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How to Plant a Desert Willow

The desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a small shrub-like tree that grows up to 20 feet tall and wide with a 6-inch-diameter trunk. Desert willows are not true members of the willow family. The desert willow blooms in white, pink or purple flowers in the spring and throughout the summer. The flowers have a pleasing scent, are tube-like or funnel-shaped and grow to about 1-¼ inches long. Native to Northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States, the desert willow is a deciduous tree that is hardy to 10 degrees F.

Plant the desert willow in full to partial sunlight and in well-draining soil. Plant it in the spring, after all chance of frost has passed.

Dig a planting hole for the desert willow tree that is the same depth as and twice the width of the root ball or nursery container. Mix coarse sand into the displaced dirt if your soil is heavier.

Plant the desert willow at the same depth as it was in the nursery container, or so that the top of the root ball is about 2 inches below the soil surface.

Water the desert willow tree deeply once every five to seven days during the first year. Water the tree to soak the soil down to and around the entire root area.

Plant Desert Willow Tree Seeds

By early autumn, desert willow’s slim seedpods replace the plant's flowers. According to the website for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, desert willow prefers limestone soil, but also grows well in rocky, caliches, loam, sandy and granitic soil, with minimal need for you to add any organic matter to the soil. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep in moist potting soil. Horizon Herbs, plant growers, recommend growing desert willow in pots for a year before transplanting them outdoors. Fill the hole with soil, avoiding putting any soil on top of the plant's root ball. Water the area thoroughly and cover with 3 to 4 inches of hardwood mulch.

Tip

After the first year, reduce the watering frequency of the desert willow tree to once every two weeks throughout the summer and once each month during the winter.

Warning

Don’t plant a desert willow in compacted or hard clay soil. Ensure that the soil can drain freely, and work into the soil some organic compost if the soil is nutrient-poor.

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