En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Elephant Butte, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Trees
Title: Care of desert willows
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have three desert willows. Two are doing well, but the third, which was planted at the same time as the others, is about 1/3 the size of the other two, the foliage is thin, and the leaves have dry, rusty brown spots. They finally dry up and fall off. We have been told we are overwatering, but we don't water it any more than the others. We also have a globe willow that has a few leaves that appear to be doing the same thing.

ANSWER:

What a neat opportunity to compare two trees, one native and the other non-native, whose names sound alike and whose appearances are in some ways similar. We at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are always looking for demonstrations of the strengths and weaknesses of native and non-native plants in our landscape. We are committed to the promotion and protection of native plants for their value in preserving resources and avoiding destruction of native habitats by escaping non-natives.

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow), not actually a willow but a member of the Trumpet-Creeper Family, is native to your home area in New Mexico, and adapted to use as erosion control. Its natural habitat is creeksides, ditches, etc. It is an excellent desert plant, and it's always startling to come across those incredible white-to-pink-to-purple flowers that look, to us, like orchids, in a plant that is so drought resistant and can grow in otherwise pretty unpromising environments. Since you have three plants, two of which are doing fine and one of which is not, we have to ask questions about location and sun exposure. You did not mention any insect problem and, since it IS a native, it's not as likely that would be a problem. If the three trees are all planted together, then we would say there is a possibility that some root damage might have occurred before the tree was even planted. If it has not been too long since it was planted, it could be suffering from transplant shock but, again, why would just the one tree be singled out? A suspect could be poor drainage around the roots. Since the desert willow is so adapted to hold soil and prevent it washing away, perhaps on a slope, drainage around the roots is probably important. If the soil around the problem tree allows water to stand for a period of time after irrigation or rain, the roots may simply be drowning. Without actually physically moving the tree, treating this might simply consist of improving the drainage in some way or, if you're watering, water that tree more frequently but for shorter times, to permit the soil to drain.

Salix matsudana (globe willow), shares only a part of the name with the desert willow. It is a true willow, but not a native of North America. Rather, it originated in northeast China and Korea. Willows ordinarily thrive alongside waterways or in moist soils. The willow is a very fast-growing and, therefore, somewhat short-lived tree. And, being a non-native, it is susceptible to a number of insect and disease problems. The worst of these is a frothy flux, likely caused by a yeast or other secondary organism that invades mostly young trees through wounds, causing fermentation of plant tissue. About the only suggested treatment we could find was to hose off the flux or slime, and improve drainage for the tree. It also can be subject to aphid damage. Aphids can also be discouraged by spraying water over the foliage and washing them off, but they will come back. Again, examining your cultural practices around this tree might help: improve drainage, keep soil moist but not standing in water, and watch for pest outbreaks.


Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

When do bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) seeds mature and fall?
December 04, 2009 - Hello, In answer to a previous question, you said that Bigtooth Maple samaras come ripe around August-September. Recently, I went to Lost Maples State Natural Area, and in their display, it says...
view the full question and answer

Flowers under pine trees from Elkhart Indiana
May 02, 2013 - I have a number of pine trees at the back of my lot and would like to plant flowers under the tree. What can I plant?
view the full question and answer

Shallow topsoil on rocky substrate in SW Oregon
April 28, 2009 - I want to plants some shrubs and trees. Trouble is I can't plant very deep. I have mostly rock within 5 inches. Please help.
view the full question and answer

Tree ordinances re Magnolia Ladybird Johnson tree
July 02, 2006 - What exactly is a Ladybird Johnson tree? Also, is there any type of federal or state law(s) that prohibits the cutting, trimming or removal of a LadyBird Johnson tree? Thank you for your time!
view the full question and answer

Clear pungent, liquid oozing from oak tree
June 28, 2010 - I have a large oak that over the last few days has been oozing a pungent, non sticky, clear substance from one specific site (no damage) about the size of a dime. It's attracting quite a few gnats, m...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center