Pink Willow Tree Guide: 9 Surprising Facts About Dappled Willow

Pink Willow Tree inside an oval with green background.

The Pink Willow tree, or Dappled Willow as it is also known, isn’t a tree at all, even though it is listed within the tree family.

The Dappled Willow, or Pink Willow tree, is in fact a shrub that can grow tall enough to be mistaken for a tree.

Part of the reason for the Pink Willow Tree having a duel-identity is the stunning new pink leaves that turn gorgeous shades of green and white when winter arrives.

Pink Willow Tree Guide

(Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’)

A dense cluster of pink willow tree blossoms within an oval frame on a green background.
  • Tree Common Name: Dappled Willow
  • Family: Willow
  • Genus: Salix
  • Leaf: Leaves are lanceolate in shape, with new foliage taking on a pale pink hue. The color eventually fades into a medium green color during the advent of summer. The narrow leaves of a dappled willow grow up to four inches long and their arrangement is opposite in pairs of three.
  • Bark: Bark is a shade of green-gray and when shoots appear, they take on a red to yellow color.
  • Seed: Seeds come in catkin form.
  • Blossoms: Yellow flowers with bare stalks.
  • Fruit: Dappled Willows do not bear fruit.
  • Native Habitat: Dappled Willows grow in the eastern regions of the US.
  • Height: Maximum height of 10 feet when pruned. Unpruned Dappled Willows can reach heights of 20 feet.
  • Lifespan: Maximum lifespan of 15 years.
  • Canopy: A Dappled Willow often grows as wide as it is tall, which makes for a rounded canopy.
  • Type: Deciduous
  • Other Names: Variegated Willow, Tri-Color Willow, Japanese Dappled Willow, Fuiji Nishiki.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Least Concern


Image Credit: Wouter Hagens30

Facts About Dappled Willow Trees

Interesting facts about Dappled Willow trees include the following:

  1. Dappled willows are very fast growers and can reach a height of 10 feet in just a couple of years.22
  2. These types of willow trees grow in a round form that is easy to shape, and work well for privacy purposes when grown close together.
  3. Dappled Willow trees ‘drink’ sunlight to ensure bright and vivid leaf and stem colors.
  4. Pests and diseases can mostly be removed by cutting off infected parts of the tree.
  5. Dappled Willow trees are easy to propagate and new cuttings can take root in a mere 6 weeks.
  6. In general, Dappled Willow trees are valued for their salicylic acid content which is a widely used ingredient in beauty products.6
  7. Dappled Willows have shallow and large roots that may uproot patios and break sewer pipes.
  8. These willows have excellent adaptation capabilities and don’t need winterizing efforts.
  9. The Dappled Willow has the distinction of being the smallest tree within the family Willow.7

How To Make a Willow Tree Grow Well

Willow trees typically need direct sunlight, and sometimes partial shade, to thrive. The most important part of cultivating healthy Willow trees is constantly moist soil and a growing zone between 4 and 10.

Pink willow tree identification chart showing dappled willow tree leaves, willow tree seeds, and willow tree bark in circle frames on a green background.

It is important to plant a Willow tree further than 50 feet away from sewer systems and patios or decks because the roots can eventually cause damage to these structures.

Types of Weeping Willow Trees

In addition to the above-mentioned types of Willow trees, there are also different types of Weeping Willow trees.

These include the beautiful Golden Willow, the highly recognizable Salix babylonica which is also known as the original Weeping Willow tree, as well as the much shorter Wisconsin Weeping Willow.2

Then there is the Golden Curls Willow tree, which was once classified as a Weeping Willow but has since been renamed a Salix matsudana or Corkscrew Willow.

Other types of weeping Willow trees include:16

  • Niobe Weeping Willow tree: Yellow willow tree that grows in shallow, wet soil.
  • Purple Weeping Willow tree: A large purple-hued tree that grows in direct sunlight close to water.
  • Dwarf Weeping Willow tree: Bright green leaves with arching branches and a maximum height of 5 feet.
  • Prairie Cascade Weeping Willow tree: Pale yellow tree with an invasive root system and cracked bark.
  • Kilmarnock Dwarf Weeping Willow tree: A very small tree that grows in direct sunlight and reaches a height of just over 6 feet.
  • Scarlet Curls Willow tree: Inviting shade of red-orange with red stems and brown branches.3

Why Are Weeping Willow Trees So Famous?

Weeping Willows are popular climbing trees and shade trees. Historically, the Willow tree is famous for being of medicinal value and for consoling Napoleon with its shade after he was exiled.

Pink Weeping Willow tree showing its pink flowers and branches, located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Seymour, TN academy campus, founded 1880.

Napoleon was eventually buried beneath the same Willow tree he found solace.

