If you've got an area with moist soil, you may want to consider one of the Salix (willow) species, which are part of the Salicaceae family. These water-loving trees and shrubs are also sometimes known as sallows and osiers, depending on the species.
Most species feature leaves shaped like a lance, though some have leaves that are round or oval-shaped. Willows are dioecious and the male and female plants produce catkins during spring. You will need to plant one of each if you plan on harvesting any capsules for propagation. With most species, you can easily root cuttings for new plants.
As a rule, it's wise to be cautious when planting willows near any sewers, water pipes or any other water features. Since they love moisture so much, the roots will naturally gravitate towards these areas and potentially cause problems.
Many cultures have used willow bark for pain relief. There is a compound in willow bark called salicin. In the 1800s scientists were able to pinpoint this compound in the bark. This lead to the development of aspirin. Salicylic acid, a chemical based on salicin, is also used for treating acne.
Willow branches are commonly used in basketry and weaving. The wood is flexible enough to be bent once it has been soaked in water. The branches can also be used on a live tree or shrub to create a living fence or sculpture. Approach grafting can be used to speed the process along.
Additionally, some willows will develop a diamond pattern on their their branches that are usually caused by a fungal infection, inspiring the name "diamond willow". This type of wood is favored by woodcarvers due to its striking shape. Diamond willow branches can be used to make walking and hiking sticks, as well as decorative furniture.
Bebb willow is the most commonly used diamond willow and features the namesake patterns inside its stems, which will be highlighted once carved. This species can be drought tolerant if needed once it has been established.
This variety is favored due to its twisting branches that can add winter interest. The corkscrew willow is also used as an accent in floral arrangements and as bonsai. This species is closely related to the weeping willow and some botanists consider it to be the same tree. Other cultivars include 'Golden Curls' and 'Scarlet Curls'.
The corkscrew willow is at least somewhat drought tolerant after establishment, so it is easier to work this variety into any location.
Some put the coyote willow as Salix exigua and the sandbar willow as Salix interior. This shrub will survive drought and floods.
This is my favorite type of willow. It works well as a specimen plant since the leaves are variegated, featuring shades of pink, green and white. The pink comes when the leaf first appears and will fade to just green and white as it matures. As an added bonus, the branches will turn red in the winter.
This willow may also be sold under the variety name of ‘Albomaculata’. Another willow with similar markings is Salix integra 'Flamingo'.
The name "pussy willow" is also used for this species sometimes, which is often grown for the puffy catkins.
The goat willow is one of a few willow species that does not propagate easily from cuttings, so both a male and female plant will be needed for proper pollination.
As you can probably guess from the common name, the leaves on this willow are a lot like peach tree leaves. Like the goat willow, propagation is done by seeds. Cuttings will not root easily, if at all.
This is the American species that falls under the common name pussy willow, along with the goat willow. The pussy willow is commonly grown for use by the floral design industry.
Scouler's willow is able to grow in drier conditions than many willows, though not quite to the level of being completely drought tolerant. This is another diamond willow and was discovered by John Scouler.
This is one of the most common weeping trees available and works well to grace a pond or lake. The branches will sway delightfully in the breeze, though stronger winds might break off some of the stems and litter the ground. Plan on replacing it in approximately 30 years.
The white willow may sometimes be infected by fungi and have the diamond willow characteristic. The name comes from the fact that the leaves are white underneath.
Moose, elk, sheep and beavers like to eat the yellow willow. This plant can be used to repair areas that have had floods, erosion or other problems. It reproduces easily both through cuttings and seeds.