Desert Willow,chilopsis linearis (61159 bytes)

Growing Desert Willow on the Front Range

By Robert Cox, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Horticulture

Desert-willow (Chilopsis linearis) is not a willow at all. It's closely related to Catalpa but has narrow, willow-like leaves. Previously, it was thought that this native of the Chihuahuan desert wouldn't be cold-hardy in Denver. But in addition to surviving our winters and being very drought-tolerant, it puts on a nice display of flowers in late spring. Flowers can be white, lavender or pink. The fruit (seed pods) that develop afterward are similar to those of Catalpa.

Desert-willow may grow more shrub-like or can be pruned to tree form. It can grow to 15 to 20 feet tall and nearly as wide. "Hope" is white-flowered, and "Barranco" is lavender-flowered; both are selections from the New Mexico Ag Experiment Station. Other varieties include "Dark Storm," "Pink Star," "Burgundy" and "Desert Amethyst." Some varieties may prove less cold-hardy than others. Desert-willow and varieties are not yet widely available in area nurseries. Plant in dry areas, especially on southern or western exposures or in a protected courtyard, at elevations below 5,800 feet.

More information on Desert Willow

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010