Desert Willow Tree

Another willow shrub is known as the Desert Willow or Desert Willow tree. The Desert Willow tree produces striking dark pink flowers and grows up to 18 feet tall in full sunlight.

Desert Willows prefer USDA zones 6-9 and are native to the US and Mexico.

Different types of Desert Willow trees include:

  • Desert Diva: This willow has deep green leaves and soft buds that reveal purple flowers.
  • Bow Willow: Shorter willow with deep red-purple flowers.21
  • Chilopsis linearis ‘Warren Jones’: Fast-growing cultivar that blooms with a multitude of pale pink blossoms.
  • Flowering Willow: Shrub with broad leaves, and light purple flowers.4,14

What Is a Flamingo Willow?

So then, what is a Flamingo Willow?

A Flamingo Willow, also known as a Flamingo Dappled Willow, is a shrub with yellow flowers that grow in USDA zones 5-7.

Closeup of Pussy Willow tree catkins, with fur-like catkins.

(Image: dendoktoor25)

It is native to Asia and requires full sun to achieve its tri-coloring.

The different types of flamingo willow trees and shrubs include:

  • Pussy willows
  • Goat willows
  • Weeping willows
  • Coral bark willows
  • Rose Gold pussy willows
  • White willows

Flamingo willows are highly dependent on regular pruning to achieve and keep their stunning colors. This means that pruning should be done:

  • During the willow’s dormant season, to ensure brilliant leaf color.
  • At the end of spring and during the beginning of summer
  • August

It must also be noted that willow trees of all sorts can be affected by a host of pests and diseases including cankers, mildew, leaf spots, bugs, and borers.5

Pink Willow Tree Facts: How To Grow and Care For Dappled Willows

The Japanese Pink Pussy Willow also falls under the banner of the ‘pink willow tree’, as do Tri-Color and Japanese Dappled Willow trees.

The Pink Willow tree, or Dappled Willow tree, loses its pink leaves in favor of pale green ones, and the tree also gains red stems in the cold season.15

Close up view of Dappled willow tree leaves.

(Image: Wouter Hagens31)

Pink Willow trees have narrow, oval leaves that are variegated in nature.
These leaves change color from pale pink in the spring season to pale green during summer, hence the dappled moniker.

Plant Details

It is essential to plant a Pink Willow tree, or Dappled Willow tree either during the end of the fall season or the beginning of the spring season.

This is because the planting process requires the soil to be warm, but not the temperature.

Furthermore, the soil location should be in an area that receives direct sunlight. When the tree is planted, the hole should be dug at a size that is twice that of the root ball and a single inch lower than the height of the root ball.

Top view of dappled willow plant.

(Image: I.Sáček, senior32)

Once the tree is planted, a thick layer (3 inches) of mulch should be placed around the Dappled Willow but shouldn’t touch the trunk.

Growing Specifications

Pink Willow AppearancePale pink leaves during spring and pale green leaves during summer. During the winter season, the stems turn a vivid coral red.
Maximum Height10 Feet
Tree or ShrubShrub
SunlightDirect full sunlight, with occasional shade
SoilWell-drained, but still moist
USDA Zone4-9

The Pink Willow tree has its own growing preferences as many landscape and garden uses.

Growing Preferences

Dappled Willow trees are very low-maintenance plants and have very high adaptability. Their only real requirement is that the soil in which they grow must be moist at all times.

Furthermore Dappled Willows grow well in direct sunlight but can do well in shade too, as long as the shade is not all-encompassing.

When a Dappled Willow is still young, it would require watering twice a week, which then tapers down to once a week, but only an inch into the soil at a time.24

Pink Willow tree growth chart on a line graph with Pink Willow tree age on the x-axis and Pink Willow tree height on the y-axis.

Additionally, fertilizer should be added to the soil before new growth emerges during the spring season. Pruning is not essential, but it does help the dappled willow to produce more vivid colors.8

Landscape & Garden Uses

Pink willow trees are popular for use as small landscape trees, or privacy hedges. The colors of the pink willow tree make for an excellent addition to residential landscapes and can even help increase the value of the property.

Dappled Willow

The Dappled Willow tree is an Award of Garden Merit recipient for its sheer beauty. It is easy to maintain and popular for use in small gardens.

Another version of the Dappled Willow is the Dappled Japanese Willow tree, which is also commonly known as a Flamingo Willow.

Care of Dappled Japanese Willow Tree

The care of a Dappled Japanese Willow tree includes the following:17

  • Pruning
  • Full sun location
  • Moist soil

The Dappled Japanese Willow tree thrives in the USDA growing zones of 4-7 and does not invade the space of other plants. These trees grow fast, which is why pruning is a good idea and will fare better in full sun conditions.

Japanese Dappled Willow trees produce a variety of outstanding colors including blood-red, pale pink, and bright yellow.

