May 12, 2012

1 - Transplant coral bells in the late winter and early spring.

2 - Your local NMSU County Agent can advise you prepare as you build a new home, plan an appropriate landscape, and avoid wildfire danger.

Yard and Garden May 12, 2012

Q. #1
Good morning! I have three coral bells in my yard. Two are about eight years old and planted pretty close together. They seem to have a lot of dead stuff on the bottom. They are blooming, but not as well as my 2-3 year old plant. On line, I found a site that says I should separate them every few years, but does not say what time of the year to do that or how. Can you help?

A. #1
Your coral bells will probably establish more successfully if they are divided and replanted into a well-prepared garden soil in the late winter/early spring just before they begin growth (approximately 1 month before growth begins). That depends on exactly where you live. Your e-mail address suggests that you are in Albuquerque, so that would be March or April depending on whether you are in the valley (later transplanting), in the heights or NW mesa area (earlier), or foothills (later again). Gardeners in other parts of New Mexico should adjust the timing based on their experience in their gardens.
The microclimate where you are growing them will also impact when to transplant them (warm, south aspect “divide earlier, colder, north aspect” later). Since you are familiar with when they begin to grow, use your experience with them to determine when you are within about a month of their beginning to grow. Transplant them in that time period.

Q. #2 We recently purchased land in Timberon at 7500 ft. elevation to build our home. I would like to plant and garden with the area’s natural resources excluding the vegetable garden. As I do not want to introduce an invasive species, I was hoping you would have recommendations. Are there any brochures available that may be sent to me? Or references on line?

Kim B.
Galveston, TX

A. #2

Welcome to New Mexico. As you are well aware, you are moving to a new gardening environment with a completely new set of challenges. Your question regarding xeriscape indicates your awareness of this fact. To learn the native plants appropriate to your particular area, I suggest you contact the NMSU Otero County Extension Agent, who is very familiar with your environment and native plant materials. The Extension agent is also in contact with the Otero County Native Plant Society that can also help you. She will also be able to advise you regarding the appropriate vegetables to plant in Timberon.
NMSU publications that may help may be found at the NMSU College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences website ACES Publications. The Guide H-707: Landscape Water Conservation should be helpful. Since you will live in a forested area of a very arid region, planning with wildfire possibilities in mind is very important. You will find other useful publications at the NMSU website and the NMSU County Extension office will also be an important resource for you (I have copied the County Agent with this e-mail so that you can contact her directly).
With regard to invasive species, remember that many of our native species can become aggressive when supplied with additional water, even the small amount that falls from the rooftop and runs off pavement to supplement natural rainfall. This harvested water is valuable, but may also release some native plants to become weedy.

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:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

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