Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Ocotillo, Candlewood
Fouquieria splendens

Family: Fouquieriaceae
Genus: Fouquieria (foo-KWEER-ree-uh) (Info)
Species: splendens (SPLEN-denz) (Info)

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

17 members have or want this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall
Late Fall/Early Winter
Mid Winter


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From softwood cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

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By kennedyh
Thumbnail #1 of Fouquieria splendens by kennedyh

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By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #3 of Fouquieria splendens by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #4 of Fouquieria splendens by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #5 of Fouquieria splendens by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #6 of Fouquieria splendens by Xenomorf

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #7 of Fouquieria splendens by Xenomorf

There are a total of 38 photos.
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11 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral SandyUT On Jan 23, 2015, SandyUT from Sandy, UT wrote:

Just brought back a small Ocotillo from Palm Desert CA (about 10" tall). Keeping it inside until spring/70 degree temps and then going to see if it will do okay in our climate (zone 5b). It rarely gets under 10 degrees in the winter and usually the low is around 20 all winter with highs around 100 in the summer. A little nervous but I have some fan palms, yuccas, and cactus' growing fine and some neighbors with some Joshua trees. I'll update you in a year or so with good news hopefully.

Positive desertbluegrass On Jun 28, 2014, desertbluegrass from TERLINGUA, TX wrote:

Ocotillo leafs out when it has experienced rain or moisture of some kind. It grows on my property and I have transplanted it as well. Our precipitation here in the Chihuahuan desert is sparse and the humidity here is very very low, less than 10 percent most of the time. However, during times when the humidity (for example, for us during periods when El Nino is occurring) is high, you will find that Ocotillo will stay leafed out even without any watering. Also, if you water it at the base and even on the stalks and it doesn't leaf out, it's because there is still the lack of humidity around it. What I do is I water the base, the stalks, but around it as well. I have mine planted in dirt, on top of that I have two to three inches of pea gravel leveled. Make sure that the dirt is well draining but also has a berm around it enough to catch the water so that most of it goes into the ground around the ocotillo. The pea gravel acts as a mulch. It keeps the moisture there long enough to create humidity around the plant but not so long that the roots are standing in water. Good Luck.

Positive bmcdanel On Jan 22, 2012, bmcdanel from Lawton, OK wrote:

I started experimenting with this plant about six years ago. My first try ended due to wet weather and poor drainage the first summer. Ocotillos are subject to root rot if continuously exposed to wet conditions. I built a special bed with the required drainage for these magnificent plants, the biological equivalent of razor wire, and tried again. I have several small ones (3-5 ft.) growing well for four years now. I get called a liar when I tell plant people in New Mexico and Arizona that I got them to grow in Oklahoma and just smile. They are very cold hardy. Mine withstood subzero temperatures last winter without any damage. The only annoying thing is that they leaf out very unpredictably with each plant behaving differently. One has never leafed out, while another leafs out with the cycle of wet and dry weather we have in the summer. A third will leaf out without regard to the weather as long as it's warm. Frequently, the only way to tell if they are alive is to look for some green in the stems. I am looking forward to the day when they bloom because they attract hummingbirds. By the way, don't prune the end of the stems if you want the plant to bloom.

Positive RudeBoy On Jan 21, 2012, RudeBoy wrote:

I moved into a house last year that already had a Ocotillo in the backyard against a south facing wall. When I first moved in it was about 6'5'' tall, by the end of the summer it had grown 2' taller and 2' wider. It is on a drip system that waters Mon-Fri in the morning and in the evening for 15min. It has been doing good with full of green leaves. Some may say that I water it way to much, but if it is doing good then why not continue on doing what is working for me.

Positive AZCactusman On Nov 2, 2011, AZCactusman from YUCCA, AZ wrote:

People need to know that ocotillos do NOT absorb most of their water through their canes. They have long, shallow roots that absorb water from even light rainfalls, and the canes are waxy and resist water loss, as befits a desert plant. The waxy bark layer on ocotillo stems inhibits water absorption, and the plants derive pretty much all of their water from the soil via the roots, whenever there's been rainfall. It makes no sense for ocotillos to absorb water via the canes when there's rarely any to be had in the air; it's simply not true, folks.

If you buy an ocotillo from a nursery or a big box store that has been dehydrating for months in a bin and has mere stubs for roots a few inches long, you are buying an ocotillo that is about 80% likely to die. Ocotillos that have roots at least a foot or two long are much more likely to survive, but only if they're fresh. The plants are only marginally succulent and while they can tolerate long dry spells when they are growing intact in the desert, their minimal water reserves once dug combined with the extreme trauma of near total root loss results in exorbitant death rates.

I have dug and replanted literally over two thousand salvaged ocotillos in western AZ in the past 12 years, and I go to pains to get a couple of feet of roots and replant them quickly into their new locations, and then give them regular deep watering for several years afterwards while they recover. (This means at least weekly in summertime heat, and every 2 to 4 weeks in dry but cooler winter weather.) The survival rate is more like 90% if they are treated appropriately in this manner. There is nothing wrong with watering the canes, but by itself it is not enough, and you have to water the roots too!

Much more ocotillo growth and transplanting information is available at www dfranch com. Please do your part to learn the correct information about transplanting these special plants, and disseminate it widely to destroy the myth that they only need occasional "misting" of the canes and no water on the roots (if they even exist on the poor abused commercially available plants). Tens of thousands of ocotillos have died needlessly over the decades as a result of this nonsensical information, perpetuated by people in nurseries and landscaping who ought to know better. Do not buy sickly abused dried out plants with no roots - demand better! Thank you.

