Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) Three decades
White Willow (Salix alba) Two to three decades
Yellow Willow (Salix lutea) Twenty-five years
Arctic Willow (Salix Arctica) Eight Decades


Even though this is the average willow tree lifespan for the different species, whether they live their complete life or more depends on the care and conditions you expose them to. While some willows do not live very long, there is also gnarled Methuselah that has been alive for over 5000 years. It is the Whomping Willow.


Why Do Willows Live Only For 30-45 Years on Average?

Now that you know how long do willow trees live, an obvious question may be hovering in your head – when most trees live hundreds of years, why is the usual lifespan for willows so less? Studies from the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service suggest that Willows grow fast.


For instance, a weeping willow can grow rate is up to 10 feet in a year till it reaches 50 feet. This rapid growth rate justifies the short willow tree lifespan between thirty and fifty years. However, if you wish to ensure your willows live their optimum life, you must offer them the necessary care, favorable location, and maintenance requirements. But thankfully, most willows are not very fussy or particular about their growing conditions.


Can You Enhance How Long Do Willows Live?

Proper care and picking the right spot can help you extend the willow tree’s lifespan. Here are some points to remember:


1. Keep pests and diseases at bay

One of the primary reasons for the short lifespan of the willow trees is that they perennially like being in a cool and moist environment, which attracts many pests and diseases too. Unfortunately, willows are susceptible to tar, leaf rust, black canker, blight, Japanese beetle, and more. It is common for them to be infected by some of these microscopic and tiny pests.


The worst thing is growers often do not know their plants are affected by these pests till it is too late. Hence, to shield your willows from pests, it is vital to keep them healthy. You can keep the plant healthy by following the subsequent points listed below and also using insecticides as and when needed.


2. Prune it once yearly

Willows benefit from good pruning, especially in their formative years. It helps give the plants a healthy and concrete structure that benefits them in old age. While pruning, the idea should be to develop a solid central leader, which grows as the plant’s trunk. Pruning also helps eliminate the branches growing too close to each other to maintain the tree’s aesthetic appeal and health. It is quintessential to keep the plant healthy.


So, remove any weak branches that may break off easily during the pruning.


3. Give it proper nutrition.

For long life, willow trees demand good nutrition. But, you can avoid fertilizing if you have a fertilized lawn adjacent to the area where your willow grows or if you employ organic material in the soil. You can depend on the balanced N-P-K 20-20-20 fertilizer. But, before you feed the plant, read the label instructions to achieve the best results.


4. Do not neglect its light and water requirements

For good growth, the plant needs partial shade or full sun. Your tree should receive at least four hours of unfiltered sun daily. Even though willows can withstand long periods of drought, they can stunt their growth. So, make it a point to water the willows anytime the top soil feels dry.


5. Propagate for an expanded lineage

Naturally, there is a limit on how long do willows live or the years you can keep them alive and thriving. So, despite their age, if you want the plant on your property, you can extend their lineage via propagation. Gardeners recommend propagating by cuttings because growing a willow tree from the seeds is slow and difficult.


You can chop the switches or the branches from the tree in the spring and plant them in a container with water. Change the water periodically to keep the branches fresh. Let it sit till fall, and then plant the rooted cutting in the ground or pot.


How Can You Tell How Old A Willow Tree Is?

You can know the age of willow trees by measuring around the girth at 1 meter from the ground, ensuring you measure to the nearest centimeter, and dividing the result by 2.5. It will give the age of the trees in years. For instance, if the girth is 75 cm, its age will be 30 years.


What Happens When A Willow Tree Dies? What Are The Symptoms Of A Dying Tree?

You now know how long do willow trees live. So, if you notice these tell-a-tale signs of a dying willow before that time period, be cautious:

  1. Firstly, check the leaf’s color. The leaves will be green in a healthy tree, but the leaves will be brown in a dying or dead tree. However, if the leaves are yellow, it indicates some disease or water deprivation.
  2. Take a knife and slice the bark’s outer layer. If the inside appears yellow and green, there is nothing to worry about. However, your tree is dead if it is gray, orange, or brown.
  3. When your willow tree drops leaves, consider the season. Willows are deciduous trees. Hence, they shed their leaves from fall to spring. But, if the tree sheds the leaves in the growing season (summer), it implies that you are not watering the tree adequately. So, water it instantly. However, if all the leaves have fallen during summers, it is a clear sign of a dead willow.
  4. Check the roots for uprooting or decay, assessing where the trunk emerges from the ground. If there are several insect holes or soft, rotting wood, it indicates a dead willow.
  5. Try to twist back one of its branches. The branch is dead if it bends, folds, or breaks easily with a snapping sound. However, it is still alive if it splits but seems moist from the inside. But check another one on the tree’s opposite end if you find a dead branch. At times, a few branches may be dead, but the rest of the tree is ok.


How Long Do Hybrid Willow Trees Live?

Willow Hybrid trees or the Austree Willows have a commendable growth rate and usually grow between six to ten feet a year. Moreover, they can live up to 5-7 decades since they are disease-resistant.


However, many Hybrid Willows grow twenty feet a year in optimal conditions. Hence, they can help create a living, dense privacy screen, blocking all the unwanted noise and unsightly views in a short span.


Given their rapid growth rate, it does not take very long for them to reach their maximum height, between 50 and 75 feet. They also have an excellent spread between twenty and thirty feet.


How Long Do Curly Willow Trees Live? Is It Different From The Average?

Salix matsudana, or the Curly Willow, is called so because of the curling shape of its branches. Many even refer to it as the Hankow willow, Pekin willow, contorted willow, twisted-twig willow, and corkscrew willow.


These willow trees are not only smaller in size than the other willows, but its lifespan is also shorter.


The corkscrew willow grows to twenty-five feet and grows well in partial or full sun. Since corkscrew willow have a rapid growth rate, it is the ideal specimen for areas where you wish to have a plant with a mature appearance in a brief while.


But, they will not be around for long as the curly willow tree’s lifespan is only between 10 and 15 years. Hence, in a short duration, you will have to replace them.


Final Word

Willow tree lifespan may not be the longest one, but their low-maintenance nature, beautiful appeal, and rapid growth rate should motivate you to include this magnificent tree in your landscape.