Ocotillo, Candlewood
Fouquieria splendens

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

Category:

Cactus and Succulents

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us

Height:

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

Spacing:

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Hardiness:

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

Danger:

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

Bloom Color:

Red

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Late Fall/Early Winter

Mid Winter

Foliage:

Velvet/Fuzzy-Textured

Provides winter interest

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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:

Non-patented

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

Regional

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 (4 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 (2 reports)

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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

12
positives
2
neutrals
0
negatives
RatingContent
Positive

On Apr 14, 2015, Kell from Northern California, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Per Jan Emming owner of the Destination:Forever Ranch and Gardens, a 40 acre desert botanical garden and sustainable living homestead in the Arizona desert with a nursery:

I believe that the ocotillo population (Fouquieria splendens) in southern Mohave County, Arizona, must rank as one of the most extensive and dense in the entire United States. The population runs for 30+ miles between the Black Mountains and the Hualapai Mountains along the I-40 corridor and southwards to the Mohave and McCracken Mountain ranges, and must contain easily a million or more individual plants. I know that there are areas in and near Big Bend National Park in Texas where ocotillos reach high densities as well, but I think that they aren't as large as these in western Arizona are on average. Man... read more

Neutral

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

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 draini... read more

Positive

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... read more

Positive

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

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 r... read more

Positive

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

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 wa... read more

Positive

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

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

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

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

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. ... read more

Positive

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.