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   From Me to You
   Calendar of Events
   Things to Expect & Do
   Zucchini Recipes
   A Color Palette
           for Your
   Computer Corner
   Word Wise
   Inspecting Your
           Irrigation System
   Ocotillo: Fiery Beauty
   How Do I Care For My
   May Monsoon Prep
   National Garden
           Bureau Introduces
           New Flowers &
   Choosing A
           Good Nursery
   Summer Tree Care
   Pine Bark Beetle
            in Arizona
   Bark Beetle FAQs
   Nature's Mimics
   Tubac Secret
           Garden Inn

   Parade of Ponds
Master Gardener Journal  

A S K   A   G A R D E N E R

How Do I Care for My Ocotillo

by Judy Curtis,
Master Gardener

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 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092