Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Prune a Desert Willow

A Desert Willow tree is a native plant of the Texas desert area. It looks like a willow with its long and thin leaves but is actually not the same species. This tree will grow in arid conditions and provides a nice shade for landscaping or walkways if pruned properly. If left to itself, it will tend to look scraggly with dropping branches and clumps of leaves. Pruning is not difficult, especially if you start while it is young.

Decide what kind of shape you want your desert willow to have. You can choose to form it into a single trunked tree with a canopy at the top. Another option is the multi-branched bush or shrub that has a canopy that reaches almost to the ground. Once you choose the shape, every year you just have to clean it up to keep within your plan.

Allow a main leader to grow and become the trunk of the tree for the single trunked look. Competing branches that sprout upwards towards the end of the growing tip should be removed. Keep the side branches to fill in the canopy. As the tree grows taller, remove the lower branches from the trunk. All cuts should be at 45-degree angles and just before a bud. Never cut so close to the trunk that you injure the bark.

Cut the main growing tip while the tree is small and allow several strong leaders to form if you want a multi-branched tree. Once you have established three or four branches, keep pruning out any extras that might try growing upwards from the base of the tree.

Thin out the canopy to allow sunlight to penetrate to the inside branches. This will keep the tree healthier as well as better looking. All the leaves will be competing for the sunlight and they will tend to bunch up in their growth along the top of the tree. Be careful not to remove more than 20 percent of the canopy or you risk sun injury to the tree.

Remove all the thin twiggy branches inside the tree to force the growth energy into the branches. This will keep good airflow in the tree as well as form stronger branches. Always remove dead growth back to the nearest healthy tissue.

Garden Guides