Desert Willow

Desert Willow

Species: Chilopsis linearis
Alternate names: Flowering willow; willow-leaved catalpa
Leaves: The desert willow's long, narrow green leaves inspired the genus name "chilopsis," from the Greek for "resembling lips."
Flowers: Bell-shaped flowers ranging in color from white to pink.
Advantages: Fast grower, drought tolerant and easy to maintain. Can be pruned into a tree or left to grow as a multi-trunked shrub. Produces blooms throughout the summer. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Spreads prolifically.
Disadvantages: Drops leaves and looks barren in winter. Has a relatively short life span of approximately 20 years.

The desert willow is a remarkably resilient species that grows rapidly in arid conditions that would kill most other trees. It rises up on median strips, in vacant lots—even through cracks in the pavement.

Once established, the desert willow requires very little care. An untended willow will take on the appearance of a shrub, with multiple trunks at or near ground level. It can easily be groomed into a small tree by cutting away branches near the base. At maturity, it will reach a height of 25 to 30 feet.

The desert willow produces its fluffy seeds inside a long capsule/bean. You can grow them from seeds or cuttings, or, you can buy one, plant it and wait a couple of years—chances are several progeny will take root in your yard from the original plant's scattered seeds.

Despite its name, the desert willow is not actually a willow, but a member of the bignonia family, which includes the catalpa and jacaranda trees.