Asked on Aug 9, 2014

Hostas under a willow tree--Yay or Nay?



Our very large willow tree (Bubba) is beautiful but I want to add more visual interest by planting several varieties of Hostas around the base of her, in particular, the Empress Wu. I'm concerned that the tree will take any/all moisture and nutrients away from the Hostas. I'm also planning on putting in several groupings of jonquils behind the tree (apporox. area--20X8). Thoughts?
This is Bubba, our ten year old Willow tree. I forget the variety.
38 answers
  • Colleen
    on Aug 9, 2014

    Tree looks a little lonesome by itself,but I wouldn't plant anything underneath the tree's canopy. Maybe make a "tree skirt" of landscape fabric and pebbles/stones.

  • Lorah Marquardt
    Lorah Marquardt
    on Aug 10, 2014

    Hosta shouldn't have any problems in that spot. I love Empress Wu, but from a design perspective, I would stick with smaller varieties.

  • Greta Swanson
    Greta Swanson
    on Aug 10, 2014

    I would put more of a shade plant, not hostas.

  • Douglas Hunt
    Douglas Hunt
    on Aug 10, 2014

    Not sure about planting under the willow. They are water hogs, as you say, and all winter you will look at a wide ring of brown. But definitely go for it on the daffs.

  • Jeanette S
    Jeanette S
    on Aug 10, 2014

    Rather than accent with plantings, accent by making an irregular shaped space beneath in which you use interesting garden pieces. A couple of large rocks sitting close together with a few smaller ones scattered around them (don't make everything symmetrical). Use mulch, pinestraw or even pebbles as the ground cover. Add a gazing ball or a couple of small garden pieces. As you can see from the Hometalk folks, almost anything will work...even different size of brightly painted pots filled with flowers. Be sure and post photos!

  • Terina Maria
    Terina Maria
    on Aug 10, 2014

    I love these suggestions! Thank you

  • Julie B
    Julie B
    on Aug 11, 2014


  • Betty819
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Don't know what is meant by "A tree skirt" but our neighbors built a mini patio under theirs which hold 2 or 3 patio chairs with a small flowerbed surrounding it. They call it "Mary's place." named for her deceased Mother who used to love to sit under there and have a beer and cigarettes.

    • Grandmasue10
      on Jan 20, 2018

      Mary and my mother would have liked each other. Mom quit smoking at 72, but she had to have her beer!
  • Wendy Johnson
    Wendy Johnson
    on Aug 11, 2014

    What a beautiful tree! I hope you post an after pic of what you decide.

  • Tracy Dailey
    Tracy Dailey
    on Aug 11, 2014

    What about a raised bed of hostas? That way the way roots don't compete.

  • Buster Evans
    Buster Evans
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I have planted hostas under my magnolia trees but as of yet not under my willows...the willows are still relatively small... My son buried his longtime friend(a boxer dog) under the largest willow.. They are my favorite trees even with their bad reputation for being invasive with their roots into water systems and what not...I love the gently moving branches, and just the overall appearance of the tree and to be able to walk up under its canopy is almost like greeting a friend... Bubba looks like her branches come really low to the ground so I dont know about how much space you would have for plants under her to grow upward... As far as the hostas go they could coexist there, next to the trunk I would mix the variegated with solid color dark green and light for contrast, Maybe a statue to commemorate something like children when they were young etc.... Weeping willows have to be the ones Joyce Kilmer referred to in the poem "TREES" as "A tree that may in summer wear, a nest of robins in her hair".... Just use your own instincts ,imagination, and thoughts on what bubba needs out there with her... Anything you choose will be fine.

  • Linda
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I'm not sure why you have a space under your willow; do you trim it? I think it would look best if it just swept the ground; otherwise I like Jeanette's ideas best.

  • Kimberley N
    Kimberley N
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Consider adding a tree skirt in either some pretty pebbles or perhaps mulch. Place a colorful bench off to the side of the tree with a substantial sized planter filled with beautiful blooms for some additional interest. Just an FYI regarding Hostas- they are a favorite among deer. So if you have any four-legged visitors, Hostas won't work. Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Julius L
    Julius L
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I think it is beautiful as flowing. Willows really zap up all the water so not sure if anything could survive. How about a nice piece of garden art, i.e., large metal sculpture coming out from under the tree.

  • Christine Patton Daigle
    Christine Patton Daigle
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Put a bench so you can sit under it. It's gorgeous. Enjoy it!

    • Lynn Zawojski
      Lynn Zawojski
      on Aug 11, 2014

      @Christine Patton Daigle the only trouble I've ever had with a willow was the insects on the tree. Sitting underneath, I usually had issues with them, and then decided to not sit under... it was just a typical bug, not an infestation, just annoying.

  • Christine Patton Daigle
    Christine Patton Daigle
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Yes, bugs are annoying. :)

  • Julie Burkhardt
    Julie Burkhardt
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I have a large weeping willow too. I used RR ties to make a octagon shaped raised bed and planted hostas, autumn joy sedum, phlox etc. It looks pretty good although the tree is very old and may not last too many more years.

