Q: I am sending two photos of my desert willow tree, now in its fourth spring. The buds form, grow and then dry out before opening. Have taken samples to Mesquite Valley. They saw no evidence of pests or disease and recommended more water and fertilizer. The leaves seem smaller, shorter than others I see. I don’t want to give up on it. Any advice?
A: Based on the photos, I agree with Mesquite Valley. Smaller leaf size and dropping buds and flowers are symptoms of drought. If you aren’t already doing so, make sure it gets water every two or three weeks to a depth of 24 to 36 inches during the spring, fall, and summer. Obviously, you can skip that during the monsoon season if it receives sufficient rain. These plants don’t require a lot of fertilizer so that might not be required more than once in the spring and then again in the fall.
Peter L. Warren is the urban horticulture agent for the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona. Questions may be emailed to