Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

Is the western soapberry the tree for you?

(sapindus drummondii)

Western Soapberry full tree

Flickr| David Elckhoff

Named because of the lather the fruit gives off when mixed with water, western soapberry is a North American native and an excellent shade or ornamental tree to adorn your landscape. If you’re looking to add a little more green to the yard and want something drought tolerant, then this tree may be the tree for you. Below are a few attributes that make the western soapberry stand out.

Environmental conditions

  • This tree grows well in a variety of soils with dryer climates in the South and Southwest (hardiness zones 6-9). It prefers full sun and partial shade, meaning a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day would suffice.
  • Tolerates wind, drought, compacted soil and infertile soil
  • Transplants easily and establishes with minimal irrigation

Physical traits

  • The western soapberry will grow two feet a year and reach 25-50 feet in height with an equal spread
  • Blooms May to June with loose panicles of yellowish-white flowers
  • Produces orange fruits that resemble cherries and lather when mixed with water. Fun fact: Native Americans used the berry-like drupes as a soap substitute.
  • The western soapberry is a favorite of butterflies in early summer

 

western soap berry

Flickr| David Elckhoff

If you’re looking for something unique to add to your landscape then the western soapberry may be a good choice.  It requires little care and offers great shade from the summer heat. Check out Inviting all butterflies! Create an oasis designed for them! If you’re looking to attract more butterflies to your garden.

Do you have a western soapberry? Share a picture below.