Desert Willow, Desert Catalpa, Flowering Willow, Orchid of the Desert
Chilopsis linearis

Family: Bignoniaceae (big-no-nih-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Chilopsis (kye-LOP-sis) (Info)
Species: linearis (lin-AIR-iss) (Info)
Synonym:Chilopsis linearis subsp. linearis
View this plant in a garden

Category:

Trees

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Height:

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Spacing:

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Pink

Rose/Mauve

Magenta (Pink-Purple)

Bright Yellow

Purple

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:

Deciduous

Other details:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

This plant is resistant to deer

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,

Illicha,

Chandler, Arizona

Glendale, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)

Scottsdale, Arizona (2 reports)

Sedona, Arizona

Sierra Vista, Arizona (2 reports)

Tempe, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Willcox, Arizona

Casa De Oro-mount Helix, California

Claremont, California

Clayton, California

Fairfield, California

Hanford, California

Hesperia, California

Joshua Tree, California

Lancaster, California

Lucerne Valley, California

Menifee, California

North Fork, California

Palm Springs, California

Pittsburg, California

Ridgecrest, California

Temecula, California

Tulare, California

Grand Junction, Colorado

Pueblo, Colorado (2 reports)

Lewes, Delaware

Dunnellon, Florida (3 reports)

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Palm Coast, Florida

Boise, Idaho (2 reports)

Meridian, Idaho (2 reports)

Wichita, Kansas

Henderson, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada (2 reports)

Clovis, New Mexico

Farmington, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico

Elba, New York

Altus, Oklahoma

Chelsea, Oklahoma

Edmond, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Bandon, Oregon

Bend, Oregon

Irrigon, Oregon

Abilene, Texas

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas (2 reports)

Belton, Texas

Bushland, Texas

Conroe, Texas

Crawford, Texas

Crowley, Texas

Dallas, Texas (3 reports)

De Leon, Texas

El Paso, Texas

Elmendorf, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)

Georgetown, Texas

Geronimo, Texas

Grand Prairie, Texas

Houston, Texas

Iredell, Texas

Kyle, Texas

Laredo, Texas

Leander, Texas

Liberty Hill, Texas

Manchaca, Texas

Midland, Texas (2 reports)

Missouri City, Texas

New Caney, Texas

North Richland Hills, Texas

Onalaska, Texas

Rowlett, Texas

San Antonio, Texas (4 reports)

Santa Fe, Texas

Spring Branch, Texas (2 reports)

Trenton, Texas

Layton, Utah

Petersburg, Virginia

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

22
positives
3
neutrals
1
negative
RatingContent
Positive

On Mar 30, 2015, rockgardenplants from Layton, UT wrote:

I am so happy with our Desert Willow that we bought just three years ago! The flowers on ours are magenta with a white/magenta pollen guides on the inner landing of the flower. We live in a 6a - 6b USDA hardiness zone (depending on how close one lives to The Great Salt Lake to receive it's moderating effects). When I bought ours from Red Butte Gardens Spring plant sale I got a great tip from the seller: plant the Desert Willow facing south, preferably with a white fence backdrop (or other white backdrop). So, I planted ours facing south and painted a section of our backyard fence white. This beautiful willow has absolutely thrived both summers with a bunch of flowers and beautiful linear leaves. It also sets seed in long, brown pods. In comparing photographs from the original planting and ... read more

Positive

On Mar 10, 2015, azsilvia from Tempe, AZ wrote:

This lovely tree tolerates very high heat and drought. If watered regularly in the hottest months it can grow to over 20 feet but typically is seen shorter than that. Can be pruned to any desired shape. Collared Lizards and Gopher Tortoises relish the fallen blossoms and will hang out under a tree in bloom waiting for a treat. Bees love the blossoms, but I've not noticed humming birds visiting them. This tree is one of the last to come out of dormancy in spring so be prepared to see a bare tree well into spring.

Negative

On Mar 10, 2015, dexie63 from Mesa, AZ (Zone 10a) wrote:

I made the huge mistake of planting this tree near my front door in Mesa, AZ. It's beyond messy. I know all trees create a certain amount of mess, but this one trumps them all. I cut it back several times in an attempt to control it, but it grows super fast and before I knew it, it towered over my house. Yes, it's beautiful, blowing in the breeze, but I had to sweep and pick up every day because it drops constantly. I recently got out my chain saw and cut it down. No more tracking into the house.

Positive

On Mar 10, 2015, wakemper from Irrigon, OR (Zone 7b) wrote:

I have raised plenty of Desert Willows in Oregon (zone 6-7) with no problems at all.It is true hummers love them.

