En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - March 03, 2013

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Trees
Title: Desert Willow tree for Plano, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live near Dallas, Texas. I have a small Desert Willow tree that I would like to plant. What is the root system of this tree like? Would I be able to plant it near our patio? How far from the house's foundation should the tree be planted? I am trying to fit this beautiful tree into my garden (which is becoming more and more crowded).

ANSWER:

As far as intrusiveness of the roots, this small tree is in the Bignoniaceae (Trumpet Creeper) family. Therefore, Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) is more closely related to vines than most trees. Its nearest relations are Tecoma stans (Yellow bells), Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) and Catalpa bignonioides (Southern catalpa). If you look at the pictures below from our Image Gallery, you can clearly see the similarity.

We don't think that placing Desert Willow near concrete will be any threat to the concrete,  but you need to be careful to dig a good deep hole and plan for the trunk to be at least a couple of feet from the nearest concrete, so the roots will have plenty of access to the top of the soil for moisture as well as gas exchanges of oxygen and carbon dioxide at the soil surface.

Now, how will it do in Dallas County? This USDA Plant Profile map shows that it does grow in Dallas County, but most of the rest of the counties where it grows are more desert-like. Follow this plant link, Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) to our webpage on it where you can find out its growing conditions, light requirements, time of bloom and so forth. Here are its growing conditions:

"Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained limestone soils preferred, but also does well in sands, loams, clays, caliches, granitic, and rocky soils. Minimal organic content the norm.
Conditions Comments: Allow to dry out between waterings, as this will encourage more extensive waves of blooms. Avoid excessive water and fertilizer, as that can lead to overly rapid growth, fewer blooms, and a weaker plant. Prolonged saturation can result in rot. Wont grow as fast or get as large in clay soil but wont suffer there either. Can be drought-deciduous in some regions. Can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees"

You will note that its water needs are modest, and it would prefer not to be overwatered. It also requires sun, which we consider to be 6 or more hours of sun a day. It can survive all right with a little less sun but blooms better in full sun. It does need alkaline soil, such as the limestone-based desert soils in Texas, but should tolerate the soils in Plano. If you have clay soil (and you probably do) it would help if you added some sand or even decomposed granite to the fill dirt, to provide good drainage and make the soil more desert-like.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Southern catalpa
Catalpa bignonioides

More Soils Questions

Problem With Vegetable Garden Soil
June 09, 2013 - We live in Liberty Hill on 25 acres and we are working to restore native grasses and plants. We are ardent supporters of the Wildflower center. I say this because my question is not "typical" of wh...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover under Spruces from West Chester PA
December 06, 2012 - Trying to get a native groundcover (or any grass/wildflower/fern) planting established under a small stand of spruces. Established stand (30+ years old), so lots of needles on ground. Just about tot...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower seeds that do well in black clay soil from Plano TX
November 21, 2013 - What native wildflower seeds do best in black clay soil? We live in Plano along creek w/ 8,000 sq. ft. in full sun. No manmade water source. Suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Landscaping in Avalon TX
January 23, 2013 - I just bought my first and last home in Avalon Texas. I am looking forward to starting my garden. I am interested in all year around flowers. however I am in the country, when it rains, my yard becom...
view the full question and answer

Use of fresh clippings from tree trimmers for mulch in Austin
May 02, 2010 - Hi, The tree trimmers are in my neighborhood (east central Austin) to clear the power lines and said I can have a load of free mulch. I am wondering if there is any harm in using the fresh mulch from...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center