When you want to have privacy on your property throughout the year, there are several options available to you. More homeowners are opting to stay away from the traditional fence by choosing a natural barrier instead. When you plant an evergreen line for privacy, then you can create spaces for your pool, yard, and other elements of your property that cannot be seen by your neighbors or passing cars.
Evergreens are one of the best options for a natural barrier since they stay green all year long. They will block eye lines just as effectively as a wooden fence. You’ll also receive some unique benefits, such as a wind block and reductions of incoming noise.
There are several different options from which to choose if you want to plant an evergreen barrier, but the pros and cons of a willow hybrid show why it is one of the favorite choices of those who wish to create a natural privacy wall.
List of the Pros of a Willow Hybrid
1. A willow hybrid will grow tall very quickly.
The willow hybrid is a tree that can grow up to six feet in a single year. That means you can have a meaningful privacy barrier in place in less than two years for a fraction of the cost of a wooden fence. Even though it has “willow” in its name, there is no comparison to the classic weeping willow tree. This option is a cross between the Salix Matsudana and the Salix Alba, or the Chinese and white willow varieties. You’ll receive an ornamental look that grows quickly and offers strong wood that has tannin in the bark.
2. You can create an effective windbreak with willow hybrid trees.
If your property is subject to fast, cold drafts that blow in throughout the year, then a line of willow hybrid trees will help to solve that problem. This advantage creates a natural snow break as well since it limits the impact of the breeze during winter storms. That means your yard will stay clear of debris more often and there will be fewer issues with snowdrifts forming around your home and driveway.
3. The root system of the willow hybrid is remarkably strong.
The willow hybrid develops a healthy root system that supports its rapid growth. It dives in deeply to the soil to seek out water resources while taking advantage of the precipitation that falls at the same time. This advantage means that the trees will grow in almost any soil conditions. If you have heavy clay, loam, or even rocky conditions, you’ll have the natural barrier you want in no time at all. It’s also why these trees tend to make such a great windbreak. They might sway, but their strength means you rarely need to worry about one of them toppling over.
The strong root system can also prevent erosion. Planting them on a hillside or in a gully will help to stabilize the area, especially if it is prone to flooding. Willow hybrids do an excellent job of controlling water levels when they start to rise.
4. Willow hybrids handle cold temperatures exceptionally well.
The willow hybrid is known to survive cold temperatures that can fall to -20°F, which means that it can grow anywhere in the United States. It’s recommended growing zones are between 4-9, but there are some northerly locations where you can manage these trees with some coverage during extreme cold snaps as well. The cold tolerance is one of the most remarkable features of this tree, which is why it is one of the most popular natural barrier options. If you live in growing zone 3 or 10, you should still be fine to grow this tree on your property.
5. This tree is a pest-resistant option for you to consider.
There are no known insect problems that can impact the willow hybrid once you plant it, no matter what your geographical location happens to be. This species is also exceptionally disease resistant so that you can maximize the lifespan of the tree. If you don’t prune them, they can spread out to as much as 17 feet. That means your trunk diameter will eventually reach 30 inches for a mature tree. You’ll want to work with a nursery provider that receives regular inspections for insect and disease control to ensure that you’re getting this advantage.
6. You can plant the willow hybrid as an individual tree.
You don’t need to use the willow hybrid as a natural barrier. Planting individual trees with plenty of room to grow will ensure that you get a beautiful shade tree in 2-3 years. Other species can take up to 30 years to provide a visual barrier or the relief from the sun that you want. They mix well with other species too, so it can be helpful to plant a row in front and behind of your new willow hybrids so that when these trees decline, there will be another barrier in place that will continue to provide you with the privacy that you want in about 20 years.
7. Willow hybrids can help to decontaminate your soil.
If you have a nutrient profile problem with your soil, then the willow hybrid trees can help to restore it to a healthier balance. This advantage applies to the water in wetlands where you might plant the trees as well. When you combine this trait with its fast-growing nature that makes it suitable for some forms of bioenergy, it is easy to see when this species is such a popular variety in North America. Although there are some challenges that you’ll need to balance, the overall benefits here tend to outweigh most or all of the disadvantages that you might encounter.
List of the Cons of a Willow Hybrid
1. You will need to plant them away from any property structures.
It is imperative to consider the size of a willow hybrid before planting it. They can grow up to 75 feet in height when you plant them by themselves. If you plant a row of them to create a natural barrier, then they can rise to at least 35 feet in even poor soil conditions. Unless you plan to prune them so that they stay to a specific size, you’ll need to keep them away from your driveway and home to avoid damage from the root systems. When creating a privacy fence, you can plant these trees as close as five feet apart.
