Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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?


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

Friday - June 12, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs, Trees
Title: Desert Willow size question from Austin, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson


Dear MSP, I have a desert willow named Edith. We got her from the CoA a couple of years ago for recycling our Chirstmas tree. She's doing well except her three little trunks are teeny-tiny. We want Edith to be a tree rather than a bush; any ideas how to fatten up the girl's trunks? Does trunk fattening happen as she get older, like the rest of us? Thank you, Debbie


Sounds like Edith found a good home.  I guess I should look harder - as when I was offered trees, I wasn’t so excited about the ones offered and have lately just been happy to recycle our tree.

  Now, Edith is blessed with a slim figure, she [and you] should be happy with that.  Dropping out of the anthropomorphic mode:  Remember that she is a Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow), a member of the Trumpet Creeper family, related to Tecoma stans (Yellow bells) and Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper).  According to the plant record it grows from 15 to 40 feet tall.  Mine is about 12 feet tall and still has small trunks [about 2” in diameter, rather like the last picture].   I’ve placed most of the tree-like pictures we have below; these configurations are about what you should expect from Edith.

  Fattening her up?  Read the plant record as to what she likes and do just a bit better for her!  [Not too much now, she is a desert plant!]  By the way, Yes - as you surmised her trunk will grow with age, but not at the rate that mine seems to be!


From the Image Gallery

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

More Trees Questions

Identity of tree with pumpkin-like fruit in Florida
October 02, 2012 - Hello. I live in a small town called Molino FL. I was walking on the side of our road and found a tree with pumpkin type fruit on the limbs. I have been trying to figure this tree out for about 3 mont...
view the full question and answer

Lemon cypress Goldcrest in Richland MI
September 15, 2009 - Can the shrub lemon cypress survive a southern Michigan winter? If so, how does one care for it?
view the full question and answer

Hedge for steep slope by sidewalk in Wisconsin
August 25, 2008 - I have a fairly steep slope from the sidewalk to my yard. The space is about 48" high, 30" deep and 120' long. I was thinking that a boxwood hedge would fill that space nicely but no one else aroun...
view the full question and answer

Soapberry tree problems in North Richland Hills, TX
September 01, 2010 - We have a small grove of soapberry trees. The city recently reconstructed the street and added a side walk which now sets as close at 1 foot from the nearest tree. Everything seemed fine until they ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of red leaf tree with wispy, feathery plumes on top
June 25, 2009 - I am looking for the name of a red leaf shrub/small tree that has feather like, wispy plumes which grow out of the top most branches. I do not have a photo. I live in Canton, MI.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.