September 24, 2011

1 - There are good, hardy trees to replace those damaged by last winter's cold weather.

Yard and Garden - September 24, 2011


I am writing because I enjoy reading your column and need your advice. I need a recommendation from you on a fast growing, hardy shade tree for this area. The very cold winter destroyed the globe willow I had in my back yard. I had to remove it and now I need to replace it with a hardy shade tree that will survive in our area. The reason I would like a fast growing tree is that the tree provided shade for my sun room, without the tree shade my sun room now gets very hot. My globe willow was always leaking sap and not very healthy, but I have seen very healthy globe willows in town which were badly damaged by the cold; therefore I do not want to plant a willow again. I have been told that a mulberry tree might be a good choice. I will go with what you recommend. What would be the best time to plant a tree, fall or spring?

- Manuel G.

Las Vegas, NM


The mulberry is a fast growing tree and generates good shade. Some municipalities prohibit planting mulberries because they produce large quantities of allergy producing pollens. There are fruitless white mulberry trees that are often sold, but these are the worst pollen allergy offenders. However they are often readily available. There are also fruit-bearing purple mulberries. If you want the fruit, choose the fruiting one, but be aware that it feeds the birds that make purple stains on your car, driveway, sidewalk, and other surfaces afterwards. The fruitless, white mulberry is a grafted male plant that produces no fruit (there are fruit-bearing white mulberries, but they are not common and are hard to find).

Other trees to consider are the white ash that has beautiful fall color. It does not grow quite as fast as the mulberry, but with water will grow fairly fast. It is a superior landscape tree. The Raywood ash is also a good choice, but it is a narrow tree, so you would need several. It also has good fall color and needs adequate water for good growth (but then, so does the mulberry). I am not sure how hardy the Raywood ash will prove in Las Vegas, but the white ash should be hardy there. The chinquapin oak is another good choice; it is somewhat slower growing but becomes a very spectacular tree.

Some people choose to plant a fast growing tree for quick shade and, at the same time, a slower-growing, stronger tree. They remove the fast growing tree after the slower tree develops. Perhaps this will be an appropriate solution to your problem.

I like planting trees in the autumn. For Las Vegas, that will be September and October. Most trees are programmed to develop more roots in the fall. While the soil is warm and the air cool, better root growth occurs. Fall is also less windy than spring. Spring planting is OK, but the wind causes problems in New Mexico. Wind dries the soil and draws water from the leaves more quickly.

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.


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