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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cutting off Desert Willow Suckers Good or Bad?

Q. Is it a good or a bad thing to trim the "suckers" off a Desert Willow?  We have a number around here that came up on their own.  We rather like them. Have been of the theory that cutting off the "suckers" will allow the trees to grow taller and be healthy.


A. It is not good or bad. How you manage them, cutting off suckers or not, will determine what they look like and how they perform. 
 
Common desert willow flowers

Desert willow pruned to a single trunk

Desert willow winter form and left pretty much unpruned
If these suckers are coming from one tree then removing them allows the remaining tree to grow in height faster and become larger. Leaving them on will cause the tree to grow more slowly in height and stay smaller. It is a management decision and what you want them to do and look like.

Desert Willow is a small tree native to the deserts of the southwestern United States and North and Central Mexico. Flowers are quite showy and can vary in color from white to purples and blues to deep reds. It can be found growing along perennial waterways in the desert which means it probably is classified as a phreatophyte. 

I will have to work a little bit from memory but I believe there was a breeding program in Texas regarding flower color. And there was a big push to use this plant for erosion and streambank control because the branches would be buried after a heavy rain, root and create new plants. There is a very large range in flower color and it is a shame we don't have more colors to pick from in the trade. It is messy.

Somewhat closely related to desert willow is Catalpa since it is in the same family and of course the over planted Catalpa/Desert Willow cross, Chitalpa..

1 comment:

  1. As Dr. Morris said it is your tree and your decision. The latest being pushed in southwest horticulture is NOT to single trunk desert adapted trees since that is not natural and is the most labor free decision. But as you can see single trunk works. Just be careful to not damage the most upright stem when you remove the others, and keep the "suckers" that will try to keep growing back up removed.

    If you want a more upright and taller multi-trunk the recommendation of Desert Harvesters now is to not prune any of the native trees the first three years in the ground and then remove the outer lower hanging of the multi-trunk stems to allow for more upright growth and eventual room to walk under (or plant under) and walk around later.

    http://extension.arizona.edu/sites/extension.arizona.edu/files/pubs/az1048.pdf

    http://www.desertharvesters.org/native-tree-information/a-guide-to-pruning-native-sonoran-desert-multi-trunk-trees/ [be sure to watch the video]

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