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New Mexico State University

Issue: September 3

There are some small trees appropriate for small properties in hot climates

Q. I have a courtyard in the front of my home in the Telshor area. I would like to plant a small tree for shade. Have two purple plum trees around the perimeter, but I need something in the center of the courtyard.


Las Cruces

A. There are several trees that you could plant, depending on what you want. Many of the smaller trees are beautiful flowering trees, but their shade is not extremely dense. All will cast some shade. Desert willow provides summer blossoms and attracts hummingbirds. This small tree will cast a light shade that allows other plant to grow under it. Crape myrtle trees are another possibility for a flowering tree that casts a light shade. In the southern part of New Mexico, you can grow this beautiful flowering tree into a nice tree form with its interesting tan colored bark to complement the flowers. Some varieties also produce nice fall foliage. The redbud tree provides early spring flowers and more dense summer shade; Texas or Mexican varieties will probably do best for you or perhaps the Oklahoma variety. The pistachio or its relative Chinese pistache (which does not produce nuts) would be interesting small shade trees. These can also cast a fairly dense shade. Gardeners in the southern part of New Mexico are fortunate that they can grow the pistachio. If you want the pistachio nuts, you need to have a male and a female tree, or one with the male and female grafted together in one tree. The Chinese pistache will survive further north in the state, but will also do well for you. The Chinese pistache often produces a brilliant red fall foliage display. Arborvitae is an evergreen tree or shrub. If you want a small evergreen in the garden, this may work. It will not be a good shade tree, because it branches near the ground, but will cast a shade beside the tree. It will be more an accent tree. Be sure to select the plant form (pryramidal or globular) that you want. The globe shaped arborvitae are smaller and not really a trees. This tree uses relatively little water compared to the others. Flowering pear and crabapple may be interesting, but will not do as well in the heat of Las Cruces as the other trees mentioned above.

The list could go on and on. Your local NMSU County Extension agent can give you much more guidance.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd. SW
Los Lunas, NM 87031

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.