Showing posts from January, 2018

Guessing Pollination Strategy Based on Flower Power

Southwest Yard & Garden by Marisa Thompson, NMSU Extension Horticulture Specialist
Question: Is there an easy way to tell if a flower is wind-pollinated or insect-pollinated? -Leah M., Albuquerque Answer: This question is a good one because the answer is beautiful. Big, fragrant, flamboyant flowers are a good indicator that an insect or other animal pollinates the plant. When the flowers are tiny, lacking color, and inconspicuous and might be even be considered ugly, they are likely wind-pollinated. Vectors for pollination can be biotic (e.g., insects, bats, birds, humans) or abiotic (e.g., wind, water, self-pollination). The flower scent, shape, and color and the timing of bloom can give clues to which insects are involved in pollination. Flowers that reek like dead flesh attract flies. Night-bloomers are often pollinated by nocturnal animals like moths and bats. Generally speaking, bee- and butterfly-pollinated species tend to have flowers with bright colors, nectaries (nectar-secret…

From Pit to Tree: Starting Houseplants from Food Waste

Southwest Yard & Garden by Marisa Thompson

Question: I’ve sprouted an avocado pit, and now it’s a small tree with large leaves. Can I acclimate it to the summer heat and bring it in for winters, or is this an indoor plant? -John M., Farmington, NM Answer: You are right that you will need to bring your avocado tree inside during winters in Farmington (and all over New Mexico). Be gentle during the transition when you move it outside for the summer and back inside next fall. Many of my houseplants thrive when I move them to a shady place in the yard each spring. Others, however, do not fare so well. The cold spring nights, even after danger of last frost, can be too much of a shock and cause leaves to drop, not to mention the wind. I practically cried when I took my prized bougainvillea outside after a long, cooped-up winter and within a few hours, all of the leaves were gone with the wind. Even though avocados are, in nature, large tropical trees, they can be grown indoors as an ornament…

Planting Trees: The Hole Story

Southwest Yard and Garden by Marisa Thompson
Question: Why is it recommended to plant a tree in a hole twice as wide as the root ball and the exact same depth?             -Lucas H., Las Cruces, NM Answer: Landscape installation is hard work, but a tree is a lifetime investment, and the extra effort becomes a drop in the bucket. The old “pop and drop” method of popping the plant out of the container and dropping the root ball directly into the ground is just not good enough.

Roots have a tendency to spiral when grown in nursery pots. These circling roots must be cut to avoid slow suffocation, tree decline, and possibly death. Before planting, be sure to loosen the root ball and cut any spiraling roots so that new root growth is trained to grow outward and you are maximizing root-soil contact. A hole with equal depth and twice as wide as the root ball encourages lateral root growth. If you have relatively loose soil, twice the diameter of the root ball may be sufficient (e.g., a twenty-inch-…

Planting Your Containerized Christmas Tree

Southwest Yard and Garden | by Marisa Thompson
Question: We bought a live, potted Christmas tree this year. When and how should we plant it in our yard? -Tammy Z., Albuquerque, NM
Answer: What a great way to add a beautiful evergreen to your home landscape and, in doing so, help our urban forest efforts. My backyard growing up in South Carolina had several Christmas trees planted in the yard, each a memory from holidays past. However, when we planted our Christmas Rocky Mountain juniper in Las Cruces some years ago, it did not make it very long. I now know that I was severely overwatering that poor, sopping tree. 😢 It never stood a chance. To more fully answer your question, I searched the NMSU Extension Publications website ( and found Guide H-421, “Buying aLiving Christmas Tree,” which you might find useful as it includes information about planting and general care. I also called the Albuquerque Parks and Recreation City Forester, Joran Viers, whose first piece …

Black, Red, or Green: Can We Grow Olives in New Mexico?

Southwest Yard and Garden

Question: Will olive trees grow in New Mexico? -Jeannie O., Truth or Consequences, NM
Answer: I have also wondered why olives aren’t grown in New Mexico, especially when visiting northern parts of the state, where the vistas look so much like Andalucia, Spain, with rolling hills dotted by olive trees.
Let us quickly clarify so that we aren’t confusing the tree species that produces table olives, Olea europaea, with our native New Mexico olive trees, Forestiera neomexicana, also known as New Mexico privet or desert olive. Forestiera neomexicana, grown as a shrub, tree, or even hedge, is an excellent landscape plant for most of New Mexico. Although from a different genus and species, both Forestiera neomexicana and Olea europaea are in the Oleaceae plant family. Other plants in this family include lilac, jasmine, and forsythia. The dreaded Elaeagnus angustifolia, also known as Russian olive, is from a different plant family and is an invasive weed all over the weste…