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 Trees Questions

Over-trimming of native linden tree
November 06, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, My huge beautiful linden tree was just way over trimmed. It is planted near the house, so they cut most of the branches on that side all the way back to the trunk. I now have...
view the full question and answer

Need help for my Texas Persimmon in Leander, TX.
June 03, 2015 - Help!! My Texas Persimmon is distressed with either bugs or infection. I'm not sure what to do. I wanted to insert a picture here, but wasn't able to. If there's a way for me to submit a picture...
view the full question and answer

How can I prune my Texas Mountain Laurels to be more tree-like?
March 24, 2011 - I planted several Texas Mountain Laurels last spring and would like to train them to be more tree-like rather than shrub-like. Each is around 36" tall with 5-10 trunks coming from the ground. Where...
view the full question and answer

Late leafing and early leaf-drop of Ohio buckeye tree
October 28, 2005 - We recently bought a house which has an ohio buckeye tree in the back yard. It stands about 40 feet from a large creek in Troy, Ohio. The tree is about 30 feet tall. A strip of the bark is missing....
view the full question and answer

Need to replace a Silver Maple in Illinois.
July 10, 2011 - My father recently had a tornado take out a 50 year old silver maple. He is looking to replace it, but he is looking for something with interesting summer color; as he put it not "green." I am try...
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