The strength of the root system can cause problems with underground pipes, gas lines, and other buried items on your property. You’ll want to have everything marked before you start planting to avoid issues with your property’s infrastructure. These trees can interfere with a concrete foundation or slab as well.
2. There must be partial sunlight available for the willow hybrid.
These trees do exceptionally well when you can place them where they’ll receive partial sunlight. Giving them all-day exposure to direct sun can make it challenging in warmer environments for the right level of growth to occur. You will want to make sure the trees are getting plenty of water as well. They thrive when you can plant them near a creek, pond, or river. You can have them grow in sandy soil if they get at least one inch of moisture each week. Deep watering is necessary during times of drought where you’ll need to hold the hose to the base of the tree for 20 seconds.
3. Willow hybrids need to have a well-balanced fertilizer formula.
If your willow hybrid trees need an extra boost to encourage their growth, then you’ll need to use a 10-10-10 formula or something with a similar balance. If you use one that is strong on one of the nutrients, then the trees can struggle to absorb the nutrients and moisture they need through their root system. You’ll need to offer two fertilizer doses: one in the early spring and the other in early summer. Although fertilizer isn’t always necessary, you may not get the growth levels you want in poor soil conditions otherwise.
This disadvantage is particularly challenging if you plant the trees near a natural water source. The nutrients from the fertilizer could cause toxic algae growth in some ponds, which could impact any animals or livestock that you keep on your property.
4. You must follow a specific pruning pattern with a willow hybrid.
You don’t need to prune your willow hybrid trees if you want to maximize their growth. If you want to promote new growth each year, then it is necessary to make a 45-degree upward cut towards the inside to thin the tree. You can maintain the size by cutting branches back to about one-third of their original size after a robust growing season the year before. This process is almost always necessary to create a thick natural hedge as quickly as possible. When you do it correctly, then the expected lifespan of this tree can be up to 70 years. If you don’t make accurate cuts, that timeframe could be reduced dramatically.
If you want to maintain a specific look with your willow hybrid natural barrier, then you may find that weekly pruning is necessary to keep the privacy hedge looking good.
5. A lack of water access will usually kill the trees.
The willow hybrid requires lots of water to survive. It can use its root system to tap into ground reserves, but this option may not be available in some areas. If you want to maximize the growth of the tree, then you should provide it with one-inch of water every day. You can limit the growth by going to a weekly watering pattern when needed. When there is a period of extended dryness and you don’t supplement the water supply to the natural barrier, then it could kill it.
If you use well water on your property, then you can probably avoid this disadvantage under most circumstances. You’ll want to make sure that the trees are located away from your home’s water supply to avoid an interruption of service over time as they grow.
6. It is not a true evergreen.
If you live in a geographic location that experiences all four seasons, then you will not get to benefit from the year-round evergreen natural barrier of the willow hybrid. The two trees that make up this hybrid are both deciduous, so it will lose its leaves when autumn hits. You’ll have the bare branches in its dormant state during the winter months before it buds out in the early spring once again. You’ll also find that the trees which grow to the north may have about 50% of the lifespan of those that grow in more tropical climates. You may start to see declines in as little as 18 years.
Because the leaves are similar to fine needles, it can be challenging to pick them up in the northern growing regions. You’ll want to establish a plan to remove this debris if you plant in the spring to ensure that your soil conditions don’t change because of the added organic material left behind by the willow hybrid.
7. You cannot receive them in a bare root state.
The willow hybrid does not do well when it has its roots exposed at any time during its life. Some nurseries will ship the trees this way, which can create a very high loss percentage. Even if the seller offers to replace the trees for you, there will be a lot of extra installation work to manage. When only one tree dies in a row that you’ve planted after you receive a half-season of growth, it can be a challenge to plant a new one in its space. The others will grow quickly, overcoming the new planting and likely creating a hole in your barrier. Always work with those who sell rooted plugs instead to have a positive result.
Before you start finalizing your decision based on the pros and cons of willow hybrid trees, you’ll want to consult the regulations of your local homeowners’ association, if necessary, to see if you can plant this privacy option. You will need to evaluate the impact the trees might have on power lines, and then possibly survey your property to ensure that you’re not interfering with your neighbor’s land or the right of way. If the soil type is correct and the sunlight levels are healthy, then this evergreen option could be the perfect barrier to add some privacy to your property.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.