Wooden Surface

Salix discolor

Kristen: I have distinct memories from when I was a kid being drawn to the set of pussy willow in the woods behind my house growing up. Those fuzzy little nubs were completely irresistible to me, and I was guaranteed to have a pocketful every spring. I loved rubbing them in my fingers, much like a rabbit’s foot but far less traumatic!


Salix discolor is far better known by its common name, pussy willow. This tall shrub grows in full sun to shade and tolerates soils from average to wet. The latin name stems (heh) from the contrasting colors of its leaves, while the common name refers to the completely adorable appearance and texture of the fuzzy catkins that precede leaf growth, which are reminiscent of kitty toe-beans.


Highly sought after for spring flower bouquets, this shrub can be tricky to cultivate and should be heavily pruned every few years in order to encourage healthy new growth. If you want those fuzzy toe-beans (and who doesn’t?) you will need both male and female plants in the area, as only the males produce the catkins.


ECO-TYPE: some local eco-type, some grown from seed collected in New Hampshire. Started by New Hampshire State Forest Nursery.


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Salix discolor (Pussywillow)

  • details

    SIZE: 1 gallon pot
    type: shrub
    sun needs: full sun, part sun/part shade, shade
    water needs: average, moist
    height: 6-15'
    plant spacing: space 4'-10' apart
    bloom time: April, May
    bloom color: yellow/green
  • special notes

    salt tolerant. Some salt exposure should not be fatal to the plant but some leaf burning may still occur.
    deer resistant (please note that does not mean deer proof)