If you’ve ever seen a weeping cherry tree in bloom or sat beneath the branches of a stately weeping willow, you know how lovely this distinctive growth habit can be. With branches that cascade from the trunk like water down a mountainside, weeping trees are coveted treasures in gardens and yards everywhere. Whether they’re flowering, evergreen, or deciduous, planting a weeping tree in your landscape adds an eye-catching focal point to the design.
Types of weeping trees
There are many types of weeping trees, but for the most part, weeping is not a common plant trait. Weeping trees are often created (or discovered, as the case may be) in one of three ways.
1. Through grafting. To create weeping trees through grafting, branches with a weeping habit are grafted onto a straight trunk and allowed to cascade down from the top. Each individual tree is created separately and the trait is not carried from one generation to the next.
2. Through chance genetic mutation. One specimen or seedling with a weeping growth habit is found among a group of “normal” plants. That weeping plant is then vegetatively propagated (cloned) via cuttings to ensure the weeping trait is exhibited in future generations.
3. Through plant breeding. Plant breeders and nursery professionals can also purposefully breed plants and then select for the weeping trait over multiple generations.
Regardless of their genesis, the following 14 weeping trees are among my personal favorites. I’ve separated them into three groups: Flowering, evergreen, and deciduous. My hope is that you’ll find a few interesting weeping trees on this list to add to your garden.
Flowering weeping trees
Weeping cherry tree
Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’ – There aren’t a ton of weeping trees with prominent flowers, but weeping cherry is among the best. Hardy to -20° F and reaching a height and spread up to 25 feet, weeping cherry trees thrive in full sun to part shade. The showy pink blossoms of ‘Pendula Rosea’ occur in spring and last for one to two weeks. Highly ornamental, shoots of this Asian native are often grafted onto a straight trunk to produce an umbrella-like structure. If the tree produces non-weeping branches that sprout from the grafting point and grow straight up, promptly prune them off.
Weeping redbud tree
Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ – There are a few common varieties of weeping redbud, but this selection is unique for its burgundy-red foliage. This cultivar of a North American native tree is perfect for small gardens. The pink-purple flowers occur in the spring and are followed by heart-shaped leaves. Like many other weeping trees, weeping redbuds thrive in full to partial sun. Winter hardy down to -20° F, ‘Ruby Falls’ weeping redbud tree matures to 8 feet in height with a spread of 5 to 6 feet. Lavender Twist® is another variety of weeping redbud, though it has green leaves.
Evergreen weeping trees
Weeping white pine
Pinus strobus ‘Pendula’ – These weeping evergreen trees have a graceful structure that remains attractive year-round. Cold hardy to -40° F, weeping white pine is an excellent choice for a diversity of landscapes. Maturing at 6-12 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide, it’s at home in full or partial sun. A cultivar of a North American native plant, the pendulous branches are covered with long, soft needles. They droop beautifully toward the ground. These weeping trees can be pruned and trained to grow into a particular form or shape.
Weeping white spruce
Picea glauca ‘Pendula’ – This tree is extremely winter hardy, surviving winter temperatures down to -50° F. Maxing out at 40 feet in height with a narrow 5- to 8-foot spread, these columnar weeping trees are excellent choices for narrow spaces with a lot of vertical room. Choose a site that receives full sun and is well draining. They are not a good fit for warm, southern regions. The upright central trunk is surrounded by pendulous branches that extend downward, creating a tiered appearance. The lovely blue-green needles add extra interest to the landscape.
Weeping Norway spruce
Picea aibes ‘Pendula’ – If you’re looking for evergreen weeping trees that are tough-as-nails, look no further than weeping Norway spruce. It is deer resistant, tops out at 15 feet in height with an equal spread, and is hardy down to -40° F. Average soil is best, and choose a location with full sun. A cultivar of a European native, the eventual shape of each weeping Norway spruce depends on how it’s pruned and trained. It often spreads along the ground unless staked and supported when young. These fun and funky weeping trees provide a lot of winter interest and are a great conversation piece.
Weeping trees nootka cypress
Cupressus nootkatensis ‘Pendula’ (syn. Xanthocyparis nootkatensis) – When it comes to evergreen weeping trees, nootka cypress are large and dramatic. With an eventual height of 35 feet, these graceful trees are hard to ignore. They thrive in full to partial sun. Average soils will do. A cultivar of a native to the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, this weeping evergreen is pyramidal and weeping and fairly slow growing. The drooping branches are covered with flattened sprays of needle-like leaves. It is fairly pest- and disease-free and grows best in cooler climates.