Positive

On Mar 9, 2015, calf from Leander, TX wrote:

I had three lovely desert willows in my yard in Dallas. When I moved to Austin, I brought seeds with me and started several. I kept one, giving others to friends. The one I kept is now about 20 feet tall and 12-15 feet in diameter. It is lovely! Since we have rock for soil here, it must be watered weekly, but I am rewarded with hundreds of blooms all summer and into fall.

If I had to say anything negative about it, it would be that with all the blooms, it is a tad messy, but everything rakes up easily.

To my knowledge, at least in Texas, there are no bugs or diseases that bother this tree. The bees and hummers love it!

Positive

On Mar 9, 2015, zeugma from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

I have planted several of these in several locations in north-central Phoenix. They do well in the rocky soil that is so prevalent here.

It has beautiful, fluted flowers. Indeed bees, butterflies and hummingbirds flock to this very fragrant tree. Its aroma has tones of frankincense which is present in the early mornings.

Not overly messy, but then again no tree is mess free. Likes the sun a lot and drops its leaves in the winter months. Seed pods drop after flowers dry.

As with any desert tree, frequent shallow waterings cause the tree height to outgrow the root base, which can cause toppling in heavy winds. We do indeed get them here.

Positive

On Mar 9, 2015, Catrscr from Hanford, CA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I love this tree. Planted it about 10 years ago and it took off. The flowers are magenta and the bees and hummingbirds love it. Now about 15 to 20 feet tall. Very little water needed. Grows well here in the Central Valley of California. Gorgeous plant.

Positive

On Jan 5, 2015, idahocactus2 from Boise, ID wrote:

Several varieties of the chilopsis thrive and do well here in the Boise Valley. Depending on the care and watering and siting of the trees, they can behave as large shrubs to 15 - 20 foot tall trees. The blooms range from white, pink to deep purple and burgundy and can be very fragrant depending on warm temperatures. The seeds [of the seeding varieties] are viable and are easily grown from tiny seedlings without any loss.

The trees and shrubs bloom better and over a longer period of time if they are pruned lightly to moderately every spring. I rarely let the trees get much more than 15 feet. They can grow as much as 6 feet each year. Beautiful plant and worth trying in many garden situations. It loves the heat.

Positive

On Sep 7, 2014, southeastgarden from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant requires specific conditions to thrive in north Florida but it is beautiful in the right place. I have had great success in and around parking lots in sandy soil and full sun. They thrive in sites like this with good air circulation and reflected heat. They tolerate irrigation if the site is sufficiently well-drained and grow beautifully without supplemental water.

Positive

On Jul 3, 2014, hopper1965 from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

I have a desert willow plant growing in an 20" terra cotta pot. The plant is about 2 years old. It wasn't very happy the first year in the pot, but has branched out and is in bloom this summer. I have this plant growing in full sun throughout the year. It does seem to like to be watered every other day or so. I'm guessing it's because it is in a pot and in full sun. I know the plant isn't listed to be grown in zone 10b (my growing zone), but it's seems to be doing okay. The flowers are small, but very pretty. I haven't seen any seed pods form, but I do not have a second plant to act as a pollinator.

Positive

On Jan 16, 2014, MichaelC1 from Rancho Cucamonga, CA wrote:

I planted 2 desert willows about 14 years ago and put them too close to my back wall. They are about 8 inches trunk diameter and probably at least 15 feet high. Since I bought them as trees the flowers are too high. Also we get very high winds and they have broken at times. I love the trees and the birds do too but could I cut them to the ground and have them grow back as a shrub or are they too old for that? They are super easy to grow but the seed pods are messy. The flowers are like small orchids and the leaves bright green. I wonder if I could pla r one with a jacaranda in the same hole?

Neutral

On Dec 31, 2012, Limestonelin from SPRING BRANCH, TX wrote:

If you want a certain color bloom,, buy a plant when it is in flower. I was disappointed when one of mine bloomed and it was a very pale washed out color. I have heard this tree can be started from cuttings.

Positive

On May 17, 2011, jazzy1okc from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

This is an absolutely beautiful tree that should replace mimosa in areas where the winds are often strong and can break the weaker tree. There are some huge old specimens in OKC even though 7b is not on the zone list.

Positive

On Apr 17, 2010, aasalas from Lewes, DE (Zone 7b) wrote:

I had long admired this plant when I visited my folks in New Mexico; then saw it offered locally a year ago. I planted it on the west-southwest side of the house, and, since we get a lot of moisture here in Delaware, put it in a high point with very sandy soil, to ensure it doesn't have wet feet. I did water it weekly when there was no rain the first summer, to get it established.

It bloomed constantly all summer. With an unusually wet and cold winter this year, we wondered whether it would be back, but it is leafing out now and looks very healthy.

