Desert Willow Tree: Arizona vs Texas (Problems & Winter Issues)

Eye-level shot of a Desert Willow tree showing its branches with thin leaves enclosed in an oval frame on green background.

The Desert Willow tree is so lovely, so graceful, and it exudes so much serenity that it is a favorite among gardeners.

But, when planting in Arizona and Texas, this tree can face problems and winter issues that can be fatal.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect your Desert Willow Tree in AZ and TX, you just need to know how to avoid the most troublesome issues and create some preventative solutions.

This guide provides everything you need to know about caring for your willow in these states, and any others!

Desert Willow Tree

(Chilopsis linearis)

Desert Willow tree image in an oval frame on green background.
  • Order: Lamiales
  • Family: Bignoniaceae
  • Light: Needs Full Sun
  • Flower: Purple
  • Soil Needs: Tree and Shrub Food
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Water Needs: Low
  • Garden Style: Rustic
  • Bloom Time: Spring through Summer
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Growth Habit: Upright, Rounded
  • Average Height: 15 to 20 Feet

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Ranking

Not Evaluated


“Should I grow a desert willow tree or not?”

That’s a great question. The following guide explains the problems you might face, but also the benefits of nurturing and growing this beautiful tree.

How Desert Willow Trees Look

Desert Willow Trees are gorgeous, especially in the summer when they are blooming. Some of the common names include Jano, Desert Willow, Desert Catalpa, False Willow, and Flowering Willow.


The names come from its linear leaves and billowy resemblance to the actual willow tree.

Desert Willow tree identification chart showing close up image of its bark, flower, and leaves in circle frames.

It is the same as other desert plants because it can have a very shrubby growth. It can add beauty to the structural elements of your landscape with its willowy canopy and structural growth.

Desert Willow Flowers

It is crazily attractive for hummingbirds, because of its nectar-producing flowers. Some of its most common species are the Desert Willow, the Bubba, and Lucretia Hamilton.

Close up image of Desert Willow flower and its red petals

(Image: Kayli_Photography5)

The Dessert Willow has really nice soft pink flowers with yellow at the throat. Bubba trees have dark pink flowers, while Lucretia Hamilton was bred for deep fuchsia.1

The pink flowers resemble those of the Pink Magnolia Tree.

Identifying Willow Leaves

Desert Willow tree leaves have a distinct and narrow, almost elegant look.

Desert Willow Tree leaf identification chart showing close up images of willow leaves in circle frames.

Knowing how to identify tree leaves can help you spot them and also spot any problems with diseases quickly.

Desert Willow Tree Varieties (Types of Desert Willows)

There are common types of desert willow trees.

1. LopurIt is an amazing cultivar if you find it. It contains deep emerald green leaves that make a beautiful background against white velvet buds. The buds open up to show dark and purple burgundy leaves.
2. MonhewsThis species blooms for a comparatively long time. It appears in groups and is known to exhibit burgundy, tubular, fragrant, and light lavender characteristics.
3. Warren JonesUnlike the former species, this cultivar blooms relatively quickly and holds its leaves faster than its counterparts during the winter. It produces a massive amount of pink showy, light flowers.
4. Lucretia HamiltonThis species is well known for its hardiness. It also produces intense burgundy flowers. But unlike its counterparts, it has a small stature.
5. Dwarf Desert WillowAlso known as Salix herbacea, it is the tiniest tree in the world, and it grows well in the arctic and subarctic environments.
6. Desert Weeping Willow TreeAlso known as Salix babylonica, it is similar to the desert willow.

Which Region of the United States Mainly Grows Desert Willow Trees?

This is a question that you must have asked yourself a thousand times, especially if the area that you live in does not have many of these trees.

Did you know that “cheilos,” is the Greek word that Chilopsis is taken from? Yes, it comes from a Greek word, “lip.”

The Greek word references the tree’s flowers, which are broad and look like orchids. Now you know!

Its name is appropriate since it is planted in the arroyos. Arroyos exist in the southwestern states from the west of Texas to the south of California. It also grows in areas adjacent to Mexico.2

These parts of the country typically get little rainfall annually (10-15 inches). Rains in the summer are spotty. However, when it hits, it is fast and hard.

It tolerates soils with a wide scope of pH, and it can grow in both alkaline and acidic sites.3 This plant is ideal for the garden in areas with low rainfall, and it is environmentally unwise to do supplemental irrigation.

Two of the most common areas with gardens full of desert willow trees are Arizona and Texas.

Desert Willow Tree Growing Zones

You can place them in a location beside your home where there is ambient heating, especially in the colder months. You can plant them in groups if you need a windbreak or a privacy screen.

Desert Willow Root System

It has tap roots that can grow up to 50 feet to search for the water it needs.

Like all other plants, desert willow trees have problems. They have to do with pests and winter issues.

Desert Willow Tree in Winter

In dormant months, the tree yields 10-inch seed pods that persist throughout the winter. It also loses its leaves during this season.