They are also well-loved trees because they are beautiful year-round, providing hues of pink in the spring, green in the summer, yellow during the fall season, and a vivid splash of red during the winter.9

Purple Weeping Willow Tree

The Purple Weeping Willow tree or, Purple Willow, is a small shrub that is deciduous in nature.

Purple Weeping Willow showing its serrated green leaves and think branch.

(Image: AnRo000226)

The stems of this tree are purple, hence the name, but they turn a shade of gray as the tree ages.23

LeavesNarrow leaves with a bluish-green color grow up to four inches in length. The arrangement is dense, creating a fluttering effect in the wind.
Height15 Feet (maximum)
Sun requirementsFull sun
CharacteristicsEasy, fast-growing shrub that is deer-resistant, but not pest resistant.
PruningEnd of winter and the beginning of spring
Native habitatEurope, northern regions of Africa, as well as Japan and the greater Asia regions.10

What Type of Problems Does Dappling Willow Trees Have?

Most Willow tree and shrub varieties have the same types of problems in the form of diseases and pests.

These include:

  • Anthracnose fungus: Causes leaf drop and can eventually kill the tree if not treated.
  • Leaf rust: This type of fungus shows up as brown patches of a powdery consistency. It can be seen on both stems and leaves.
  • Aphids: These insects cause leaves to become infected with black mold, which leaves the tree or shrub open to becoming afflicted with other diseases and pests. Aphids can usually be identified by their green coloring.
  • Caterpillars and leaf beetles: These pests eat holes into the leaves of willows, and leave the veins open to damage.
  • Sawflies: The larvae of sawflies cause extensive damage to leaves. They can be identified by their similarities to flying ants (appearance).11

History of the Willow Tree

The Pink Willow tree, Flamingo Willow tree, Purple Willow, and Dappled Japanese Willow tree form part of the long history of the Willow tree, including the iconic Weeping Willow.

Legend has it that the first Weeping Willow tree sprung up in Babylon. A bible verse that speaks of the slaves of Israel hanging their harps on Willow trees, is believed to confirm the drooping branches.

Pink Weeping Willow tree showing its droopy branches full of pink flowers, located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Seymour, TN academy campus, founded 1880.

In reality, however, the Weeping Willow originated in China, and soon had several different legends connected to it.19 One of these legends includes the custom of knocking on wood (knocking on a Willow tree truck) to get rid of bad luck.

Another legend says that the sound the wind makes when it blows through willow leaves is actually the sound of elves up in the branches whispering about the humans walking by.

Throughout history, native American people believed that tying the branches of Willow trees to their boats would provide protection from storms at sea.12

Uses for Willow Trees

In addition to the life saving “aspirin” that is derived from willow bark and other plants with Salicylic acid, nowadays, many people choose Willow trees for residential properties.20

The most popular reasons include:

  • Producing willow water: Willow water is good for stimulating new root growth during the propagating process. This is because willow water is rich in plant rooting hormones.
  • Providing shelter for animals: Willow trees are essential food sources for birds and bees, and they also provide nesting space for birds. Furthermore, Willow trees are used to stabilize the soil next to streams, where they also provide shelter for fish.
  • Manufacturing trellises: Willow trees have straight branches that can be used for making garden trellises. The wood must be dry, however, otherwise, it will start to sprout roots.
  • Water runoff cleaning: Willow trees are fantastic water absorbers, and excellent for getting rid of runoff water. Willow trees are even used for composting toilets to keep nutrients from entering water and pipe systems.
  • Mulch creation: Because willow trees grow so fast, they can be pruned regularly, with the cuttings creating mulch that encourages growth.
  • Medicinal uses: Willow trees are known to contain salicin, which is a potent anti-inflammatory. When the bark is combined with flavonoids or polyphenols (which are also extracted from the tree) it can be taken as a painkiller alternative.13

These days several types of Willow trees, including the Pink Willow tree, make an impressive impact on landscapes and residential gardens alike.

But, there’s more to learn about the Dappled Willow, given it’s cousins of various types of Willow trees that grow around the world.18

Related Reading: 10 Types of Willow Trees by State: Pictures, Map, Chart

Identifying Types of Willow Trees

Globally, there are more than 40 types of Willow trees, of which many species are planted for the sole purpose of attracting wild animals to help heal the environment.

