It’s difficult to name a faster growing tree than a willow. The Willow Hybrid can grow up to six feet a year. Unlike the weeping willow, the Willow Hybrid grows straight up, making it a perfect tree when you need privacy—fast. Plant Willow Hybrids to block ugly views, hide the air conditioner, or to keep your nosy neighbor from peering through the window.
Why You Can’t Beat Willow Hybrids for Privacy Screens
For a tree to be truly trouble-free, it needs to be resistant to pests and diseases, tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, and grow virtually anywhere. That’s the Willow Hybrid in a nutshell. You won’t have to worry about spraying it for pests, which will save you money in the long run. It is hardy in USDA zones 4-9, so it will grow throughout the United States. It is tolerant of everything from heavy clay soils to sandy soils. While this tree isn’t evergreen, its dense branching structure continues to provide privacy and screening during the winter.
The only thing limiting these trees from growing up to six feet a year is drought. Like all willows, the Willow Hybrid does best if it gets regular water. That makes it perfect for swampy or low spots in the lawn, but they’ll grow anywhere as long as you water them if your area goes without rain for more than three to four weeks in the summer.
How to Plant Willow Hybrid Trees
Plant a Willow Hybrid as either a stand-alone tree or as a hedge or privacy screen. The mature height and width are 45 to 75 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide. For an instant privacy screen, plant these trees 5 feet apart. To give the trees a bit more room (which requires less work in terms of pruning and maintenance), plant them 20-30 feet apart. You can plant them in a straight line, or in two staggered rows. They’ll grow best in full sun to partial shade. You can plant Willow Hybrids at any time of the year when the ground isn’t frozen. They establish quickly.
When planting a tree, dig a hole as deep as the rootball, but twice as wide. Place the tree in the hole to check the depth. If the level of the soil surrounding the hole is higher than the rootball, pick the tree up, put some more soil in the hole, and replace the tree. Fill in around the tree with soil that you removed. There’s no need to add any other special soil amendments when planting Willow Hybrid trees. To help the trees establish, consider using a tree gator or water reservoir to give them a steady drip of water.
Water Willow Hybrids daily after you first plant them. After two weeks, you can water every other day. After one month, you can water twice a week. After three months, water the Willow Hybrids once a week. They won’t need extra water after they’ve been in the ground for six months unless it is very hot and dry. (Temperatures above 80 degrees with no measurable precipitation for three weeks or more.)
How to Care for Willow Hybrid Trees
These trees are easy to care for. Follow these tips to keep your trees happy and healthy.
Because Hybrid Willows grow best in slightly moist conditions, mulch around these trees once a year with shredded hardwood bark mulch. The mulch will help keep the moisture in. Do not mound the mulch around the trunk of the tree, however. Spread a layer of mulch that is three inches deep extending three feet from the tree trunk. Pull the mulch at least an inch away from the trunk to prevent insects and diseases from establishing.
Willow Hybrids require pruning primarily to control their size and shape and to remove dead branches. Cut dead branches all the way back to the trunk, stopping at least ½ inch before the trunk. The pruning cut will heal itself.
If you’re growing the Willow Hybrid as a hedge, trim once a year in the winter, which will encourage the tree to branch out and become denser throughout the summer.
Willows do grow well in damp conditions. They do not usually need extra water unless your area has not had rain for three to four weeks during the summer. If that is the case, water the trees twice a week. Count to 20 on each tree, or provide five large watering cans full of water for each tree.
You don’t need to fertilize Willow Hybrids. They grow just fine on their own!