The desert willow shares a name with the graceful plant favored by many gardeners. This type of willow isn't actually part of the same family of plants. Desert willow features strong wood, unlike the brittle wood of the typical weeping willow tree. Desert willow produces trumpet shaped flowers throughout the growing season. Indians used the flexible wood for bows and farmers also benefit by making fence posts from the desert willow's strong limbs.
The desert willow grows to an unpruned size of 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. The tree tends to grow quite quickly and requires pruning for shaping. Desert willow exhibits a fine-leaf structure that produces an open canopy with maturity.
Bark, Branches and Trunk
Desert willow resembles the traditional willow tree with drooping branches and long flowering leaves. This plant features strong wood that resists breakage from weather. Like traditional willows, desert willow trees require pruning to develop a strong center trunk and to limit multiple trunks. Bark is light brown in color and the tree trunk often develops twists as the plant matures to form an impressive multitrunk tree/shrub.
Desert willow features a light, airy foliage perfectly suitable for displaying the brilliant flowers associated with this plant. Foliage length reaches up to 12 inches with the majority of the leaves at a medium 4 inch length. Leaves range from medium to light green and resemble long blades of grass. The desert willow loses all foliage in the fall with buds reappearing in the spring. Foliage does not produce any noticeable color change with the onset of cool fall weather.
Desert willows produces abundant flowers on the new wood produced each year. Flowers appear funnel-shaped with ruffled edges in pink, purple, white or variegated edges. Flowers appear each spring and produce continued blooms throughout the summer with adequate deadheading. Flowers have a light fragrance to attract bees and butterflies. Flowers will go to seed if not pruned regularly. Proper and consistent watering directly affects the production of blooms.
Desert willow likes a full sun location and prefers rich soil that drains well. This plant tolerates drought conditions but shouldn't be subjected to the stress due to potential growth limitations. Regular watering produces continued blooms and increases tree strength. Desert willow does best in climates that mimic the home territory of this native Texas plant. Gardeners can use desert willow in their landscape in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 11.