The below table highlights the main characteristics of 21 of these Willow trees (and shrub) types.1

Type of Willow TreeScientific NameOther Common NamesMaximum HeightNative RegionsUSDA Growing Zone
Alaska Blue WillowSalix purpurea ‘Nana’Purpleosier8-10 feetNorthern parts of the African continent, Europe, central parts of Asia, as well as JapanZone 3
Almond WillowSalix triandraBlack Maul Willow33 feetSeveral regions within Asia, EuropeZone 4a
Corkscrew WillowSalix matsudanaPeking Willow,
Curly Willow
20-30 feetKorea, ChinaZone 4
Dwarf WillowSalix herbaceaSnowbed Willow,
Least Willow
3-6 feetNorthern parts of EuropeZone 8a
Diamond WillowSalix eriocephalaHeartleaf Willow12-25 feetBoreal forest, majority of Alaska and the Great Plains, as well as the northeastern regions of Sweden, and Finland, Estonia, Norway, and the northern regions of RussiaZone 4b
Weeping WillowSalix babylonicaBabylon Weeping Willow30-50 feetChinaZones 4-10
Yellow WillowSalix lutea16-20 feetNorthern regions of the US, central Canadian territories, as well as central and western AmericaZones 2-9
Almond Willow tree showing its branches and bark.

Almond Willow (Image: Val Def27)

Type of Willow TreeScientific NameOther Common NamesMaximum HeightNative RegionsUSDA Growing Zone
Glaucous WillowSalix discolorAmerican Pussy Willow20-25 feetNorthern regions of the US, Canada, Europe, Siberia, and GreenlandZones 4-8
Basket WillowSalix viminalisCommon Osier20 feetHimalayas, several regions in Asia, and EuropeZone 3
Brittle WillowSalix x fragilisCrack Willow66-82 feetTurkeyZones 4-7
Peach Leaf WillowSalix amygdaloides60-70 feetNorthern regions of the US, and southern regions of CanadaZones 4-8
Japanese Dappled willowSalix integraJapanese Variegated Willow,
Haruko Nishiki Willow
8 feetEastern regions of the US, as well as CanadaZones 5-9
Golden Weeping WillowSalix alba ‘Tristis’50-75 feetMiddle regions of Asia and Europe, and western parts of SiberiaZones 4-10
White WillowSalix alba50-70 feetSeveral regions across Northern Africa, Europe, and AsiaZone 7a
Basket Willow tree showing its branches in shades of orange and red.

Basket Willow (Image: Hans28)

Type of Willow TreeScientific NameOther Common NamesMaximum HeightNative RegionsUSDA Growing Zone
Coyote WillowSalix exiguaSandbar Willow,
Narrowleaf Willow
3-15 feetNative to the vast majority of the USZones 4-6
Scouler’s WillowSalix scoulerianaBlack Willow,
Nuttall Willow,
Fire Willow,
Mountain Willow
30 feetNorthwestern regions of the USZones 3-9
Dusky WillowSalix melanopsis12 feetWestern and border regions of the US, and CanadaZones 3-7
Arctic WillowSalix arcticaRock WillowTundra region of the US, border regions of the US, Greenland, and AlaskaZones 3-6
French Pussy WillowSalix caprea15 feetSeveral regions throughout the USZones 4-8
Purple Osier WillowSalix purpureaPurple Willow3-9 feetWestern regions of Asia, and EuropeZones 4-8
Gray WillowSalix cinereaBeaked Willow,
Bebb Willow
32 feetWestern regions of Asia, and EuropeZones 2-7
Arctic Willow shrub showing its dark green and rounded leaves with catkins and some white flowers.

Arctic Willow (Image: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service29)

The Pink Willow Tree is not only beautiful to behold, but it’s also an excellent tree for sequestering carbon emissions, so planting one and caring for your Dappled Willow will be a joy!

Frequently Asked Questions About Pink Willow Tree

Is the Pink Willow Tree the Same as a Dappled Willow?

Pink Willow is one of the common names for a Dappled Willow. The Willow tree species include Weeping willows, Dappled willows, and Dwarf willows.

Do All Willows Weep?

Not all willows are of the weeping variety, instead, some willows have thin branches that grow in the traditional shrub or tree form without arching over.

How Many Species of Willow Trees Are There?

There are more than 400 different species of willows, most of which are native to China, Europe, and the US. Most Willow trees and shrubs grow in the northern half of the globe, and new species are constantly being identified because willow trees are easy to cross.

Do Pink Willow Trees Really Have Pink Leaves?

Pink Willow trees, or Dappled Willows, start out with new pale pink leaves which eventually turn green, creating a ‘dappled’ effect.

How Fast Do Willow Trees Grow?

Some Willow trees are fast growers and can shoot up at a rate of 10 feet every year.

Which Willow Tree Is Best for My Garden?

Willow trees that make the biggest impression in a residential setting include:

  • White Willow trees
  • Dwarf Weeping Willow
  • Golden Willow
  • Pink Willow tree
  • Japanese Dappled Willow tree

Are Willow Trees Deciduous or Evergreen?

The Salix genus consists of deciduous shrubs and trees.


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