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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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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

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