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NMSU develops mobile app for selecting xeriscape plants

Xeriscape landscaping means more than covering an area with gravel or rocks. Homeowners and landscapers have 750 plants to choose from when designing a low-water-use yard.


Women  holding an iPad with colorful squares on it.
Stefan Sutherin shows the new Apple mobile app for selecting xeriscape plants via the iPad, iPhone or iPod. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

To facilitate selection of plants New Mexico State University has developed a mobile app for use with Apple products that links to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer's Interactive Plant List.

The app, Southwest Plant Selector (SW Plant), is a result of a coordinated effort between the Office of the State Engineer and the Center for Landscape Water Conservation. It is the first app of its kind to deal specifically with plants that are both suitable to, and commercially available in New Mexico.

"One of the ways we help homeowners and landscapers to conserve water is by offering them a mobile link to this uniquely New Mexico plant database," said Stefan Sutherin, NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences graduate student and project leader.

Sutherin coordinates the Center for Landscape Water Conservation, whose mission is to develop water-wise landscape education and water-management tools to serve the people of the Southwest, primarily New Mexico and West Texas.

The app links users to the database of water-wise plants developed by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. Users can search by the scientific or common name of the plant, as well as other criteria. They can also build a list of favorite plants to use at the nursery or in discussion with a landscaper.

"The introductory prices is free through July 25," Sutherin said. "After July 25, the published price will then be 99 cents. However, the app will frequently be promotionally priced for free, starting with all-day Friday Happy Hour through the end of August."

With an iPad, iPhone or iPod, information and photos can be obtained about the wide variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, cacti, turf grasses, ornamental grasses, groundcover and vine plants in the database. Information available about each plant includes the size, flower color, bloom season, soil needs, sun exposure and water requirements to help with their landscape design.

"This is the first data-driven app we have built," said J.C. Chamberlin, programmer analyst with NMSU media production. "The Office of the State Engineer's database was a good candidate for us because they had this rich source of information that wasn't mobile. Our goal was to make it accessible, as well as fun to browse, so a lot of effort went into making it colorful and useable."

The Office of the State Engineer has had positive feedback by users of the Interactive Plant List on its website prior to the Apple mobile app.

"We are excited to partner with NMSU on this project that enhances this resource available to the public through our agency and the Center for Landscape Water Conservation," said Cheri Vogel of the Office of the State Engineer Water Use and Conservation Bureau.

The SW Plants app can be downloaded from iTunes. A link is also available at www.xericenter.com/swplants and at http://wuc.ose.state.nm.us/Plants.

The plant selector app is just one part of Sutherin's project to design the Center for Landscape Water Conservation resource portal.

"People are hungry for information, whether it is what xeriplants are available or how to make an irrigation system," said Sutherin.

For more information about the Center for Landscape Water Conservation visit the following websites:

www.youtube.com./xericenter to tour regional demonstration gardens, including a popular video about setting up drip irrigation systems by Dan Smeal, NMSU irrigation specialist.

www.picasaweb.com/xericenter to view photos of regional demonstration gardens.

www.facebook.com/xericenter to share projects, photos and resources on creating and maintaining a beautiful, usable, yet water-thrifty landscape.

The Center for Landscape Water Conservation is a cooperative venture involving NMSU, Texas AgriLife Extension at El Paso, University of New Mexico, University of Texas at El Paso, San Juan College, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, municipal water conservation coordinators, private landscapers and the business community.

The goal of the center is to coordinate applied research projects, along with demonstration and outreach activities, that focus on water-wise landscaping in the Southwest.