Enchanted Homes

7 native plants that reduce water use


With so much focus upon the impacts of climate change, we asked our experts: Can you name seven native plants that reduce water usage for our immediate present and our future? 

The answer resoundingly,  was yes. Here are some of their recommendations.


These are the plantings that add visual excitement, vibrancy and personality to your residence via their colors. Petree recommends Rocky Mountain Penstemon, with its striking and long-lasting blooms and it ability to propagate. Gecko recommends a similar propagator, Giant Four O’Clock, whose low-lying blooms are a stunning accent in a xeriscape. Both are extremely low-maintenance and drought resistant.


Gecko recommends Giant Sacaton. “Sourced from Belen--so, you know how drought resistant it is--it can grow to almost six feet tall and has graceful and visually appealing seedheads,” said Cisneros.


A difficult category for our experts to narrow down, Petree was split between Apache Plume and Mountain Mahogany. So, too, was Gecko. Both agreed the gorgeous, white furry seedheads of Apache Plume, ubiquitous throughout town and along Taos Canyon, are a standard of native vegetation. And there was a consensus on the “super native” status of Mountain Mahogany--a member of the rose family–whose feathery plumes amidst its leaves are enchanting.


Our experts both recommended the New Mexico Olive tree, also known as a desert olive tree, due to its thriving nature in hot, dry, sunny environments. It can be a showy ornamental planting on its own, and is equally suited for use as hedges.


Gecko went with Bear Grass, which resembles a Yucca without the thorniness. “It’s graceful, ornamental, but kid-and-pet friendly,” Cisneros noted. Though in southern New Mexico they can grow much bigger, expect them in the Taos environment to reach about two feet.


Petree resoundingly went with Rocky Mountain Juniper which, Okamoto noted, thrives at high elevations and dry climates. “Junipers and pinons can be seen everywhere, their medium reaching span thriving just as well in the wild as in your backyard,” she said. Gecko nominated the Southwest White Pine while acknowledging its finickiness in early stages of planting. “Once established, though, it is very tolerant of a hostile environment,” said Cisneros.


Ah, the apricot tree, Gecko said. Virtually no-maintenance and, when left alone will explode with fruit, these trees are a dream in our area. So, Gecko noted, are grape vines. Petree nominated the Gambal Oak for this category, a nostalgic choice that is right at home in our high altitude and dry climate.


To the delight of skiers and outdoor enthusiasts, Taos had the snowiest winter in recent memory. But even those who chose to remain indoors nursing a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire appreciated the abundant amount of moisture quenching the thirst of our parched landscape. Don’t get complacent, however, warned our panel of local arborist and landscaping experts. When looking at the many choices available for your yards and gardens, it’s always best to think native and drought-resistant.

“The changes happening to our climate influence changes in plant selection,” said Patricia Okamoto, certified arborist at Petree Nursery & Greenhouses. “Plants that adapt to the new, inevitable fluctuations of extreme heat and cold include native and low water introductions.”

Jimmy Cisneros of Gecko Landscaping, Inc., agreed. “See what mature plants and trees are on the llano, or up in the mountains. They’ve learned to adapt to harsh conditions. And keeping within recommendations for our zone 4 and 5 classifications, you can readily find beautiful and unique plantings that are both hardy and drought resistant.”

Clearly, choices abound and you can enhance your property with perennial beauty, color, and even fruit while minding water usage and unnecessary maintenance. Speak with the experts in Taos and enjoy your landscape like never before.


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