Chitalpa tashkentensis, also known as sweet desert willow, is an interesting deciduous hybrid combination of traits. Chitalpa’s parents are the somewhat scraggly desert willow and an inferior Eastern U.S. shade tree known as catalpa. Oddly enough, crossing the two ugly ducklings has produced an unlikely success, cold hardy as low as USDA Zone 6. Chitalpa inherits drought resistance and overall but enhanced appearance from its desert parent. Eastern ancestors contribute larger size, a higher tolerance to poorly drained soils and orchid-like blooms that are more attractive than those of their desert counterparts.
Choose a well-draining spot in full sun for your chitalpa early in the spring. Cultivate the area to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches and amend with some well-rotted manure if desired.
Remove the chitalpa from its growing container. Gently loosen the soil surrounding the root ball and spread the root tips out.
Dig a hole about 1 1/2 times the diameter of the chitalpa’s root ball and roughly as deep. Position the tree in the hole so that it will be planted at the same depth that it occupied in the growing container.
Back fill the hole, gently firming the soil around the chitalpa’s roots. Water the area lightly to settle the soil.
Apply 1 to 3 inches of organic mulch, keeping it about 6 inches away from the chitalpa’s trunk to avoid rot.
Water the newly planted chitalpa deeply but slowly during its first season. This will discourage shallow root growth as well as diseases of the roots. Allow the top 2 or 3 inches of soil to dry out before watering again. Once established, this plant will require no further supplemental waterings.
Feed your chitalpa tree a good all-purpose fertilizer. Please follow the packaging instructions carefully.