October 25, 2009

1 - There are some trees, shrubs, and vines to give red fall color in New Mexico.

Yard and Garden October 25, 2009


I saw some trees that were becoming red in Albuquerque this fall. I have cottonwood trees that turn yellow, and would like to add some red fall color in my landscape. What are the red trees in Albuquerque?

- John A.



There are several trees that can provide red or reddish-purple to your autumn landscape. There are also some shrubs and vines that can provide red autumn color as well.

Trees that have red or reddish leaves include the Chinese pistache, Raywood ash tree, some maples, and some oaks. The Chinese pistache tree is a spreading tree that makes good shade during the summer and becomes a very attractive red color in the fall. The Raywood ash tree is a narrower tree that adds color, but not as much shade to the landscape. Its color is more burgundy than red. Recently some hybrid maple trees (silver maple, red maple hybrids) have been planted and produced red and orange-red foliage. Normally maples are not well adapted to our soils and dry air, but these hybrids along with our native big-tooth maple may be good choices. The much smaller ginnala maple (or Amur maple) may work if there is some shade and wind protection to prevent summer scorching of the leaves. Texas red oak trees and Shumard oak trees can produce orange or red colors. These are spreading trees that can provide summer shade and are the largest of these trees.

Native three-leaf sumac and golden currant shrubs can provide red color in the form of lower growing plants. In sunny locations, the Virginia creeper and closely related Western woodbine vines can add the desired red color to landscapes.

Some trees listed above will not develop the desired color even though they are the proper species or cultivar. You are most likely to get the desired color if you purchase the trees, shrubs, or vines during the autumn when their leaves reveal their color.

Red color is a very desirable fall color, especially when combined with plants that produce bright yellows like the cottonwood trees you described. Addition of the reds to your autumn landscape should create a striking and enjoyable fall season.

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.


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

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