Trees

Well-adapted and well-placed trees can be an excellent landscape investment. One strategically placed tree can transform a scorching hot section of your yard into a cool oasis, or help reduce air-conditioning costs by shading your home from the sun.

What Kind of Trees should you select?

When deciding which trees to plant, consider the typical mature size of the specimens as noted in the following plant list, and make sure you provide enough room for future growth.

Don’t plant in areas where branches will grow into power lines or block solar panels.

Deciduous Tree

Trees that shed there leaves annually in the Fall.

Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis

Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 40’X 30’
Blooming Season: Mid- to Late-Spring
Flower Color: Reddish

A wonderful shade tree when mature, the Chinese Pistache can handle hot, dry desert con- ditions because it roots deeply. Its glossy dark leaves put on a delightful fall show turning bright gold, orange or crimson. (Wait to se- lect your tree in autumn if red foliage  is important.) The pea-sized red fruit of female trees add color in fall. Young trees may have a slightly awkward form when young, but the canopy fills out gracefully as trees mature. Tolerant of virtually all soil conditions except soggy clay.

Oak, Quercus spp.

Oak, Quercus spp.

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 25-60’X 15-60’

Many species of oak grow well through- out most of New Mexico. Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) is a moderate-sized tree that’s native from Southern Colorado through the canyons and foothills of New Mexico and Arizona. It grows slowly to 30 feet tall, sometimes taller when water is available. Most other oaks grow taller, including Valley Oak (Quercus lobata), which can reach 40 feet, and Shumard  Oak (Quercus shumardii), which can reach 60 feet with a 60-foot spread. Most oaks have lobed leaves that turn from dark green to yellow-orange in the fall.

Golden Raintree, Koelreuteria paniculata

Golden Raintree, Koelreuteria paniculata

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 25’X 25’
Blooming Season: Early summer
Flower Color: Yellow

The dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy of Golden Raintree is dense enough to substantially cool the air in summer, but bright enough to allow a wide range of groundcovers to share space and water below. Rust-colored paper lantern seed husks add contrast to the yellow gold fall foliage. This is a great tree for shading a driveway or streetside parking.

Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis

Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis

Full Sun
Rainwater Only

Mature Size: 8-20’X 10-15’
Blooming Season: May-July
Flower Color: Pale pink to rosy purple

A sturdy, heat-loving tree that’s native to warm deserts, especially in arroyos. Grows well in New Mexico’s lowlands, but may not be suited to elevations above 5,500 or where its cold hardiness is challenged. Compact and shrubby in appearance, its leaves are long and thin and its profusion of pink trumpet-shaped flowers puts on quite a show. Long, pencil-like pods give the tree year-round character. Fast growing as a young tree, its growth slows as it matures.

Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina

Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina

Full Sun
Rainwater Only

Mature Size: 15-30’X 10-25’
Blooming Season: May-June
Flower Color: Yellow

The various species of mesquite are trees synonymous with the desert Southwest. All are slow to leaf out in the spring, but they make up for their tardiness with fragrant yellow flowers. Small, blue-green leaflets give Velvet Mesquite a soft, lacy appearance. Flat, narrow bean pods hang from the tree throughout the summer. Its limited cold-hardiness makes it a good choice where average annual minimum temperatures stay above 5 degrees F; other mesquites found in the Plant List are about 5 degrees F more cold hardy.

New Mexico olive, Forestiera Neomexicana

New Mexico olive, Forestiera Neomexicana

Full Sun, Part Shade
Medium Water

Mature Size: 12-18’X 10-15’
Blooming Season: Early Spring
Flower Color: Yellow-Green

Depending upon your landscape needs and preferences, this native species can be pruned upward to form an attractive small tree or left in its natural, rounded shrub-like shape. The bark of its multiple trunks is a smooth pale gray, and its branches fork at odd, interesting angles. Clusters of small yellowish green flowers appear early in spring; female plants produce small fruits that attract song-birds. Tolerates drought, but does best when roots receive a deep soaking once or twice a month.

Netleaf Hackberry, Celtis reticulata

Netleaf Hackberry, Celtis reticulata

Full Sun
Low Water

Mature Size: 25’X 25’

A young Netleaf Hackberry passes through a rather ungainly adolescence, but with a little pruning, like a butterfly from a chrysalis, it emerges as a sculptural small shade tree that provides habitat for butterflies and songbirds as well as cooling our patios and decks on a very modest water budget. Deep roots allow its use close to walls and paving without risk.

