In desert regions, tamarisks have no equal in resistance to wind and aridity, and they will grow in saline soils that are toxic to other plants. They are also useful in other areas where wind, salt, and poor soil pose challenges, such as seacoast gardens. They demand only a full-sun location with good drainage. On the minus side, this same tenacious adaptability makes several of these species seriously invasive pests in the West’s natural areas, especially along water courses. Millions of dollars a year are spent removing them. Because of deep taproots, nurseries can’t hold them in pots. But they are easy to grow from 1/2–1-in.-thick cuttings set in the soil where the plant is to grow and is kept watered until roots are established.
Tamarisks are difficult to classify, which has led to much confusion in labeling among botanists and in nurseries. Leaves are tiny, as are flowers (a hand lens is necessary to see flower details). However, you don’t have to know a tamarisk’s identity for pruning purposes. If it blooms only in the earlier part of spring, prune after bloom. If it starts bloom later in spring or in summer, prune just before new spring growth begins. Some species can be kept shrubby by cutting back to the ground yearly. If you are growing them as trees, prune only to remove dead or broken branches.Tamarix parviflora
Native to southeastern Europe. Variable habit; typically a graceful, arching large shrub to 6–15 ft. tall and wide. Profuse spring-only display of pink flowers that turn to tan, then brown. Prune to emphasize the arching habit; or remove lower branches to achieve a treelike plant. An invasive pest plant in deserts, wetlands, and riparian habitats. Often sold as T. tetrandra; sold as T. africana in California.
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