Drought-Tolerant Desert Willow or Chilopsis Care

Flowering Desert WillowIf you are looking for a pretty shrub or small tree for a drought tolerant garden with great big dramatic flowers put Sweet Desert Willow on your planting list – especially if you live in southern California.

Chilopsis linearis is known for large, unique flowers which bloom in shades from pink, purple, yellow or white.  The tubular flowers look a bit like foxgloves.

If you really want to stop traffic go for the glowing purple or hot pink flower colors.

The dramatic, fragrant flowers bloom on long clusters with large, tubular 2 inch flowers with contrasting stripes.

Birds will eat the seeds and bees and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers.  These plants put on a dramatic show in the spring when they are in full bloom.

Sweet Desert Willow are fast growing shrubs, up to 30 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. The bushes are pretty even when they are not in bloom.  Their dark green, shiny leaves are thin and up to 5 inches long, giving the plant a traditional willow look.

Chilopsis can be left as a shrub, or trained into a tree with several trunks.  They take well to trimming so they can also be used as hedges.

Chilopsis blooms from spring through fall and gets long dangling seed pods with cottony down that can measure up to 8 inches long.

These pretty willow-like shrubs will lose their leaves in the winter.  They make a nice alternative to other pink flowering trees (like cherry trees) in dry landscapes.

They look dramatic planted in rows, try them along a driveway or against a back fence in the landscape.  Make sure you can see them from your window and enjoy the flowers.

Chilopsis linearis is native to the Western United States and takes full sun in the landscape.  They grow wild in California river washes, where they are flooded with water in the spring but receive little or no water for the rest of the year.   This makes them a logical choice for homeowners in California facing water restrictions.  They already like growing here!

Desert Willow shrubs are hardy to -3 degrees Fahrenheit and can survive on as little as 10 inches a year of rainfall.

Too much water will cause Desert Willow to get root rot, so allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again, or amend the planting hole with fast draining soil.

Chilopsis are adapted to soils with little nutrients, and a soil PH from 7 – 9.  Propagation is from seed or cuttings.  Seeds do not need stratification and can sprout up as volunteers in the garden.

Fall Planting in Southern California

Autumn is probably the best time to plant Desert Willow, especially in southern California or the western US.  Your new transplants will have all winter to become acclimated to their new surroundings and should be able to withstand their first year of summer heat better.

Fall under the spell of Desert Willow and plant a few this season.

Flowering drought-tolerant Desert Willow
A row of flowering, drought-tolerant Desert Willow shrubs