Pussy willow fuzzy flower clusters. Photo credit: Purdue Arboretum
Q: I am writing about a pussy willow tree I planted in my backyard in early August 2018. I have wanted one for some time and found one on sale at a discount department store. It didn’t have much info on what it takes to grow by ponds or lakes. So, if you could give me any information, it would be appreciated.
A: A number of willow shrub species are commonly called pussy willows, so named for their fuzzy, densely clustered flowers called catkins. The catkins lie close along the stem and open before the leaves emerge from dormancy. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. The male catkins are larger and make for a showier display. The flowers are quite attractive to pollinators.
Most pussy willow species prefer moist but well-drained soil but otherwise are not particularly demanding. The shrubs are fast growing and can become quite large with age. If pruning is desired to keep the plant from becoming too large, wait to prune until after flowering. To keep the plants from getting too crowded, cut them back completely to the ground every 3-5 years or remove 1/3 of the oldest branches to the ground annually.