Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow, Flowering willow, Willow-leaved catalpa, Willowleaf catalpa, Bow willow, Flor de mimbre, Mimbre

Bignoniaceae (Trumpet-Creeper Family)

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)
Marcus, Joseph A.
Desert-willow is a 15-40 ft., slender-twigged, small tree or large shrub, often with leaning, twisting trunk and open, spreading crown. Leaves are deciduous, willow-like, light green, both opposite and alternate, 412 inches long and 1/3 inch wide. The blossom is funnel-shaped, 11 1/2 inches long, spreading at the opening into 5 ruffled, petal-like lobes. The flower is dark pink or purple, often with white or yellow and purple streaks within the throat. The catalpa-like flowers are borne in terminal racemes. By early autumn, the violet-scented flowers, which appear after summer rains, are replaced by slender seedpods, 610 inches long, which remain dangling from the branches and serve to identify the tree after the flowers are gone.

Named for its resemblance to willows, this popular ornamental tree is actually related to catalpa trees, Yellowbells (Tecoma stans), and Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans). Its exotic-looking blooms, rapid growth, drought tolerance, and ease of maintenance have made it a sought-after plant within its range, which in nature is from south-central Texas south to Nuevo Leon and Zacatecas in Mexico and west all the way to southern California and Baja California. Adapted to desert washes, it does best with just enough water to keep it blooming and healthily green through the warm months. Many cultivars have been selected, with varying flower colors, leaf sizes, and amounts of seed pods.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate , Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate , Linear
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Panicle
Size Notes: 15-40 feet
Leaf: Green
Flower: Flowers 1-1.5 inch flowers in 2-4 inch panicles
Fruit: Green to brown 4-12 inches
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Purple , Violet
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Mostly blooms heaviest May to June but will continue to bloom sporadically throughout the warm season after rains. Flower color ranges from solid white or muted pink to darker rose and purple, as well as two-toned combinations of those colors. Throat often yellow-tinged. Many cultivars available with varying flower colors.


USA: AZ , CA , NM , TX
Native Distribution: South-central Texas south to Nuevo Leon and Zacatecas, west to southern California and Baja California
Native Habitat: Ditches, ravines, depressions, streams, river banks, arroyos, swales, and washes in desert areas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
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 F.


Use Ornamental: A showy, fast-growing, drought-tolerant ornamental tree with very decorative blooms
Use Wildlife: Nectar-hummingbirds, Nectar-insects, Seeds-granivorous birds
Use Medicinal: Floral decoctions taken for coughs and bronchial problems in Mexico
Use Other: Erosion control. Bows and basketry made from its wood by indigenous people. A good honey plant.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Hummingbirds , Butterflies
Larval Host: White-winged moth
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate

Last Update: 2016-01-21