Chilopsis linearis, more commonly called Desert Willow, is a wonderful ornamental addition to sunny garden spaces. This month’s featured cultivar, ‘Bubba’, owes its tongue-in-cheek name to a high-powered growth habit. A 30-foot spread and enormous flowers set it apart from other members of the species.
While the narrow, long leaf shape is indeed willow-like, Chilopsis linearis is in fact related to Catalpa trees, Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans), and Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans).
‘Bubba’ is an eye-catching deciduous tree. Shapely, slender branches can be trained to a variety of silhouettes as a single or multi-trunk tree, or rounded out as a large shrub. Glossy, deep green leaf color creates a tropical-looking effect in combination with bright, orchid-like flowers.
While oversized in comparison to other members of its family, ‘Bubba’ remains reasonably sized for compact growing spaces as an ornamental accent.
Chilopsis linearis leaves are narrow, long, and willow-like. Their slender shape and twisting growth habit of the branches allows soft light to come through during sunny summer months, creating pleasant filtered shade.
Fragrant, exotic blooms are the outstanding feature of Chilopsis linearis. ‘Bubba’ stands out for its abundant production of oversize, vibrant bicolor flowers. The dark purple and lavender colors are reminiscent of orchids or even giant snapdragons, with funnel-shaped blossoms and 5-petaled lobes.
Additional advantages come by way of the flower bloom period. While many ornamental trees flourish heavily in spring, Desert Willow produces over an extended season throughout the heat of summer through early fall.
During winter, blossoms are replaced by narrow seedpods, though ‘Bubba’ produces fewer of these than other members of the species.
Soil and Water Requirements
‘Bubba’ is well adapted to desert washes and requires minimal water to put on its colorful show during hot summer months. It is sun-loving and drought-tolerant, making it a great fit for lawn and sidewalk strips and other exposed urban locations.
Little care is required to enjoy the long season of beauty. Over-watering or applying excessive fertilizer will cause harm, reducing the number of blooms and weakening this naturally hardy plant.
Desert Willow Companion Plantings
Create a beautiful view all summer long by pairing ‘Bubba’ with these vibrant companions:
- Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis)
- Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis)
- Baja ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis)
Pruning Chilopsis linearis
Pruning requirements will vary depending on your landscaping goals. Prune frequently in early years to encourage fewer trunks, a single trunk, or to create a weeping willow effect.
Seasonally, spent seed pods and flowers can be removed if desired. Cutting back by about one third during the dormant winter season will increase branching the coming year.
Plant Features and Uses
- Fragrant, decorative flowers
- Low water needs
- Lengthy bloom time
- Heat tolerant and fire-wise
- Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
- Supports native pollinators and beneficial insects
- Suitable for small spaces
Ready to add Desert Willow to your waterwise native garden? We have 24” boxes available and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Come down to the nursery for personal assistance in selecting your plants, or use the Plant Finder here on our web site to browse our selection before you arrive.