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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


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.


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)


Abutilon incanum (Indian mallow)

Aloysia gratissima (Whitebrush)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)


Acer grandidentatum (Big-toothed maple)

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow)

Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry)


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

Abutilon incanum

Aloysia gratissima

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

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