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Things to Expect & Do
A Color Palette
Ocotillo: Fiery Beauty
How Do I Care For My
May Monsoon Prep
New Flowers &
Summer Tree Care
Pine Bark Beetle
Bark Beetle FAQs
Parade of Ponds
A S K A G A R D E N E R
How Do I Care for My Ocotillo
by Judy Curtis,
We often receive calls at the Master Gardener desk asking how to care for a recently transplanted ocotillo, or how to prune an established one that has become larger than the homeowner thinks is appropriate.
New ocotillo owners should know that while the plant is not a true cactus, it is a stem succulent, meaning it stores moisture between rainfalls. In order to conserve that moisture, it leafs out briefly after wet weather and then goes deciduous until the next storm. Spraying the plant in an effort to keep it green longer interferes with its natural growth pattern and is not recommended.
Because much of the root system is destroyed when ocotillos are removed from the desert, it can take up to 2 years for a transplant to establish itself well enough to begin putting out leaves. During the first summer (June through September), a monthly deep watering in a wide 3- to 4-foot band around the base can help encourage root growth. After that, normal rainfall is adequate.
As for pruning-we cringe at the thought. Cutting the canes back will destroy the tips where the bright orange blooms appear in spring. This kind of pruning will also result in spindly, tangled growth from the cut ends of branches, ruining the regal, vertical shape of the plant.
Bringing desert natives into your landscape is rather like inviting houseguests. Just as you make an effort to discover the likes and needs of your friends in order to be a good host, take the time to learn the habits of these unique plants and they will reward you with years of satisfaction.
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated April 29, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopafirstname.lastname@example.org 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092