FloraFEST encourages eco-friendly mindset through native plants sale


Andres Martinez

The 2018 FloraFEST native plant sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 28 and 29, at the UTEP Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens.

Paulette Villa, Contributor

From cacti to trees, FloraFEST features over 2,000 desert-adapted plants on sale at UTEP every year in April and is considered the largest sale of its kind in the region.

Admission to FloraFEST is always free and is held at the courtyard located between the Undergraduate Learning Center and the Chihuahuan Desert Garden at the Centennial Museum. This year it will be held on the weekend of April 28 and 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.


“The price range starts at $8 for most plants that are one gallon, and trees from $65 to $120,” said Kaye Mullins, education curator of the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens since 2014.


Surprisingly, these homegrown plants are expensive and rare to find at other local nurseries and retailers, which is why FloraFEST surpasses other plant suppliers in the Southwest.


“All plants are from desert states and arrive at 6:30 in the morning (at UTEP.) We have a big bunch of them that come from a wholesale nursery in Arizona,” Mullins said.
FloraFEST initially started 24 years ago to create UTEP’s Chihuahuan Desert Garden, while encouraging the community to achieve sustainable landscaping at their home’s backyards and front yards.



Since the opening of the gardens in 1999, the event continued in order to fundraise money for the garden’s maintenance and operation. During the weekend, a total of 3,000 people attend each year.

“We try to keep all the costs down so that all the proceeds go back into the gardens to maintain them,” Mullins said.


Attendees can get expert advice on what plants are ideal for their homes as well as how to take care of them, with the help of John White, the curator of the Chihuahuan Desert Garden, or from other professional landscapers, garden’s staff and volunteers at the event.

“Local experts can help on whether (the plant) it’s going to grow well on the east side or west side of the house, all you have to do is ask,” Mullins said.


Purchasing native plants helps create a small habitat that connects to El Paso’s natural landscape. According to the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, the benefits of owning native desert plants is that they provide food and water for local wildlife and also helps the community to preserve drinking water.


A new addition will be the Hesperaloe Hybrid “Buttercup,” whose flower buds are deep yellow and open with a pale yellow interior. Besides the Chocolate Daisy, another popular plant is the Anisacanthus Mexican Fire.

“It’s a real pretty green bush with red bright blooms, and the hummingbirds just love it, anywhere from six to a dozen at one time,” Mullins said


This year’s special lecture will be provided by David Cristiani—a professional landscape architect for 27 years, who is focused on the environment in the Southwest, on Friday, April 27, at 6 p.m. inside the UGLC, followed by a reception.


Cristiani will advise attendees on why it is important to develop desert-based gardens, how to create a proper landscape design for them and solving common garden design issues.


Current UTEP students and alumni get a 10 percent discount on any purchase (except the Rio Grande Cacti) in exchange of four hours of volunteer work at FloraFEST. For more information, contact Mullins at 915-747-8994 or at [email protected]