Issue: May 18, 2002

Planting xeriscape in a dry year

Question:

It has already been dry this year, and the forecast doesn't look better. Is this a good year to plant a xeriscape? K.M. Santa Fe

Answer:

This is a good year to have a xeriscape, but it may not be a good year to plant a xeriscape. Whether or not to plant depends on the availability of water in your area. Santa Fe is under some pretty severe restriction as are other cities. Other parts of the state are also considering imposing restrictions.

Some plants used in xeriscapes are not capable of surviving with no irrigation. Others that may be able to survive without supplemental irrigation once established need water when first planted. Newly planted xeriscape plants need frequent irrigation until they are established. If that water is not available, the plants may fail to establish and the effort and money expended will be lost.

It may be possible to plant a few slower-growing plants so that they can help form the foundation of the landscape. Then additional plants may be added in subsequent years if water is available.

The basic consideration is water. If watering restrictions are in effect, or anticipated, plant only what can be maintained within the requirements of the plant during the establishment phase.

Now can I prune lilacs?

Question:

Is it okay to prune my lilacs now? How should I prune them?

Answer:

Yes, in all parts of New Mexico the lilacs have finished blooming, or will very soon. Once flowering is completed it is okay to prune the lilacs. If you wait until after late summer, you will remove next year's flowers.

Removing the old flower clusters by cutting back to the first branch producing leaves will make the plant look much neater and prevent the formation of seed capsules. This directs more growth and energy into growth and production of next year's flowers. If some branches are leggy and unattractive, they may be removed at or near the ground level to encourage new, more vigorous growth. Branches that are in the way and suckers growing from the soil around the base of the lilac shrub may be removed. Proper pruning will encourage healthy growth and increased flowering.

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Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu or at https://www.facebook.com/DesertBloomsNM/. Please include your county Extension Agent (aces.nmsu.edu/county) and your county of residence with your question!

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page: desertblooms@nmsu.edu.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.