  • Kelly French Johnson
    Kelly French Johnson
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I have had an abundance of hostas of all different varieties over the past 30 yrs and the only thing that I have found that kills them is our hard winters, but they come back even bigger and better every spring. I am in Upstate NY, so our winters kill EVERYTHING :) I think they would look great under the tree, and it sure would make mowing under it alot easier!

  • Susan
    on Aug 11, 2014 is beautiful like it is!

  • Lisa B
    Lisa B
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I have hostas undery willow trees. They are good companions. Never build a raised bed under a tree, it will smother the tree's roots.

  • Deborah Donovan-Navarro
    Deborah Donovan-Navarro
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I had a beautiful planting under my willow tree when I lived in England. Wish I had a picture of it. I had Casablanca lilies, hardy fuchsia, hardy geranium, hosta, Tiarella and a border of a short, spreading campanula. It was stunning.

  • Charline
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Sounds like a good idea. Go for it. I am planning to plant host's under an oak tree.

  • Linda J
    Linda J
    on Aug 11, 2014

    No hostas. No, no, no. I won't bore you with details. Let's just say I learned about Hostas the hard way.

  • Claire
    on Aug 11, 2014

    just a bench for relaxing would be pretty

  • Ruth Slagowski
    Ruth Slagowski
    on Aug 11, 2014

    i have hostas under our varigated willow. They grow beautifully but the problem is the continual leaf drop of the willow. The small leaves collect on the hostas and detract from their beauty. It is a constant job to wash the debris off of the hostas. Maybe I'm the only one with this issue?

  • Brendaly
    on Aug 11, 2014

    No. It will take away from its beautiful cascading effect

  • Rebecca Freeman
    Rebecca Freeman
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Anyone who's ever had a weeping willow knows how the branches drop. Not a good plan to have hostas beneath. That would make raking the dropped branches much more difficult. Besides, these trees look beautiful just as they are. Simplify.

  • Comet
    on Aug 11, 2014

    One of my favorite memories of my child hood home is of the lovely weeping willow with HOSTAS and CLEOMES growing under it! Nothing kills either of these plants and they return (the cleomes self seed) forever. Some hostas have flowering branches that will be above the leaves for a pretty look. Go for it! (Cleomes come in WHITE; PINK and LIGHT AND DARK PURPLE)

  • 153091
    on Aug 11, 2014

    I have a willow..not as elegant and big as yours....I like metal and rust..placed one of my unique rusty garden decor items under it..looks wonderful..we love it.

  • Grace Gleason
    Grace Gleason
    on Aug 11, 2014

    If you decide to plant under the willow, remember not to overdo it. Every hole you dig kills roots. Every root you kill kills part of the tree. Plant small hostas [small holes] that will grow large. I did this under a fairly young oak and still had some damage. They were beautiful for a few years until the voles wiped them out. Don't let anyone tell you nothing can kill hostas.

    • Deborah Donovan-Navarro
      Deborah Donovan-Navarro
      on Aug 12, 2014

      @Grace Gleason I'm sorry, but I beg to differ regarding planting under a willow threatening the roots. Willow trees are among the "root greediest" of trees, sending their massive root systems far and wide and often damaging sewer or water lines, and even home foundations. You needn't worry at all about planting under an established willow tree damaging its roots. I'm glad to see that this willow is planted far out in the lawn, so that it won't do any permanent damage.

  • Jane R.
    Jane R.
    on Aug 11, 2014

    Leave it the way it is! It's beautiful. I think any plants under it would look too "busy".

  • Linda
    on Aug 12, 2014

    Please be careful using "real" railroad ties; they cause bug invasions despite the creosote used in them; been there...what a mess!

  • Liliana Wells
    Liliana Wells
    on Aug 16, 2014

    Listen to Douglas Hunt. He know what he is talking about.

  • Christine
    on Aug 28, 2014

    think potted hostas if you don't like the look you can always change their location I think a small comfortable bench, great place to hide away and relax.

  • Cindy Carley
    Cindy Carley
    on Feb 8, 2015

    Agree with Jane R would take away from the "beautiful" tree!!! Plant the hostas somewhere else..........we have them under our deck!!!

  • Sharon
    on Jan 20, 2018

    Bubba is splendid all by his glorious self, and adding plants at the base will mean he will be competing with the hostas for nourishment and water. Less is More.
  • Cindy
    on Jan 20, 2018

    This is the absolute most answers I have ever seen on this network. btw, your yard is already beautiful. My vote is to build a bench around the trunk of Old Bubba. Somewhere where one could sit and read a good book with a tall glass of lemonade. Best wishes.
  • Jane
    on Jan 20, 2018

    Oh, it looks lovely as is! I would not plant anything. I also vote for a bench!
Your comment...