Blue arctic willow is a medium to tall introduced shrub growing 10 to 20 feet high. It features blue-green leave in pairs, almost opposite that are elliptical in shape and are 2 to 4 inches long. Catkins are small, in almost opposite pairs, and mature in spring before the leaves come out. Male and female flowers are found on separate plants. Light green flowers bloom in late April, eventually with ornamentally insignificant fruit. The stems are smooth and slender. They are purplish in the first year’s growth but later change to gray or olive-gray. Growth is rapid, reaching from 2 to 8 feet in two years. It often reaches a full height of 15-20 feet in five years. On nutrient-rich sites, it can grow up to 25 feet.
Where it Grows:
Well-drained to saturated soils are most suitable for this species. It is tolerant of standing water. It is adaptable to poor soils, soils of various pH, dry soils, and drought. Does not do well in areas with intense heat and high humidity. Prefers full sun to partial shade.
How it’s Used:
This willow is used in erosion control along streambanks resulting from flood and ice damage. The malleable branches are useful in vineyards for tying up grapevines and also for basket making. It makes a great companion plant next to mid-sized or taller ornamental grasses in landscapes and gardens. It can be pruned back to 4″-2′ from the ground if it becomes too large, and a dwarf variety (5′ at maturity) is available for use as an ornamental.
Blue arctic willow provides cover and shelter for small animals. It is also browsed by deer, beaver, and rabbits and nesting sites for birds.