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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 23, 2007

From: Weatherford, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Effect of unusual wet weather on desert willows
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in North Central Texas and have 3 beautiful Desert willow trees that are usually in full bloom. I've kept them pruned to form a nice full tree shape but now they are losing leaves and looking twiggy. We've had a l o t of rain this Spring - could that be the problem? Will the leaves come back if sunshine returns? They're been growing nicely in a Desert scape setting beside our pool with plenty of drainage. Thanks so much!

ANSWER:

Chilopsis linearis, or desert willow, is indeed a lovely large shrub or small tree. It is astonishing when those lilac-colored flowers begin to bloom and the long, slender seed pods are an artform in themselves. There are also burgandy- and white-flowered forms. In spite of the name, it is not at all related to willows, but no doubt was dubbed that because of the shape and growth habit of the branches. Now, what is going on with your plants? Just about anything with the word "desert" in its name is going to be challenged with the kind of weather we have had this year all over Texas. It is native from Southern California to West Texas and into northern Mexico, and has naturalized to the north. The desert willow is accustomed to dry soil and bright sunshine, both of which have been scarce in this part of the country this Spring and early Summer. No doubt, normal conditions will soon prevail, but in the meantime, the fact that the Chilopsis linearis is native to this area means it should be able to tolerate the really strange weather we can have. Native plants are usually very tough and adaptable, that's why they have survived in our somewhat tumultous climate. You can't very well wring out the soil or aim a sunlamp at the plant, but patience and maintaining good drainage around the garden should suffice.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

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