Issue: January 21, 2005

Egyptian or South African plants for northern New Mexico

Salt cedar not good landscape choice


Question:

I am a real estate broker here and have some clients that have purchased a home in Placitas (just 10 minutes north of Albuquerque). They would like to know if it is possible to grow an Egyptian palm tree here or any other plants that are native to Egypt or South Africa. When they asked me, I said I did not know, but knew my alma mater would. Do you have any advice I can give them?

Answer:

Although some palms will grow in southern New Mexico, Placitas is much colder and not a good location for most palms. It is possible that the Chinese fan palm will survive in Placitas if the location is carefully selected. It succeeds in Albuquerque The Egyptian palms are much less likely to survive without a great deal of care.

I know of some Albuquerque gardeners who wrap palm trunks with burlap each winter and provide special protection to the growing point. They are successfully growing palms that would otherwise not grow here. The wind exposure in Placitas can be a problem with this method of protecting palms.

You asked about South African plants. There are plants from South Africa that may be grown here. These are often shrubs and herbaceous plants. Iceplants from South Africa are often grown here with success (the purple and yellow Delosperma species). There are some other South African plants that may be grown in Placitas, but they must be chosen carefully.

At the Rio Grande Botanic Garden and the Denver Botanic Gardens a gardener can see plants from other regions (and from the Southwest) that grow and prosper in and northern New Mexico.

Question:

I saw some salt cedar in Bosque del Apache and loved the color of it in the fall. I looked it up and it was originally introduced as an ornamental plant. I would like to plant some for color and as a windbreak in my garden. Is this a good idea?

Answer:

Salt cedar is a pretty plant when it flowers in the spring and again in the fall, but in New Mexico it is a much hated plant. This is because of its invasive nature and the fact that it is difficult to eradicate after it escapes to wild areas. It is very common in the bosque as an escaped species and considerable expense and effort are being expended to remove it.

I would not recommend this plant for your landscape because of salt cedar's undesirable characteristics. If you live in the bosque the chance of it escaping into an area not already infested is significant. If you live on the mesa, seed washing into the waterways can contribute to the problem.

There are many other beautiful plants that are less invasive. They would be a much better choice for your landscape.


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 and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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

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