En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - July 01, 2012

From: Albuquerque, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Wildlife Gardens, Xeriscapes, Planting, Cacti and Succulents, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Foundation plants for Albuquerque.
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello, I live in Albuquerque. I am looking for some native/xeric low water usage plants for foundation plants for my home. They will be foundation plants for a two story home that has a large ponderosa pine. It is light shade/medium shade. Soil is not currently amended...covered in river rock. I suspect had a lawn for a number of years, then covered in rocks. I would like to have seasonal color, attract birds and butterflies. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Cool! We always thought a lawn of rock would be the way to go in our arid climate. And Albuquerque is the right kind of town for that. We do understand you want some softer landscaping and to attract some birds and butterflies. Begin by reading our How-To Articles on A  Guide to Native Plant Gardening, Butterfly Gardening and Wildlife Gardening.

Our thinking is that, while you can't plant anything in a solid layer of rock, even if those plants normally grow in rocky soil, you probably want to preserve the rock "lawn." Our suggestion is that you select the area where you want each plant, dig a hole more than big enough for the roots of the plant, then refill it with a mix of soil and compost. After the plant has been tenderly planted there, and given a deep watering by sticking a hose down in the soil and letting it drip slowly until the water comes to the surface, re-mulch it with the rocks that came out of the hole. It will be neater if you put the dug-out material in a wheelbarrow so a lot of the old dirt can sift out before you return the rocks.

Now, having given you our ideas on the basic process, let us make several other suggestions. First, NOT NOW! No woody plants should be planted in your climate before December to January. And don't go ahead and buy the woody plants (trees and shrubs) now, no matter how good the sale price looks. Wait until you are ready to plant them, and be sure that each plant is pulled out of the pot so you can examine it for being rootbound. If it can be root-clipped to open up the root system to get out into your prepared dirt, fine, if not, forget it. Putting it into the ground root bound will just result in the roots circling around in the shape of the pot until they strangle the plant. Water in the same way about once a week. Since you are going for xeric, i.e., desert plants you need to be very sure you have properly prepared the holes for drainage.

For plant selection, we are going to direct you to our Native Plant Database. Using the Combination Search, select on New Mexico and then under Habit what kind of plant you are looking for (herbaceous blooming plants, shrub, tree, etc.). We would suggest in particular that you search on succulents, as that is what we visualize in a xeric garden, particularly in your area. We are going to go through and make some suggestions, to familiarize you with using the database. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn what (if any) wildlife it will attract, growing conditions, water needs and light requirements. You can even specify heights, bloom times and colors, although the more specifications you put in, the fewer possibilities, and perhaps none, you will get.

Plants for Albuquerque, NM:

Herbs (herbaceous blooming plants):

Amsonia longiflora (Tubular bluestar)

Anemone multifida (Cut-leaf anemone)

Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)

Shrubs:

Abutilon incanum (Indian mallow)

Aloysia gratissima (Whitebrush)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)

Trees:

Acer grandidentatum (Big-toothed maple)

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)

Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry)

Succulents:

Agave parryi (Parry's agave)

Yucca baileyi var. navajoa (Navajo yucca)

Yucca elata (Soaptree yucca)

 

From the Image Gallery


Tubular bluestar
Amsonia longiflora var. salpignantha

Pacific anemone
Anemone multifida

Antelope horns
Asclepias asperula

Pelotazo
Abutilon incanum

Whitebrush
Aloysia gratissima

Kinnikinnick
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bigtooth maple
Acer grandidentatum

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Red elderberry
Sambucus racemosa

Parry's agave
Agave parryi

Navajo yucca
Yucca baileyi var. navajoa

Soaptree yucca
Yucca elata

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Can non-native Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in Round Rock, Texas?
July 01, 2014 - Can the Epiphyllum (Orchid Cactus) be grown in the Round Rock Texas area or is this area too hot for it?
view the full question and answer

Use of Century Plant bloom as indoor decoration
December 09, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Pants, After living in Arizona and now San Antonio, I am in search of a Century Plant Bloom. I cannot have an evergreen because my cats climb them. I would shellac the stalk and blooms a...
view the full question and answer

Source for Century Plant in Wilmington NC
June 24, 2012 - Where can I buy a Century plant in the Wilmington NC area?
view the full question and answer

Both large and small Century plants putting up stems from Cayucos CA
November 18, 2013 - I have a Century Plant that is sending up a stem. I am excited to see it bloom. I noticed that one of the small pups, about 4 inches tall, is also sending up a stem. I have not found a mention of pups...
view the full question and answer

Eradicating cactus in Palo Pinto County, TX
March 30, 2010 - I live on a ranch in Palo Pinto County and would like to know how can I get rid of wild cactus.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center