Monday, September 14, 2015

Desert Willow

For the past decade, gardeners everywhere are looking for water-wise plants and Desert Willow is one that I want to add to my home landscape.    This Texas native is considered a small tree or large shrub.   We have been growing it at the nursery for the past 4 years and really like how it performs.   We are just now selling our first crop.  They are a little lankier than we would like but we've begun a pruning program that has added fullness to the trees.    

Now, more about Desert Willow.   It's not a willow at all - but a catalpa, if that means anything to you.    This small tree has willow-shaped leaves and blooms from June through October.   The blossoms look like miniature orchids and may be pink, purple, or white.  I've read that there is also a yellow variety but have never seen it.    I'm picturing a flower that's more cream-colored than yellow.
Desert Willow 'Bubba'
There are a couple of patented Desert Willows on the market:  Bubba which blooms a vibrant hot pink and Timeless Beauty which has burgundy and lavender bi-colored flowers.  If the color is important to you, purchase from a reputable nursery or buy when the tree is in bloom.  They begin blooming at a fairly young age - even in a 5 gallon container.

Desert Willow is fast growing and it tends to be a bit leggy.  It may be hard to do, but until your tree is 5 or 6 feet tall, prune it severely.   By that, I mean cut it back by a third.   Do it in late winter.   These trees are deciduous and experience a bit of die back each winter so you'll really feel like you're trimming bare sticks.    Your tree will thank you with a much fuller canopy.    As a bonus, it  flowers on new growth so you'll get more flowers too!   Because it flowers on new growth, you can prune it for the shape you want and not sacrifice any blooms.

Desert Willow is fairly new in nurseries but, they should be available throughout Texas.   Speaking of Texas, Desert Willow grows just about everywhere in Texas except east Texas.   They just get too much rain there - poor people.  It grows in a variety of soil types as long as it is well drained.  

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