Desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) is native to the American southwest and also known as flowering willow, willow-leaved catalpa and trumpet flower. The tree is deciduous, but the hot climate does not allow for the leaves to turn color in the fall. Desert willow is related to catalpa trees, yellowbells (Tecoma stans), and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), but not to the willow tree it resembles.
The tree grows up to 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Thin leaves measure 5 to 12 inches in length and 4 to 8 inches wide. Fragrant lavender, pink or white 2- to 4-inch-long, trumpet-shaped flowers bloom from May though September and only after there is a rainstorm. The flowers are found growing in clusters at the tips of the stems. The flowers are followed by brown seed capsules 6 to 12 inches long and 1/3 inch wide.
Desert willow is hardy in USDA zones 7B through 11. Plant in full sun and a moist to dry, well-drained soil. The tree grows in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
Use the tree in a container or a raised garden and for erosion control. Desert willow provides light shade for a deck or patio and brings color to the middle of a lawn as a specimen plant. The seeds are a food source for birds, and hummingbirds, butterflies and bees will come by for the nectar.
Desert willow is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that does not require a good deal of maintenance and is moderately deer-resistant. The tree does grows slower if planted in clay soil, but will not die or suffer any damage. The plant can take winter temperatures as low as 10 degrees F.
The branches need to be pruned so the tree will develop a strong, central trunk and to leave room for pedestrians and cars to pass. Too much water causes root rot. The tree is not known to have any serious pest or disease problems.