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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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Friday - December 07, 2007

From: dunnellon, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Trees
Title: Desert willows in Florida
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm in Dunnellon, FL and I'm growing several chilopsis linearis from seeds, but they are coming in long, tall with very few leaves. and continuously fall over from their lanky growing ways. Any ideas of how to get these to grow thick and bushy like? I water them after they are 50% dried out as I think they need that much water and am afraid to let them dry out totally as little plants. I have not tried trimming them yet as there is not much to trim.

ANSWER:

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) is not a true willow, and requires very different growing conditions. When you follow the link above and read the information about this tree from our Native Plant Database, you will find that is pretty much confined to the dry Southwest. Anyone who lives in Florida should probably question the wisdom of trying to grow a plant with "desert" in its common name. Please refer also to this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer to a question about desert willow to get some more information about its care. This is not to say it's a lost cause, and we don't want you to give up on it. It is a native of North America and a lovely tree with amazing blossoms. We suspect that you may be loving your little trees to death. They are valuable in erosion control, which means their roots hold while the water drains away. There may be too much moisture around those roots, and they're literally drowning. If your soil does not drain well, we would suggest less water and allowing the soil to drain and get pretty dry before you water again. Also, they need pretty much full sun and are deciduous, at least here. If you have some branches that are very long and skinny, you might want to trim them now, while the tree is semi-dormant, but not too much. And don't expect it to ever get very "full"; one of the beauties of the tree is that it is open and moves gracefully in the breeze.

 


Chilopsis linearis

 

 

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