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How to Grow Chilopsis – Desert Willow

Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis
Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis–commonly called desert willow or desert catalpa–is a deciduous shrub or small tree that bears trumpet-shaped flowers in summer followed by catalpalike fruit in autumn.

Chilopsis is open and airy. With age, it develops shaggy bark and a twisting trunk. The leaves are linear and mid-green. The flowers are borne in racemes of white to purple-red.

Chiliopsis is drought-tolerant once established. It is a useful border shrub in warm, dry regions.

Chilopsis is a genus of one species. It is native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Get to know Chilopsis

  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub or small tree
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 8 and 9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 8
  • Height and width: 6 to 25 feet (2-8m) tall and wide
  • Foliage: Linear, enire, often curved leaves to 8 inches (20cm) long; bark becomes shaggy with age
  • Flowers: Racemes of large trumpet-shaped flowers with crimped lobes are yellow-motted, white, pink, lilac, lavender, or purple flowers
  • Bloom time: Sporadically throughout the summer
  • Fruit: Heavy crop of catalpalike fruit through the winter can be messy
  • Uses: Border in warm, dry regions
  • Common name: Desert willow
  • Botanical name: Chiliopsis
  • Family name: Bignoniaceae
  • Origin: Southwestern United States
Chilopsis flower
Flowers of Desert willow tree (Chilopsis linearis)

Where to plant Chilopsis

  • Plant Chilopsis in full sun.
  • Chilopsis will grow in average to sandy soil well-drained soil.
  • Chilopsis can be grown in a container in a greenhouse where it is not hardy.

When to plant Chilopsis

  • Set container-grown Chilopsis in the garden in spring or autumn.

Planting and spacing Chilopsis

  • Space Chilopsis 6 to 25 feet (2-8m) apart.

How to water and feed Chilopsis

  • Chilopsis requires moderate water when young, little water as it ages. It is drought tolerant once estblaished.
  • Feed Chilopsis with a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly.

Chilopsis care

  • Chilopsis is shrub-like but can be trained as a tree.
  • Pruning can keep Chilopsis handsome.

Chilopsis pests and diseases

  • Seedlings are sometimes prone to root rot.

Chilopsis propagation

  • Sow seed in very warm soil.
  • Take soft- or hardwood cuttings in spring or summer.

Chilopsis varieties to grow

  • Chilopsis linearis. Upright, densely branched shrub or tree; grows 6 to 25 feet (2-8m) tall and wide; linear, curved leaves; bears large trumpet-shaped, yellow-mottled, white, pink, lilac, lavender, or purple flowers during the summer. Cultivar ‘Burgundy’ has deep purplish flowers; ‘Cameo’ is pure white with a yellow-striped throat; ‘Pink Star’ is light pink with some purple striping.

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