Desert-Wise Living >> Desert-Wise Landscaping >> Plant Spotlight

Plant Spotlight: Ocotillo

ocotillo, blooming
Photo by Chris Hunkeler from Carlsbad, California, USA,  <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Ocotillo is a native plant that creates structure and height in our Morongo Basin landscapes. Ocotillo means "little torch" in Spanish, probably inspired by the orange red flowers at the plant's tips. The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide. It prefers full sun and likes our heat.
Fouquieria splendens, or ocotillo, for much of the year appears to be an arrangement of large spiny dead sticks, although a closer look reveals that the canes are partly green. Either through irrigation or rain, water makes the plant come to life with small green leaves all over the stems.
Tips about growing and irrigating these plants varies widely. Morongo Basin writer Maureen Gilmer notes that getting them started in your yard can be "devilishly difficult." She recommends buying them potted instead of bare root for best growing success.
ocotillo with blooms
Ocotillo in Landers, CA. Photo by Marina Chavez

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