Positive tinkerbelle122 On Apr 23, 2011, tinkerbelle122 from Las Vegas, NV (Zone 9a) wrote:

Bought the bare root version last spring at star nursery. This plant is so sculptural and striking!! Planted in full sun western facing yard. Well, we didn't water it from the top, like I read somewhere this winter, that we were SUPPOSED to do so it could establish roots? Well, I thought it was dead- and then today I noticed the ocotillo at the nursery look just as dead as mine. So either they're selling dead plants at the nursery or maybe mine still has a chance? I cut into one of the stems to see if it was green. Mine is dry and woody :0( Not sure if he made it. I still rate it positive because it looks really cool, even if it's dead.

Positive ogrejelly On Jun 13, 2010, ogrejelly from Gilbert, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

Wonderful plant and can be very beautiful and interesting against walls where they cast shadow. Some get massive but I find them to grow rather slowly in clay soil.

I question reports of the acidic PH requirements above as they are often used to find underground caves here in the desert. Caves are found in huge beds of limestone which is alkaline and I believe these plants do much better in low acid soil with good drainage.

When purchasing an Ocotillo always make sure you pick out the heaviest plant. They should not feel dried out and light for their size and ignore a saleman telling you they will come back from anything. You want plants with lots of water still inside them if you want them to root. Always inspect the roots as well because you will want clean cuts not smashed ends so commonly found which make it prone to disease and less likely to develop roots.

Lastly when planting a new ocotillo, do not water the roots right away. B sure however to wet the canes with a hose 2 times a day for no less than two weeks. This will help it absorb water while the roots attempt to grow. Do not water the roots until a month after it is in the ground.

Positive kdaustin On Sep 25, 2008, kdaustin from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

There are quite a few of these desert beauties in older central texas gardens. Yet they are quite hard to find for sale.
Don't hesitate to snap one up if you see it. I've grow all mine in unwatered (once established) areas in full sun. If you have heavy black clay, like me, a raised area or container may be best.
Beautiful in bloom, striking when bare of leaf.
Hummingbirds love the flowers!
Grow quite large, and extremely thorny, so give plent of space!
I've seen large specimens 12-15' tall and 8 feet around or so.

Positive Cactusdude On May 22, 2007, Cactusdude from Miami, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

The few specimens that are planted in the ground thrive in the Miami area. With our abundant moisture the plants tend to sprawl outward, rather than growing decidedly upright. The flowers are lovely, but don't have the same impact as in the desert Southwest because the plants usually are in full leaf as well. They tend to hold their leaves for long periods here and grow fairly quickly.

Neutral Xenomorf On Nov 21, 2006, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I've seen this growing in the wild surrounding Phoenix and on the 'El Camino Del Diablo Trail' (Devils' Highway) that runs between Ajo and Wellton, Arizona in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
I've also seen these growing in the wild on the West Ruby Road Trail in Arizona (South of Tucson), off of Interstate 19 through to Ruby, AZ and on to Arivaca, AZ.

Positive jessmerritt On Jul 5, 2005, jessmerritt from (Zone 7b) wrote:

The zone rating for this beautiful plant is deceptive. I know for sure that it is atleast hardy to zone 7. It is a popular landscape plant where I live in zone 7. I love it for its versatility and beauty. It's perfect for xeriscaping, can handle our cold winters and 100+ temps in the summer, and bears beautiful red blooms in the spring.

Positive ponchoformula On Aug 5, 2003, ponchoformula from Victorville, CA wrote:

Fouqueria splendens is awesome! These are deciduous shubs with tons of interest and character. These are native to the desert southwest. The mojave and Colorado deserts east to Western Texas and Mexico. They have many stiff and upright stems that are gray/gray-green. Height approx. 8 to 30ft tall. Stems are covered with sharp, needle like thorns, wear gloves when handling/pruning. Very fleshy and rounded leafs 1/2 inch long. They appear after rains/watering and soon drop off. The flowers are tubular in nature, 1 inch long and bright red in extremely attractive clusters. Flowers also appear after rains. Can be used as a natural fence, for various screening or singularly as a specimen planting. Must have excellent drainage and full sun. Never overwater. In fact, the least amount the better. let the rain do the work. Cuttings soaked overnight and planted into moist soil will grow. You can find ocotillo in bare root form. Soak root ball stems in water overnight 24 to 48 hours, then plant and water in well, and only once! After that, she's in God's hands! Good luck. If you have trouble finding in bare root form let me know. I can help.

Positive Greenknee On Mar 25, 2003, Greenknee from Chantilly, VA (Zone 6b) wrote:

I have seen this plant both wild (Sonoran Desert) and cultivated - even as a street tree/shrub in Tucson, AZ. The blossoms are striking, at the end of the longest spiny branches - flaming red or orange fountain sprays. After a rain, small leaves will develop, then drop when desert dries out again.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Ajo, Arizona
Arivaca, Arizona
Chandler, Arizona
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Gilbert, Arizona
Green Valley, Arizona
Maricopa, Arizona (4 reports)
Mesa, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (3 reports)
Rio Rico, Arizona
Salome, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona (2 reports)
Wellton, Arizona
Yucca, Arizona
Bostonia, California
Inyokern, California
Menifee, California
Mission Viejo, California
Mountain View Acres, California
Ontario, California
Palm Desert, California
Ridgecrest, California
Yucca Valley, California
Miami, Florida
Savannah, Georgia
Las Vegas, Nevada
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Elephant Butte, New Mexico
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Roswell, New Mexico
Lawton, Oklahoma
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
El Paso, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
San Antonio, Texas
Terlingua, Texas

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