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Desert Willow

Desert Willow
Chilopsis linearis


Bignoniaceae, Bignonia Family


Large shrub; medium tree to 30 feet tall by 30 feet wide


Sonora, Mojave and Chihuahua deserts of southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico to 5,000 feet


Desert washes

Living Desert Location:

Ethnobotanic Garden, Wortz Demonstration Garden, MacDonald Butterfly Garden, Upper Colorado Garden, throughout the grounds


The flowers are pollinated by bees and attractive to hummingbirds. The seeds provide forage for birds such as Gambelâs quail.

Desert willow is native to the Coachella Valley and is typically found in wash habitats. The tree is cold and drought deciduous. The sculptured branching pattern adds interest during the bare stage, while allowing the low winter sun to shine through. The flowers begin to appear as early as April and continue blooming into the fall months. The fragrant, orchid-like blossoms range in color from white to pink to burgundy. Cultivars with reliable flower color are available commercially.

In nature, Chilopsis linearis has a shrubby growth habit, carrying its branches all the way to the ground, making a protective screen or shady rest stop for wildlife. The numerous papery, winged seeds are released from 8″ long, thin, persistent pods. They germinate easily and will volunteer quite readily in the garden. Desert willows will grow rapidly — three feet a year for several years with regular watering. Drought tolerance is good, even in the low desert, and established trees can be watered once or twice a month in the warm months.

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