How to Care for a Desert Willow


The desert willow is a low maintenance plant which can be used as a shrub or as a large tree. The usual dimensions of the plant are 20 x 20 feet, making this a thick screening for landscaping or a cover for walls or other unsightly areas. Loved by hummingbirds and other small birds, the flowers of the desert willow are orchid-like in shape and can be white, yellow, pink or shades of purple.

Step 1

Select a site for your plant that drains well and is in full sun. If necessary, you can add gravel or sand to a clay soil to help it drain better, but selecting a non-clay area may prove for a more successful plant.

Step 2

Wait until the early summer months through the beginning of autumn to dig a hole for your plant. The hole should be roughly double the size of the pot the plant is already in.

Step 3

Remove the plant from its pot carefully. The roots of the desert willow don't hold a rootball together like most other plants will, so you'll want to fully support the roots to keep them from ripping as dirt clods fall away.

Step 4

Set your plant into the hole and refill it. Cut back one-third of the size of the plant to decrease the length of branches the roots have to support and reduce transplant shock.

Step 5

Water the plant thoroughly each week for the first one to two months. The depth of the hole should be moist even when the upper surface of the soil is dry to encourage deep reaching roots to grow.

Step 6

Water the growing plant on a monthly basis over the summer and into early fall. If temperatures stay above 90 degrees F, water deeply every two weeks. Through winter, decrease the watering to only every six weeks.

Step 7

Care for the plant until it reaches the desired height, then stop watering. You can prune away any twiggy parts and any suckers from the plant each year in early summer.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't fertilize the desert willow or you will end up with weak branches that easily break and cannot withstand heavy winds.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Potted desert willow plant
  • Pruners
  • Water


  • New Mexico Gardener's Guide; Judith Phillips; 2005
  • How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest; Jill Nokes; 2001
Keywords: desert willow, plant care, tree

About this Author

Writing from Virginia, Margaret Telsch-Williams specializes in personal finance, money management, gardening, crafts and sewing, cooking, DIY projects and travel. When not writing instructional articles online, she works for the website Widescreen Warrior as a contributor and podcast co-host discussing all things film and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a master's degree in writing.