The desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a small, many stemmed, deciduous tree with thin willow like leaves. It is native to the desert Southwest and Northern Mexico. These hardy natives produce fragrant clusters of showy, ruffled, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, burgundy and purple. Their gnarled trunks and long blooming season make them excellent choices for water-conserving gardeners whose winter temperatures remain above 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Cultivars are available in many different flower colors.
Pink Flowered Varieties
"Bubba" is one of the taller desert willow varieties, reaching heights of twenty feet or more. It is a prolific bloomer in spring and fall.
"Mesquite Valley Pink" has highly ruffled, dark pink flowers with yellow throats.
"Art's Seedless" is a smaller tree, reaching 10 feet, which produces masses of pink flowers with purple splotches.
"Warren Jones" produces large elongated lacy blooms, which are uniformly colored a warm pink.
"Monhews," also called "Timeless Beauty," blooms for a much longer period than most other desert willows, and is dependably covered with light and dark pink, bi-colored blooms from spring through fall.
"Marfa Lace" has light pink ruffled, nearly double flowers, and is quite drought tolerant.
Purple Flowered Varieties
"Desert Amethyst" has showy, dark lavender flowers with a lighter throat. This drought tolerant tree can reach 30 feet in height and width, and provides medium shade when mature.
"Lucretia Hamilton" is a compact tree to 15 feet high, which features prominent reddish purple to violet flowers.
"Dark Storm" is a shrubby, densely foliated desert willow, with purple to burgundy flowers, which can be trimmed into a hedge, or used as a windbreak.
"Barranco" has dark purple flowers and compact, upright growth.
"Lois Adams" produces striking lavender and purple-red flowers, and is nearly seedless.
Other Flower Colors
Unlike most other desert willows, "Burgundy Lace" blooms in summer. It produces a profusion of dark burgundy flowers tinged with purple, and prefers well drained drier locations.
"Regal" has a dense and compact habit, and produces highly ruffled, dark red and lavender blossoms.
"White Storm" is a small tree, to 10 feet high, which produces masses of delicate, pure white flowers.
"Hope," a taller variety, which grows up to 20 feet high, also has white flowers, but the beards are etched with very fine purple lines or dots.
The chitalpa, (Chitalpa tashkentensis) a hybrid between the northern catalpa and C.linearis, reaches 25 feet, and is more robust than its desert willow parent. Chitalpas have clusters of large, papery flowers, in shades of white to pale pink, and look like giant desert willows. Since they are sterile hybrids, they produces no seed pods, and thus require considerably less maintenance than their catalpa parents. Good chitalpa cultivars include the light rose colored "Pink Dawn," and a pure white flowered variety, "Morning Cloud."