Planting areas: USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and 9, Sunset Zones 7 to 14, 18 to 23
Size: 15 to 40 feet tall, 10 to 20 feet wide
Bloom season: Spring through summer.
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
Water needs: Low water, drought tolerant.
Snapshot: Desert willow, also known as desert catalpa, is a stunning, versatile shrub or tree with showy, fragrant flowers.
This deciduous member of the trumpet vine family is native to the southwest.
Despite its name, it’s not a willow; the plant’s moniker was inspired by its wispy, linear willow-like leaves.
Desert willow produces trumpet-shaped flowers, ranging in color from white, light pink to light purple, that attract hummingbirds and bumblebees. In addition, several bird species feast on the seeds of the desert willow.
A fast grower with a twisting trunk, spreading crown and low branches, desert willow does well in arid climates — tolerating both extreme drought and seasonal flooding.
This shrub thrives in well-drained soil but also grows well in sand, loam and clay-type soils.
Its water requirements are low. Desert willow enjoys a watering or two during extreme hot weather but prolonged saturation can result in rot, so avoid excessive watering.
Also avoid fertilizing, which can cause rapid growth, fewer blooms and a weak plant.
Desert willow is basically disease and pest-free. The shrub seeds itself into the landscape, so don’t plant it in or near a lawn.
Do, however, plant desert willow as erosion control, a windbreak or for wildlife cover.
Prune the plant when dormant to get your desired look: tree-like or shrub shaped.
In the fall, flowers are replaced with long seed pods. Seeds can be extracted from the pods by drying and shaking them.
Desert willow can be propagated via seed, dormant hardwood cuttings or mid-summer softwood cuttings. Seeds will sprout in one to three weeks under moist, warm conditions. Allow the soil to somewhat dry out in between watering.