Neutral

On Feb 23, 2010, pollengarden from Pueblo, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

They have this growing at the Denver Botanic Garden, Zone 5a-5b. You can see where it froze down to the ground and re-grew. In this area, Zone 5b-6a (sheltered) I have seen it both as a froze-&-regrew bush, and as a small tree. Apparently it needs a pollinator, because when there is only one around, it doesn't get seed pods. Also, it may prefer slightly acid soil, but it tolerates alkaline.

Positive

On Feb 22, 2010, LibbyMcClendon from La Mesa, CA wrote:

I have seen this plant growing at Martinez Lake, AZ and also along the road to San Felipe MX. I've started a couple from seeds (La Mesa CA), but they're not looking too happy right now (February). Love this tree!

Positive

On Feb 22, 2010, Dedda from Petersburg, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Although we are zone 7 A or B - depends on where you look... I have a 12 ft and a 6 ft specimens in my garden that were started from seeds 5 years ago.
Love the flowers and the willowy look of the tree


Positive

On Sep 17, 2006, Cactuseater from Austin, TX wrote:

I have a bunch of seeds that I have dried, and want to get these growing. I live in Austin TX (not sure what zone this is)

Positive

On Mar 22, 2005, wshall from El Paso, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

These plants love the desert conditions of el paso. They do not need much water either, so the city water company reccomends that people here grow them. Only downside is that they can form a bush-like tree if you are not careful.

Positive

On Feb 16, 2004, joshuatreedon from Joshua Tree, CA wrote:

Here in the joshua tree high desert, these willows grow abundantly, I have seen them naturally occurring in desert washes. Also I have two in my front yard and now every year I get many volunteers that are easy to dig up and transplant when they are dormant. I love the sweeping nature of the branches. It gives an oriental feel to the landscape. Also this willow gives off a very pungent fragrance after a rainfall that is very pleasing to the senses. Drought tolerant, I am lining my side road with them as a privacy screen

Positive

On Nov 5, 2003, nowheat from Midland, TX (Zone 7a) wrote:

We had two desert willows that were just barely tree height in our back yard when we moved in 14 years ago. The larger is now about 20' tall with a branching, almost round form. Its sister is as tall, but narrower.

This tree needs lots of pruning or it will branch out and take over the place. I wasn't into gardening when we moved in so the two have taken over our back yard. They provide welcome shade in our hot West Texas summers. Their leaves appear late in the spring, and they flower all summer and into fall. In late fall or early winter, they drop their long, narrow willow-like leaves and their long beany seed pods. Here in Midland, in my unimproved yard, they are self seeding if the seed finds the right conditions. If encouraged, they will grow well and once established... read more

Positive

On Sep 5, 2003, gardenerdeb from Elba, NY wrote:

We just had ours given to us this past spring and haven't seen the blooms yet but it is already about four feet tall.I cant wait to see it next year with blooms on it.

Positive

On Jun 7, 2003, garbanzito from Denver, CO (Zone 5a) wrote:

My Chilopsis linearis has survived two winters near an east wall in Denver, and grown to ten feet in the process with very little water. The tips of branches seem to die during th e winter, and have heard that in Colorado Springs (higher elevation) it sometimes dies to the ground, but can be regrown as a bush and pruned back into a tree if desired - worth the risk! Beautiful in its long bloom; neighbors covet the seedlings. Easy to prune into a nice profile. The variety we have is pink-flowered and is a child of a plant bought from a nursery in Albuquerque.
EDIT: June 2010 and this tree is now 9 years old and in fine condition; 12-15' tall now and has never suffered significant die-back; we have a smaller tree, about 5' tall, that was planted in 2003; it hasn't died back... read more

Positive

On Nov 27, 2002, Donboix wrote:

Desert Willow grows wonderfully in the desert areas surrounding Las Vegas, Nevada - from Mesquite, Nevada down to Bakersfield, California.

Not much to look at in the winter but the true "Orchid of the Desert" all summer long. The 1 1/2" purple to white cone-shaped flowers moving easily in the summer breezes. This small tree or bush has been crossed with the Catalpa bignoides to produce another beautiful tree/bush: the X Chitalpa tashkentensis.

Positive

On Nov 18, 2002, fabfarmer wrote:

When you first plant this small tree, it grows very fast at first, then slows as it gets larger. The flowers are simply beautiful and catch your eye. Hummingbirds love the flowers on this tree too! Can be be grown to look like a large shrub, or pruned to look more tree-like. A very draught tolerant tree that requires little to no additional water in the summer once established.

Neutral

On Mar 17, 2001, lantana from (Zone 7a) wrote:

A small, deciduous tree, height to 15 feet, blooms April to September. Native to Texas and the Southwest, will grow in full sun and partial shade.

The Desert Willow needs very well-drained soil. Although it grows best along streams and low places, it does not like wet feet. It grows well in rocky and gravel soils. It grows in very hot and dry areas.

Native Americans used the flowers, leaves and bark medicinally. They also used its wood for bows and baskets.