Problems and Winter Issues That Affect Desert Willow Trees in Arizona and Texas

Arizona and Texas have gardens with the biggest numbers of desert willow trees. This is because the plants can withstand the most freezing temperatures of up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since the tree is native to both locations, there is not much difference in growing them. The same way you can care for the plant when you live in Arizona is the same way you can care for it when you live in Texas.

Most gardeners living here water it once every two weeks in the summer and once every month in the winter. This is because winter provides sufficient water for this desert plant, and there is no need to keep on doing it. In the summer, the heat is important for its growth.
Desert Willow tree growth chart showing full grown Desert Willow tree on a line graph with Desert Willow tree age on the x-axis and Desert Willow tree height on the y-axis.

The most prominent type of desert willow in Texas is the Bubba Desert Willow.1 In contrast, most gardeners in Arizona mostly grow Lucretia Hamilton. It is important to know, however, that this plant is a native of both Texas and Arizona.

Therefore, even if you want to grow Monhews or the Lopur, you can.

Pest Problems

There are a few pests that disturb desert willows. The most common ones are Thrips palmi and root mealybug. Gardens in both Arizona and Texas have them. They cause the yellowing of the foliage and produce webbing around the trunk.

To get rid of these pests, use a combination of insecticides and horticultural oil, especially where there are severe infestations. It is, however, advisable to contact your local county extension office for help.

Diseases That Affect Desert Willows (Desert Willow Tree Problems)

If you are planning to grow these trees, then you must be aware of the kinds of diseases to expect. There are several.

Phytophthora Disease

The first sign that your plant has this disease is the wilting of its foliage during warm weather. If the Lilly pilly appears to be water stressed, develops a dull appearance, or turns colors, then it is time for you to be alarmed. The disease that is likely affecting it is Phytophthora crown (root rot).

It is primarily caused by excessive water that leads to the growth of the pathogen around its root. It can eventually kill it. Another common sign is the darkening of the base of its trunk.

Root Rot

When roots begin to rot, it is usually because of excess water. Too much rain, overwatering, or poor drainage cause moisture to develop around the roots and lead them to swell because it is taking in more than it can handle.

The tree may develop a condition called Oedema when its circulatory system sends excess water to the foliage. There are small blistering eruptions that appear on the undersides of the leaves of the lilly pilly. They eventually burst and leave dead cell spots that are either brown or white in color.

Myrtle Rust (Common Problem)

This disease is also called guava rust. It is extremely invasive and first appeared in 1977 in Florida.3 It causes distorted growth and makes pustules with yellow rust colors appear on the plant. It mainly attacks fruits and flowers but may also affect the leaves as well.

Desert Willow Tree Disease Prevention

These three are the most common. You can prevent them by controlling the moisture of the soil. You can also improve the drainage and re-evaluate the supplemental water practices that you are used to.

Desert Willow Over-watering

Although the tree needs watering, you must understand that it is a desert plant. Watering it once a week can prevent these diseases from developing. Therefore, you must not overwater it.

There are other diseases that you must know of. One is the leaf spot, which causes round, tiny round-to-oval spots on the bark of the tree. The second one is the verticillium wilt that attacks the plant during spring, causing fungus.

Others are Damping-Off Disease, Bacterial Twig Blight, Crown Gall, and Cytospora Canker. There are many diseases with different symptoms and different causes. It is usually a good idea to consult a botanist when you notice that something is amiss with your plant.

Desert Willow Tree Care

This is a hands-off kind of plant. You do not need to water it too much because it loves the sun. You only need to tend to it in the off-season. Nonetheless, for you to grow it in harsh climates, you must understand its care fundamentals more in-depth.

It needs a lot of sun to flourish. It also loves dry heat. You do not need to water it frequently.

It can grow in humid climates like Northern Florida, provided it does not receive a lot of rainfall. The soil must not be wet and organic-rich. Plant it in sandy soil or where there is decomposed granite or limestone.

It does not require fertilizer. However, if you choose to, make sure that the fertilizer is balanced (20-20-20) or low nitrogen (0.7%), high phosphorous (10-30-10) material. Only do this in the spring before it begins to grow.4

Attributes of Desert Willow Trees

You must be aware of the important characteristics of this plant if you are planning to grow it. The following list gives you these features.

  • It grows in a horizontal or spreading shape.
  • It mainly blooms in the summer. However, it can go through to spring. During this time, it produces fragrant and showy flowers.
  • It requires little maintenance. Therefore, you will not spend a lot of money and time constantly checking on this plant. Once you put it on good soil, you only need to sit down and relax and watch it bloom.
  • This plant has linear to linear-lanceolate leaves that are simple and mostly blue-green. Their color can also be medium to dark green and turn gold in the fall.
  • As its name suggests, it is very tolerant of drought. So you don’t need a lot of water to grow it. This is also important in reducing global warming because you get to contribute your two cents worth by saving water.
  • Desert Willow Trees also have well-formed branches that have a thick growth. This makes the plant useful as a tall hedge or widescreen.
  • It develops in a multi-trunked form.
  • It is deciduous like the Summer Chocolate Mimosa Tree.
  • The foliage can be aromatic, with a medicinal fragrance.
  • When blooming, the flowers appear in terminal clusters.
  • The Willow Tree is particularly a welcome sight in dry and hot areas. It is a great source of shade during the summer and can give your compound ambient heating during the winter.