Evergreen Tree

Trees that keep there leaves and remain green throughout the year.

Escarpment Live Oak, Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis

Escarpment Live Oak, Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis

Full Sun, Part Shade    

Medium Water  

Mature Size (H x W): 35’ x 40’
Blooming Season:  Spring

Region: Thrives in all part of the greater Albuquerque area

Closely related to the iconic oak tree of the Old South, the Escarpment Live Oak is surprisingly well-adapted to life in the Albuquerque area. Native from Texas, Oklahoma and into the mountains of northern Mexico, this long-lived tree is among the few broad-leafed evergreens we see in our area. Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis (also known as Quercus fusiformis) is an excellent choice for a focal point in a small space or as part of a mixed planting for privacy or wind protection. Rough, dark brown bark and a gnarled form add to the character of this plant.

Tips for success: When drought stressed, this tree is more susceptible to oak wilt and rot – be sure it gets watered deeply according to our watering recommendations.  Best in alkaline, well-drained soils, but tolerant of clay. Don’t be alarmed during the 2-4 week period in spring when the leaves turn yellow and drop – this is to be expected. In the wild, the tree is multi-trunked and shrubby, naturally tending to form thickets, but it can be pruned into and grown as a single-stem tree.

Its sturdy canopy provides cover and nesting sites for birds and mammals, and its elongated acorns offer a food source for a variety of wildlife. Branches can be selectively pruned for use in holiday arrangements and wreaths. Check out a beautiful example of this stunning tree near the copper relief in the Curandera Garden at the Albuquerque Botanic Garden and in the parking lot of Explora.

Stone Pine, Pinus pinea

Stone Pine, Pinus pinea

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 60’X 50’

This majestic round-crowned conifer is found growing along the Mediterranean coast in hot, dry places subject to salty sea breezes. Ponderosa Pines, native to the mountains of the Southwest, are moving higher upslope as bark beetles cull those too stressed to thrive in increasingly hot environments, but Stone Pines seem perfectly content as the urban temperatures creep to new highs.

Afghan Pine, Pinus eldarica

Afghan Pine, Pinus eldarica

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 40’X 18”

Pine trees provide visual interest in a landscape and much-needed greenery in the coldest, most barren months. Afghan Pine is one of the best desert pines. It thrives in heat, wind, poor soil and it is relatively drought tolerant. However, it cannot tolerate temperatures below 0 degrees F. Its evergreen leaves (needles) grow in pairs and reach 5-6 inches long. This relatively fast-growing tree is great for windbreaks and for creating a “visual screen” between properties.

Pinon Pine, Pinus edulis

Pinon Pine, Pinus edulis

Full Sun
Medium Water

 

Mature Size: 30’X 20’
Blooming Season: Early Spring

Pinon Pines are one of New Mexico’s most recognizable native trees. Horizontal branches make for a bushy, domed shape when mature. Its needles, which grow in pairs, are short, stiff and dark green.  Its spherical cones produce seeds (also known as Pinon Nuts) that are prized by wildlife and humans as well. Pinons are often used as accent plants, and specimens with gnarled trunks are especially prized. It grows best in foothill elevations, but can stand up to the heat and cold of most New Mexico locations

Bristlecone Pine, Pinus aristata

Bristlecone Pine, Pinus aristata

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 30’X 20’

This is one of the oldest known trees on earth, and this resilience and adaptability might explain how a tree normally found in the high mountains of the West grows so well thousands of feet lower in elevation and many degrees hotter in temperature. Short- needled and slow-growing, the resinous aroma of Bristlecone Pine fits smaller garden spaces with grace and limited water.

Female Juniper Trees, Juniperus (Female Cultivars only)

Female Juniper Trees, Juniperus (Female Cultivars only)

Full Sun
Medium Water

Mature Size: 25-60’X 10-40’depending on variety
Blooming Season: Spring
Fruit: All female varieties have blue- or copper-colored berries

Although some may argue that there are already enough Junipers in New Mexico gardens, it is important to note that these adaptable conifers are the survivors of  the transition from water-soaked landscapes to more sustainable ones. We are lucky to have many new xeric options, but the pollenless female forms of Juniper provide food and cover for songbirds as well as interesting foliage color and texture.

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Water Conservation Program
P.O. Box 568
Albuquerque, NM 87103-0568

www.abcwua.org

505-842-WATR  Option 4

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P.O. Box 568
Albuquerque, NM 87103-0568
505-842-WATR