January 30, 2016

1 - Maples are not usually considered good choices for New Mexico landscapes, but there may be some varieties and other species of trees that can produce fall color in New Mexico.

Yard and Garden January 30, 2016


Can you recommend a maple tree variety for Guadalupe County? Box Elder would probably grow but what about a maple with fall colors? Again, I do not need something that requires heavy irrigation and the tree needs to withstand alkaline soils to some degree.


Box elder and silver maple trees will grow there, but they do not have good fall color. The silver maple is a pretty tree when young, but as it gets larger and older, the salt burn due to alkaline soil and dry air make it much less attractive.

The Caddo maple (Acer saccharum 'Caddo') is supposed to grow well in hot, dry locations. It is reported to tolerate slightly alkaline soils. This tree is a cultivar of sugar maples and may be a maple to consider in New Mexico.

I remember seeing some big tooth maple trees growing in Albuquerque. They sometimes produce good fall color. They are native in the Manzano Mountains and in other Western states. However at lower elevations and more alkaline soils they can develop salt burn and will need some irrigation. There may be some selected cultivars that are known to perform better in alkaline soils, but I do not know of any.

Finally, I have seen some pretty maples in Albuquerque in the autumn. From what I could determine these were a hybrid between silver maples and red maples (Acer x freemanii). They still exhibited some marginal leaf burn some years, but they also developed good fall color. The cultivar Autumn Red may do well under Southwestern conditions.

Most maple trees are not usually good choices for New Mexico, however those mentioned above are worth trying to see if they will perform satisfactorily. Specific locations with proper soil and protection from the wind, and proper cultivar selection may allow us to broaden our landscape tree palette in New Mexico.

If you must have a maple tree, these are some to consider. However, if you want a tree for fall color, there are other trees to consider. There are several oak trees that may be a good choice in your area. The Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi) and El Capitan Chinquapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii "El Capitan") grow in New Mexico and produce fall color. Some hawthorn trees can produce attractive spring flowers as well as fall color. Chinese pistache produces good fall color in much of New Mexico. There are other trees to consider, so maples are not your only choices for fall color. However, I would be very happy to see good, well adapted maple trees found to grow in New Mexico landscapes.

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.


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