New Mexico Privet: A good tall shrub for a windbreak and wildlife

It’s been awhile since I posted. Part of the reason for this long silence has been my

New Mexico Privet

The more dense foliage in the foreground is my New Mexico Privet which stands about 15′ tall. The tree in the background is some species of cottonwood.

search for plants I really want to put in my garden that meet my criteria. My criteria are low water requirement, tolerant of alkaline soils, winter hardy to zone 5, and low maintenance. Not all the plants I want will be low maintenance but realistically I can’t manage three acres of high maintenance plants so most of what I plant will have to be low maintenance. One plant I’ve been observing that I already have in my garden is Foresteira  neomexicana and I’ve decided I want more of this large shrub or small tree.

I just got back from a trip to Albuquerque, NM where I visited the Albuquerque Biopark botanical garden. There I saw Foresteira neomexicana or New Mexico privet. This is the first time I’ve seen the berries on this plant. My own New Mexico privet does not have berries but blooms every spring. Since I only have one that is mature enough to bloom. The other New Mexico privets I’ve planted more recently and they are less mature and I have yet to see them bloom. In researching this plant on the Internet I find that you need more than one blooming because male and female flowers are on different plants. This means I’ll have to wait until my smaller New Mexico Privets mature

Berries on New Mexico Privet

Berries on the New Mexico Privet I saw at the Albuquerque Biopark botanical garden.

enough to bloom to see if mine will produce berries.

Information I found on the Internet says you can prune New Mexico Privet to be a small tree and that this is great for urban and suburban landscapes where power lines are a problem since it only reaches a mature height of about 15′; well under the standard power line height. For my property I have a few power line issues but mostly I’m interested is screening, shade, low water consumption, low maintenance, and wildlife friendly. New Mexico trims into a hedge or remove lower branches to create a small tree. Either of these forms will require regular pruning to maintain. I’m more interested in just letting it grow to be the shrub it would be in the wild. If I let them reach their full size and don’t prune them into trees I could plant them 5′ to 8′ apart to get a good sound barrier or windbreak and for me this would be useful. Additionally having more of these plants may

Immature New Mexico Privet

One of the many New Mexico Privet I’ve raised from seed that have not yet matured enough to bloom.

ensure I have some that produce berries that attract birds and I wouldn’t mind doing some bird watching on my own property.

An even more appealing fact I found on the Internet is that Foresteira neomexicana is native to arid habitats in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Oklahoma. Since I live in Nevada and it is very desert around me I’m looking for plants like this one. Although I don’t get the 9″ to 24″ of annual precipitation that is characteristic of where this plant grows wild, I do have the ability to water it and I live where the water table is high. Supplemental watering and a high water can make up for the fact my average annual precipitation is only 4″. This past winter was extremely dry here in Nevada, where we are in our fourth year of drought and still my mature New Mexico Privet looks good. I didn’t even water it over the winter but I cannot say the same for my roses that were watered over the winter.

So now, I’m starting more New Mexico Privet from seed to join the others I’ve already planted. To do this I must cold stratify seed for 30 days at a temperature around 40°F. Then I will plant the stratified in moist potting soil in a green house to get it to germinate.

Once germinated, I’ll raise them up from greenhouse seedling to potted plants in a lath

New Mexico Privet at Albuquerque Biopark

This is a picture of the New Mexico Privet I saw with all the berries at the Albuquerque Biopark.

house and finally transplant them outside in the ground.


6 thoughts on “New Mexico Privet: A good tall shrub for a windbreak and wildlife

  1. A question actually.
    I am in the Mimbres area of Grant Co. at 6600′. Ours is forty acres of Pinion /Juniper with Mountian Mahogony, Oak and the acursed NM Privit you seem to enjoy. A weed is a flower in the wrong place(s). It is a pest here. Short of grubbing it out of our very high and steep and rocky property, what chemical can I use to kill it dead dead dead? There is a bunch and from every stage from seedling to hundred year lod plants.
    Thank you.
    Frank Morris

    • I was surprised at your comment about wanting to get rid of New Mexico Privet so I did an Internet search; 1) to see what was recommended for removing New Mexico Privet and 2) who else might want to get rid of this really well behaved shrub. When everything came up encouraging the planting of more New Mexico Privet for both home landscape and as a conservation plant I decided to contact a tree expert in New Mexico. I was fortunate to have Suzanne Probart, executive director of Tree New Mexico respond. We both concur that you should talk to local authorities like the Natural Resources Conservation Service or your local Cooperative Extension Service regarding two things.

      First question you need to ask these experts, “Is the problematic species you have New Mexico Privet or Russian Olive?” These are two different species. New Mexico Privet is native but Russian Olive is an invasive, introduced species that can behave in the manor your describe.

      Second question is a land management question, “What is the best management of this situation?” If it is Russian Olive you should try to totally get rid of it. New Mexico Privet is native and it may be that you are trying to do something with the land that is not compatible with conservation of your property. In either case you will need to consider stabilization of the area by revegetation with desirable plants that are non-invasive but adapted to the area. Otherwise you could have erosion problems that bring about unintended consequences for both you and your neighbors.

      My own New Mexico Privet has been in place for over 12 years and has never spread despite being planted close to an unlined irrigation ditch. It is a well behaved, tall shrub.

  2. I was wondering how many inches the privet grows per year? I just planted mine in the ground (June 1st)and it is about 6 inchest tall, what can I expect it to be in the fall??

    • It depends on the condition of the plant and the location you plant them. I have planted them in various places around my two acres of garden. They grow from about 2″ to 6″ per year. My oldest privet had topped out at about 15′.

  3. We’ve just moved to Henderson, NV. We have Lemon and Lime growing in pots. How do we protect them from the cold winter temps?

    • The best way to protect citrus (Lemon and Lime are citrus) in a climate such as Henderson or anywhere where killing frosts can be expected is to have them in pots that came be wheeled into the house and placed in a sunny indoor location. The best location in the house would be a south facing window. Otherwise you may need to provide supplemental light in the form of a grow light (a light that gives of the full spectrum on light similar to the sun). Good luck.

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