Weeping form adds a new dimension to the garden

Weeping birch is a wonderful selection with its white bark, upright form and thin branches.

Weeping trees.jpg
Weeping Black Pussy Willow creates an interesting character in the garden.
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun
John Zvirovski.jpg
John Zvirovski, Jamestown Sun garden editor
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Whenever we make new selections of trees and bushes for our gardens, there is usually a certain feature we are seeking. Whether it is a color, texture, or form, they all add a particular value to our landscape.

One of the characteristics that seem to draw the most attention is the varieties with weeping forms. Their growth habit creates a graceful element that seems to flow in the wind, even on the lightest of breezes.

The two most common weeping tree varieties that we are familiar with are the Niobe Weeping willow and the Cutleaf Weeping Birch. Both need a great deal of space to grow and have their own maintenance issues with which to contend while still maintaining a great landscape quality.

Weeping birch is a wonderful selection with its white bark, upright form and thin branches that seem to dance in the air with the greatest of ease. They require abundant moisture in well-drained soil along with a cool root system. This cooling can be achieved by keeping the branches long or by providing necessary shade with a dense ground cover. Ferns are a great choice for this type of cover. If the tree ever becomes stressed due to drought conditions, it can become susceptible to the bronze birch borer, which will ultimately cause the demise of the tree from the top portions on down.

The weeping willow is also a graceful and majestic tree that requires adequate water and large spaces. Although this tree is not susceptible to many diseases or pests, it can be quite messy during windy periods, as the thin branches can easily snap off all year long and become strewn across the lawn. For many, the maintenance is well worth the value of the tree in their yards. I happen to plant one in my yard three years ago and absolutely love it1


For those with more limited spaces, smaller weeping trees are available. Three common types are the Weeping Mulberry, Walker’s Weeping Caragana and the Weeping Black Pussywillow. The Weeping Mulberry is a great selection with its thickly weeping branches and dense character. Keep in mind it is a more tender plant type that can be borderline hardy in our region. If you like to take rewarding challenges, this might be one you would like to try, just be prepared if it does not survive a test winter.

 The Weeping Black Pussywillow can reach about 6 feet tall and nearly as wide and is extremely hardy. Its furry seed buds come out on the stems in March before the leaves appear, looking as if it were blooming cotton. It is a dense branch species that looks amazing in the garden.

The Walker’s Weeping Caragana can reach a height of about 6 feet and nearly 3 to 5 feet wide in time. It has lime green feathery foliage, which is soon followed by a flush of yellow pea-like flowers. Rarely do these flowers result in seedpods like the regular caragana species. The foliage turns yellow in the fall before dropping, allowing us to see its beautiful architectural form. It is one of the most hardy weeping varieties.

All three of these types have a great cascading effect in winter and get noticed. All three of them are also grafted varieties either through stem or bud grafting. If the weeping branch ever becomes pulled off the main trunk, it will not be recreated. Any growth that appears on the lower trunk or base of the plant will be of the regular root species and not of the weeping form. Only from the weeping branches themselves will you receive additional weeping growth.

There are also a few evergreen selections on the market that can make a statement in the landscape all year long. One of the strongest and tallest is the Weeping White Spruce. This spruce can reach from 15 to 25 feet tall, but only acquires a width of 4 to 6 feet. It does not require staking as the leader grows strongly vertical while the side branches grow down in the opposite direction.

The Weeping Norway Spruce requires a strong stake to be tied to as it grows from year to year. When the tree has reached the height you are looking for you can quit staking the upper portions and let it weep back down. If not staked, it will simply become a mounded groundcover.

The European Weeping Larch is one of the deciduous selections of evergreens. It is bare in the winter and covered in fine, soft needle clumps throughout the growing season of lime green. Many people refer to it as the “Cousin It" tree as it has that strange and eerie character. Very easy to grow, it too needs staking.


The weeping selections of trees add so much interesting dimension to our gardens that they shouldn’t be left out. If you have limited space, I always encourage people to have at least one of the smaller types to diversify their forms in the plant setting they have created. I notice the weeping forms most during the winter months when their true character seems to shine. Try one yourself this year and see what you think; it might just become your next favorite plant in the garden

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