Asked on Aug 09, 2014

Hostas under a willow tree--Yay or Nay?

Terina Maria
by Terina Maria
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.
  43 answers
  • Colleen Colleen on Aug 09, 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 09, 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 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 Grandmasue10 on Jan 19, 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 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 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 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.
    • Gra19391956 Gra19391956 on Mar 27, 2017

      Why no hostas under an oak tree. The trunk of my oak is circed with hostas

  • Claire 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 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 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 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 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 Christine on Aug 27, 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 08, 2015
    Agree with Jane R would take away from the "beautiful" tree!!! Plant the hostas somewhere else..........we have them under our deck!!!
  • Sharon Sharon on Jan 19, 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 Cindy on Jan 19, 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 Jane on Jan 20, 2018

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

  • Margieroz Margieroz on Apr 20, 2021

    i planted hostas around my willow tree - used good soil. bugs came - couldn't catch the culprits to see what they could be. i replanted these hostas from another site.

    can you replant too much. do willows drop sap. i am so disappointed in all my hard work.

  • Deb K Deb K on Apr 08, 2023

    Hi Terina, hope this helps you out.

    Do not plant your hostas under trees whose roots will compete directly with the roots of your hostas. For instance, beeches (Fagus), birches (Betula), cherries (Prunus), large maples (Acer), poplars (Populus), and willows (Salix) should be avoided.

  • We have planted hostas under all our trees and they do just fine. That said, it's always an experiment with landscaping, due to variations is temp, light, water, etc, but I think it's definitely worth a try.

  • Mogie Mogie on Apr 13, 2023

    Would be easier if there weren't any plants under the tree. Perhaps just some mulch to keep the area clean and weed free.

  • Plant the hostas! They will definitely give you the visual interest you are looking for!