Tree of the Week

Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

By Sheereen Othman | July 21, 2015

Chilopsis linearis

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

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  • Reply Bruce Purdum July 25, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Any advice about starting Desert Willow (or desert orchid tree, as we’re call them) from cucuttings? Not as easy as willows, that’s for sure!

    • Reply Sheereen Othman July 27, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Bruce,

      That’s a great question! I checked with one of our arborists here at ADF and they’re not familiar with growing desert willows from cuttings. But here is a link that may help you in doing so.

      Happy planting!

      • Reply Bruce Purdum August 17, 2015 at 2:24 pm

        Thank You!:+)

  • Reply ImportarfacilNET July 26, 2015 at 6:35 pm

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  • Reply Charles July 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Very interesting post, keep up posting nice articles!

  • Reply Rodrigo November 17, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Interesting is the tree that blooms in the drought, things of Mother Nature.

  • Reply Dobblerr November 17, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Very curious is a tree that blooms in the drought, how can this, are things of mother nature that always surprises us.

  • Reply veja aqui meu site January 24, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    Simply fantastic is the beautiful flower that is born in the drought, the nature surprises with its wonders.

  • Reply March 30, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Nature is really dazzling, how can such a beautiful flower bloom in a place like this, just nature itself.

  • Reply malvina October 12, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Que bom que exite essa árvore, excelente para ambientes secos, quem mora nesses espaços tem grande dificuldade em cultivar plantas devido ao tipo de ambiente. Como podemos perceber existe árvores para os mais diferentes tipos de clima e solo. muito enriquecedor esse post.

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