The desert willow, scientifically named Chilopsis linearis, is also called flowering willow, willow-leaved catalpa and trumpet flower. It is native to the U.S., and according to the Wildflower Organization, it can be found from south-central Texas south to Nuevo Leon and Zacatecas in Mexico and west all the way to southern California. The desert willow is able to withstand drought conditions and extreme heat.
This deciduous tree can reach a mature height of12 feet to 36 feet and a spread of 15 feet to 25 feet. The crown of the desert willow is irregularly shaped, rather round and spreading. Its growth rate is fast, and the leaves of the desert willow are green year round. The trumpet-like flowers appear from spring through summer, with colors that include white, pink, purple and violet.
The desert willow is extremely drought tolerant, making it an ideal tree for Texas. Once established, the tree will require watering every two weeks in the summer months and only once a month in the winter season. Plant the desert willow in full sun to partial shade. It will require a site with well-drained soil. The desert willow will tolerate clay, loam, sand, acidic and alkaline soils.
Trunk and Branches
The branches of the desert willow droop as the tree matures. Pruning of the drooping branches might be necessary if the tree is planted near a walkway. This tree is thornless, and it can have multiple stems/trunks (shrub like), or it can be trained to have one trunk. Pruning should be done in early spring when the leaves begin to appear.
The desert willow is fast-growing, drought-tolerant and its blooms are a lovely addition to the landscape. The trumpet-like flowers attract hummingbirds, which feed on the nectar of the blossoms. (The blossoms are orchid-like and very fragrant.) Butterflies are also attracted to the desert willow’s flowers, and birds are attracted to the seeds of the tree.
The desert willow can be used in an above ground container planting on patios and decks. They are also popular in parking lots. The desert willow can also be planted as a privacy screen, windbreak or tall hedge. Many homeowners use the desert willow as a specimen planting in their landscape design.
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