The Dwarf Arctic Willow is a beautiful dwarf shrub with slender stems and narrow blue-green leaves. It grows into a low dense bush, with many stems of an attractive purple-green sprouting from the base. It rustles in the wind like grasses, and it looks especially beautiful by a pond or along a stream, where it thrives in the damper soil conditions. Growing only about 5 feet tall if untrimmed, it can also be used for low hedges, as little as a foot tall, and it is easily trimmed at any height for a more controlled look. Plant it to fill a small corner in the garden, or mass-plant it to cover larger areas. It is hardy all the way to minus 40 degrees, so it grows even in the coldest parts of the country, filling parts of your garden with trouble-free and attractive foliage.
- Top-choice shrub for the coldest regions
- Attractive bushy form for mass planting
- Ideal choice for a shorter clipped hedge
- Grows well in damp areas and around water
- Easy and trouble-free for low-maintenance gardening
Grow your Dwarf Arctic Willow plants in full sun, or partial shade. It thrives in those difficult wet areas, but also grows well in ordinary garden soil, including heavy clays. It has some drought tolerance in cooler areas once established, but it should not be planted in hot, dry areas that often suffer drought. It has no significant pests or diseases, and it is easily clipped into a hedge or neat round forms, or left unclipped to blow in a charming way in the breezes. For trouble-free gardening in the coldest areas, it simply cannot be beaten.
In the coldest parts of the country – where winter nights can plunge to minus 40 degrees – the list of reliable shrubs for the garden shrinks. In milder gardens too, there is often a need for simple yet attractive shrubs, to fill parts of the garden with low-maintenance planting that will add beauty and interest to every garden scene, everywhere. For these needs, there is the Dwarf Arctic Willow. This easy-to-grow and extremely hardy shrub will grow in the most severe climates, and it also thrives in all difficult wet locations. Its attractive blue-green leaves and purple stems look natural and appropriate in many garden locations, and if your goal is easy gardening, you have come to the right plant.
Growing Dwarf Arctic Willow Shrubs
The Dwarf Arctic Willow is a low, bushy, deciduous shrub that if left untouched will grow to around 5 feet tall, give or take a foot or so, depending on your garden conditions. It forms a full, rounded bush with branches right to the ground, and with many slender upright stems shooting from the base. The young shoots are purplish-green, turning light gray and then grayish brown as they age. The leaves are all along the stems, and they are narrow, up to 4 inches long, but only one-third of an inch wide. The upper surface of the leaf is softly glossy, and blue-green in color. The lower side of the leaf is light green, and as the leaves rustle in the wind the contrasting colors flash in the sunlight.
In a stronger breeze the whole plant will sway attractively, almost like an ornamental grass, adding life and interest to your garden picture. In fall the leaves turn yellow before falling to the ground, to be replaced of course by new leaves in spring. Before the leaves in spring you may notice small reddish-purple clusters of minute flowers. The whole structure is a little over an inch long, and called a catkin, they typical flowering structure of willow trees. These later turns whitish, and they release tiny seeds in summer.
Uses in Your Garden
Use the Dwarf Arctic Willow alone as a specimen shrub in a smaller garden, or mass planted in a larger one to fill background areas of your garden. It is ideal for those low-lying damper spots, or for planting along streams and beside ponds. It is widely used along stream banks and lakes, to stabilize the shoreline and prevent erosion.
In the garden you can create a calm, natural background to other plants, or quickly fill larger areas in the outer parts of your property. For a reliable shorter hedge, quickly grown in just a couple of years, it is hard to beat, and it is one of the quickest and easiest ways to grow a hedge in a new garden. Although often trimmed, it can be left untrimmed too, for a more modern, casual look that is still neat and organized.
Care and Maintenance
Every few years you can trim the plant close to the ground in early spring, to regenerate the dense, attractive long stems it produces. It can also be planted in a row to make an attractive, easily maintained low hedge, as short as 12 inches tall, but usually grown 2 or 3 feet tall. Regularly clipping will maintain a dense, neat structure. To plant a hedge, space the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. For mass planting with limited or no trimming, space the plants about 3 feet apart.
The Dwarf Arctic Willow grows well in all the cooler zones, including zone 3, where winter lows of minus 40 degrees are experienced. It grows best in full sun, but it will easily tolerate light shade for part of the day, and winter shade too. It grows well in all moist soils, including wet soils, and alongside ponds, streams and lakes. Once established it is resistant to the normal drought conditions found in cooler regions, but it is has only limited drought-resistance in hotter areas. It has no serious pests or diseases, and it is among the easiest and most reliable plants you can grow.
History and Origins of the Dwarf Arctic Willow
The Arctic Willow (Salix purpurea) is native across a broad area from Europe to western Asia, from North Africa up into the British Isles, and the Baltic region. It was introduced a long time ago into North America for conservation of river banks, and today it grows wild through much of southern Canada, around the Great Lakes, and in most north-eastern states. The wild tree grows between 9 and 18 feet tall, and just as wide, making it too large for most home gardens.
The dwarf form, called ‘Gracilis’, which is also known as ‘Nana’, was developed around 1900, probably in Europe. It has thinner, more abundant twigs, and reaches a much smaller height of around 5 feet. It was once grown for twigs to make willow baskets. This is the recommended form for garden use, and the form normally seen in landscapes.