History, Folklore, and Medicinal Uses of the Desert Willow Tree

Desert Willow Trees have flexible yet strong wood. The Native American Community historically used it to craft their hunting bows. The Pima also used its wood to construct thatch roofs, and houses, and make baskets for storing mesquite beans, and acorns, among many other foods.

Its fibrous bark was also used to make fabrics and nets.

It is an important tree for wildlife because it gives them cover and nesting sites. Birds and animals like deer eat the nectar of its flowers, fruit, and leaves. Birds also eat its fringed seeds, with bees using the nectar to make honey.

The plant’s flowers, bark, and leaves are important sources of medicine. They have historically been used to make soothing tea for coughs and hot poultices.

Other popular uses include treatment of athlete’s foot, guarding against yeast infections, and for first aid to take care of scratches and scrapes. It is scientifically proven that the tea that comes from the flowers is a natural antioxidant and regulates the metabolism of glucose as well as cardiovascular health.

If you decide to plant these trees in your landscape, you can be sure that you will have both fragrance and color. You will also attract native birds together with other wildlife. You will have shade as an added bonus.

The various species of this tree will give you specific colors. Therefore, it is upon you to choose what you want.

Desert Willow Tree Pros and Cons

Its advantages are that it has ornamental blooms and is tolerant to drought. It is an extremely beautiful plant, and it requires such little care. Its disadvantage is that it is slightly irregular and needs well-drained soil.

After having all this information at your fingertips, what is your decision? Go on, don’t be shy. Grow your desert willow tree and know that with it, you’ll be able to enjoy many happy years of shade and beauty.

Frequently Asked Questions About Desert Willow Tree

When To Plant Desert Willow Tree?

You should plant your desert willow where there is well-draining soil, and the sunlight is either full or partial. The best time to plant it is in the spring so that it can bloom later on in summer.


When Do I Prune My Desert Willow Tree?

You should begin pruning either in late winter or early spring. Because it is a deciduous tree, the best time to prune it is at the end of February. Relatively, you could do it in March because it is still dormant at the time.


How Do I Propagate My Desert Willow Tree?

You should propagate your plant through cuttings rooted in well-drained and moist soil. You could also do it by seeds, sown in a greenhouse that is warm and during spring. You should keep individual pots until the end of the following spring.


Can I Root a Branch From My Willow Tree?

Yes. In fact, it is very easy. All you have to do is take a healthy branch, place it in moist soil either in spring or in late winter, and you will have a good root system by the end of the growing season.


Can I Grow a Desert Willow From Cutting?

Yes. This plant can be propagated from seed and dormant hardwood cuttings or even from softwood cuttings in mid-summer. It is the only method to produce plants with the same color of flowers as the parent plant, but those produced from seeds have random flower colors.


Why Are the Leaves Falling off My Desert Willow?

This mainly happens in winter following the first frost. It happens for the tree to coincide with natural winter frost climates.


What Is the Desert Willow Lifespan?

They can live up to at least 20 years.


What Is the Desert Willow Tree Growth Rate?

They grow by between 13 and 14 inches annually.


What Is Desert Willow Tree Height?

The Desert Willow can grow 15 to 20 feet.


Is Desert Willow Toxic?

No, this Willow tree is not toxic.


How Much Water Does a Desert Willow Tree Need?

For the first year, water it once every seven days. When it is established, water it once every two weeks.


How Do You Know When a Desert Willow Is Dying?

If you see signs of decay and the uprooting of the base of the tree, then it is dying. Also, look for soft rotting wood and a lot of bored insect holes at the base.


Are Desert Willow Tree Roots Invasive?

No. The roots of this tree are shallow and widespread.


Do Desert Willows Attract Bees?

Yes. It also attracts hummingbirds and all different kinds of bird species.


What Is the Common Use of Desert Willow Trees?

They are mainly used for making soothing tea for coughs, and they are common in hot poultices.


Is the Desert Willow Purple?

No. Only the flowers are purple.


How Does Desert Willow Tree Bark Look?

It is dark brown and scaly.


Where Can I Find Desert Willow Tree for Sale?

They are widely available at your nearest nursery.


What Are the Desert Willow Tree Adaptations?

It is tolerant of drought.


Can You Grow a Desert Willow Tree in Container?




1Bubba Desert Willow. (2022). Retrieved August 26, 2022, from   <>

2Plant of the Week: Willow, Desert. (2022). Division of Agriculture Research & Extension. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from   <>

3United States Government. (2022). Chilopsis linearis. Forest Service. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from   <>

4The University of Arizona. (2014, June 25). Backyard Gardener – The Desert Willow Tree. College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Retrieved August 26, 2022, from   <>

5Kayli_Photography. Pixabay. Retrieved from   <>