Tsuga canadensis ‘Pendula’ – Fans of hemlocks who don’t have enough room to grow these large, stately trees, should turn to weeping hemlocks instead. Smaller in stature (5 feet tall with a 10-foot spread) and with downward growing branches, weeping hemlocks are a wonderful alternative for smaller gardens. Evergreen and thriving in average soils and full to partial shade, weeping hemlocks produce small, brown cones. Their shape and form are dependent on training and pruning received when the tree is young. ‘Sargentii’ is another weeping hemlock cultivar name often seen in the trade. Hardy to -30° F.
Weeping blue atlas cedar
Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’ – A striking specimen, the blue atlas cedar is likely to generate more questions from garden visitors than any other plant you grow. Clusters of blue needles occur in tuft-like groups along the stems. Hardy to -10° F, blue atlas cedars reach 60 feet in height with an incredible, arching spread up to 40 feet. Evergreen with long, spreading branches, these weeping trees age into the most incredible specimens. The boughs drape to the ground to create a curtain-like appearance.
Deciduous weeping trees
Weeping birch trees
Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ – A gorgeous small tree, Young’s weeping birch forms a mound of foliage atop its trunk which can be trained to be contorted. Cold tolerant to -50° F, these deciduous weeping trees are neither slow nor fast growing. They reach 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Small, yellow catkins are produced in the spring, causing the bare branches to be covered in fuzzy, non-showy blooms. Young’s weeping birch are often grafted to produce an umbrella-like structure. The pendulous branches can grow all the way down to the ground. The green leaves are teardrop-shaped, and they turn a lovely yellow in the autumn.
Weeping katsura tree
Cercidiphyllum japonicum ‘Pendula’ – If you asked me to pick a favorite of all the weeping trees, the weeping katsura would be it. In the autumn, when this striking tree’s leaves are a golden yellow and dropping to the ground, it emits the most wonderful warm caramel smell. Hardy to -30° F and reaching a height of 25 feet, weeping katsura doesn’t mind tough soils, though it does typically have a shallower root system than other trees. Katsura trees are either male or female. Though the flowers are fairly non-descript, they are red on male trees and green on females. The leaves have a bluish tinge and are a round-oval in shape. ‘Pendula’ is a grafted weeping tree that has a cascading canopy of branches that reach all the way to the ground.
Weeping beech tree
Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ – Perfect weeping trees for children’s gardens and large, open areas, weeping beech trees grow to 50 feet in height with a spread up to 40 feet. Stately and elegant, weeping beech trees create a dramatic focal point. At maturity, their mushroom-shaped canopy covers a large area around the trunk, making them an excellent hiding spot or “playhouse” for kids. A cultivar of a European native, you’ll see lots of variation in shape and form. Some specimens have an upright central trunk and others have a broad, spreading growth habit. Hardy to -30° F. The flowers are not showy.
Weeping Japanese maple
Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson King’ – This Japanese maple variety has a mound-forming, weeping growth habit with branches that arch from the trunk down to the ground. There are many varieties of Japanese maples with a similar growth habit, but I’m very fond of ‘Crimson King’ for its maroon, finely serrated leaves that turn a brilliant scarlet in the fall. ‘Crimson Queen’ is another great choice. In warm regions, choose a slightly shaded area. In cooler climes, opt for full sunlight. Hardy to -20° F. Maximum height of 8 to 10 feet. Here’s a great article on pruning Japanese maples.
Weeping trees white willow
Salix alba ‘Tristis’ – This cultivar of white willow has bright yellow twigs and a beautiful weeping growth habit. Like many other willows, this weeping tree variety prefers moist soils. In fact, it’s a great choice for wet, low-lying areas where other trees won’t grow. Full sun is best. Give these weeping trees plenty of room; they grow very large (up to 75 feet tall). Hardy to -30° F and native to Europe, weeping white willow has slender leaves and branches that are pendulous and narrow. The flowers are not showy. Their texture in the landscape is wispy and soft.
Larix decidua ‘Pendula’ – Larch is unique in that it’s a needled deciduous tree. Tufts of green needles occur along its pendulous branches. In the autumn, the needles turn a bright yellow and then drop from the plant. Weeping larch survive winters down to -40° F. They are fast growing and can be trained into unique shapes and forms. Japanese weeping larch (Larix kaempferi ‘Pendula’) is another great choice. With a soft look and a tall, mound-like structure, weeping larch are real showstoppers. Reaches 8 to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
***If you’re interested in learning more about exceptional trees and shrubs for your landscape, we recommend Shrubs & Hedges by Eva Monheim and Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr.
For more information about landscaping your yard, please visit the following posts:
– Narrow Trees for Small Yards
– Trees with Peeling Bark
– Flowering Shrubs for Shade
– Small Flowering Trees
– Low Maintenance Shrubs
– Early-flowering Shrubs for the Garden