Gardening for You: Bubbas burst with blooms

Desert Willows are ideal small, flowering trees for hot, low-rainfall climates. Desert willows (Chilopsis linearis) pronounced chi-LOP-sis lin-ee-AIR-iss, are native to the desert Southwest, from West Texas to New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, and the northern Sonoran Desert.

The common name, desert willow, is somewhat misleading as it is not related to the weeping willow, Salix babylonica, “Willow” is shared by both species because both have narrow, linear 6-inch-long leaves and slender, arching stems that sway in the breeze, yet they are very different. Weeping willows are adapted to moist riparian habitats while desert willows thrive with drought conditions in poor quality soils.

The graceful architecture of desert willow is unlike most landscape trees. Juvenile trunks are smooth barked, becoming rougher as wood matures. Because of their artsy form desert willows are effective in the landscape as border plantings, street trees, or single specimens in a drought-tolerant garden.

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Desert willows are deciduous shrubs or multi-trunked trees with year-round interest. In the spring showy, trumpet-shaped, orchid-like, fragrant flowers bloom with an endless summer display. Elongated two-sectioned, pod-like capsules gradually appear as flowering ceases. Seed pods persist into the winter with many hanging on into the next spring. Mature seed capsules split open, releasing seeds.

Desert willows are easily propagated from seed. Seedlings pop up near the trees but birds can carry seed quite a distance from the tree. Most desert willow trees in commerce are seedlings grown from seed collections. The seed will not breed true, which is why flower colors vary from white, creamy, pink, rose, lavender, and violet. If a particular flower color is desired to complement a landscape, wait until trees come into bloom to choose the flower color.

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