March 28, 2015

1 - Planning a trip to see New Mexico wildflowers requires following precipitation patterns.

Yard and Garden March 28, 2015

Q.

I spent a fall semester at NMSU years ago and would like to return next year to see the desert in bloom. When is a good time for the Las Cruces area? We are covered in snow still in Northeast Vermont.

- J. Wileczek

A.

I live in Albuquerque, but as former NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, I have traveled New Mexico extensively in all seasons. I will try to help. Because the climate of New Mexico is extremely variable I will discuss several areas of the state in addition to the Las Cruces area you mentioned.

The climate in New Mexico and the associated wildflower bloom is difficult to predict. Wildflower blossoming is very dependent on precipitation. There are two primary flowering seasons - spring if we had good winter moisture and spring moisture, and mid- to late summer if the summer monsoon rains have provided moisture.

This past winter was fairly moist over much of New Mexico (except the northwest corner - Farmington area). Late winter and this spring have been more generous to the northwest, Four Corners region, of New Mexico. You mentioned Las Cruces - they have had pretty good rains in the southern part of the state through the winter and I have seen recent posts on Facebook showing the Mexican poppies blooming now in the southwest corner of New Mexico. Now through April should have pretty good flowering in southern New Mexico and eastern New Mexico, this year. The roadways may be lined with purple flowering native verbenas during that period. The desert marigolds and desert chicory may provide a good display as well. The desert chicory is a desert ephemeral so from the time they start growing, flower, and vanish from the landscape is a very brief few weeks. Next year precipitation patterns may be much different, so wildflower production may change.

Due to irrigation in Las Cruces, the crape myrtles and flowering shrubs are often very showy in mid-summer.

If the monsoon rains develop (you can watch the National Weather Service maps and reports next summer to see where precipitation is greatest and plan), then there may be good flowering in the late summer. Things like the "purple sage" (mid- to late summer), chamissa, and purple asters (fall) will bloom well after good summer rains.

Follow the precipitation patterns this fall and coming winter and then in the summer to have the best idea of where you will find the best wildflower production. Information is available thru the National Weather Service website for Las Cruces. You can enter other locations at the top of the page. The CoCoRaHS in New Mexico. Click on "maps" at the top of this page and then select the New Mexico map to precipitation reports from volunteer observers in many parts of New Mexico. By the way this network covers the U.S. and Canada so you can follow precipitation in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

You can contact local NMSU Extension Service County agents to check with each of them as you plan your trip. You can find their contact information at ACES Counties.

Thank you for your interest in New Mexico. You may also want to sample New Mexico produce while you are here - sweet onions, honey, chiles, pecans, apples, and much more. I am sure you remember the delicious New Mexico cuisine from your time here. Availability of fresh produce will vary depending on the season and region you choose for your visit.

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, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

Links:

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!