How to Propagate Desert Willow

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Start with desert willow cuttings for quickest propagation results.
Start with desert willow cuttings for quickest propagation results. (Image: sécateur de jardin image by YvesBonnet from Fotolia.com)

The desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) is a deciduous shrub-like tree that grows up to 30 feet tall with funnel-shaped flowers. The flowers are dark pink or purple and 1 to 1 ½ inches long. The desert willow likes sunny, dry conditions and blooms from April until September. Two main methods of propagating desert willows exist, either by seed or by cuttings, although the latter method is the only way to produce a clone of the parent desert willow plant. You can take softwood cuttings from the current year’s growth in late summer or take hardwood cuttings from dormant wood during the winter.

Things You'll Need

  • Planter pots
  • Peat moss
  • Coarse sand
  • Organic compost
  • Water spray bottle
  • Sharp knife or pruning shears
  • Rooting hormone
  • Vinegar (optional)

Propagate By Seed

Harvest the seeds from the desert willow in late summer or early fall, when the pods dry and turn brown but before the seed pods split. Gather the seed pods and split them open to remove the feathery seeds inside.

Sow the desert willow seeds shallowly in a small planter pot filled with 1/3 each peat moss, coarse sand and organic compost. Space the seeds 1 or 2 inches apart.

Set the planter pot in full sunlight. Spray the potting mixture once every day with water to keep it moist.

Remove all but the one or two strongest seedlings when the seeds germinate and begin to sprout. When the seedlings are about 6 inches tall, water them only when the potting mix dries out.

Propagate By Cuttings

Cut off a healthy, 6- to 12-inch-long stem from the desert willow that has at least two or three nodes or buds. Make a clean cut with a knife or sharp pruning shears.

Strip all but one or two leaves from the cutting and remove any flowers. Dip the severed end of the cutting into a rooting hormone.

Insert the severed end of the cutting into a 6-inch planter pot filled with a sandy potting medium, such as a mixture of one part coarse sand and one part organic compost or peat moss. Insert the stem just deep enough so that it can stand up on its own.

Place the cutting in full sunlight. Mist the cutting about three times every day with a water spray bottle until the roots begin to grow and new leaves emerge.

Tips & Warnings

  • To increase your odds of successful seed germination, plant the seeds immediately after harvesting them. Also, you can pretreat the seeds before planting them by soaking the seeds in a weak solution of vinegar and water overnight.
  • Don't over-water your desert willow, because it is extremely susceptible to root rot. The desert willow needs well-draining and intermittently dry soil.

References

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