Ocotillo Strictly a pot plant outside of its home base?

Arroyo Grande, CA

I finally tracked down some Ocotillo in one gallons. I am hesitant to plant them in the yard, although lots of other plants that require excellent drainage do fine. Does anyone outside of the desert homeland have any experience growing this in the ground?

I am in the high (4800 ft) desert of New Mexico, I am answering anyway :-). I love having success with a plant that folks say "Can't be done". I have grown a beautiful peony bush in another town in New Mexico- 7000 foot elevation. Put it in the coldest part of my yard and it flowered beautifully. It was the only one I saw while I lived there.
For Ocotillo- In nature (here) they usually grow on slopes (for drainage) and are found below 5000' elevation. They also seem to like hillsides that have limestone. I have read that limestone gives off quite a bit of heat at night. I do water mine occasionally. I give them a good soaking when I plant them. Just how much rain do you get? Do you have a slope or can you make a berm? I looked up your winter temperatures and they seem ok to me. We get some freezes here- usually in the 28 to 30 degree range- our coldest night this past winter was 19.4 degrees.

Arroyo Grande, CA

I live on a steep, rocky hillside with no frost. It should work, if I pick the places where the sandstone has decomposed instead of the clayey rock. I was just wondering if anyone else had tried it. Thanks for the information. They are beautiful and I would love to have one growing, though I doubt it will get as big or bloom as well as they do in the desert.

Good luck!.. Ocotillo is my favorite desert plant.. I tried one at 5,700' elevation (I have lived in 4 places in NM). Had a fairly flat acre so made a berm and it grew just fine. Mine here in EB are planted on the flat but we get little rain.

Valley Village, CA

I notice them on the way to Las Vegas growing about 3,500 to 4,500 elevations, they get snow, it doesn't seem to harm them at all. Going up north through our central valley, I don't see them at all, but do see the Josha Tree at 3,500 feet. I just wonder why each plant selects there home in the manner that they do, the real estate isn't any cheaper. I also know where I can get them. I have one in flower at home right now. It's a rare treat when they flower. I do have very sandy soil. where I live, and very fast drainage. Norma

From a web site that has them for sale: this whole post is from the web site... they are not my comments at all
"Joshua trees and ocotillos are probably best planted outdoors only in the arid and semi-arid warm regions of the western and southwestern United States. The geographical area covered under this definition is extensive, although it still represents a minority portion of the US as a whole. We can with fair confidence recommend planting in the ground in an area stretching from the chaparral zones of central California and the San Francisco Bay Area (although the cool and foggy coastal climates can be a bit questionable) up through Las Vegas and even up to Reno, Nevada, as well as St. George, Utah, over to about Albuquerque, New Mexico, and over to West Texas (especially El Paso to the Pecos River) and possibly as far east as Austin or San Antonio if attention is paid to proper drainage in the wetter and more humid parts of central and southern Texas.
If you live outside of those areas, it is probably possible to make Joshuas and ocotillos survive in specially protected outdoor microclimates as far north as California's northern Central Valley; Moab, Utah; Grand Junction, Colorado; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Amarillo and Dallas, Texas, but be forewarned that it would be a gamble some extra-cold years. We have seen Joshua trees successfully overwinter in climates as cold as Boulder and Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City Utah; and Boise, Idaho. But it should be mentioned that the plants are well outside of their normal ranges in those areas and need to be treated carefully during Arctic cold snaps (this might mean covering them with thick blankets or other insulation on sub-zero nights) for the best chances of success. "

edited to say: not my comments but thought the geographical info was interesting

This message was edited Apr 17, 2005 2:51 PM

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I have 5 and I love them but they are giving me fits, lol! One leafed out about two weeks ago and looks great, one just started leafing (I saw it this morning) on ONE tiny branch and no signs of life anywhere else, and the other three are bare, bare, bare. The neighbors pretty much all have fully leafed out ocotillo and many of them have their beautiful orange flowers. It's really interesting how differently there all doing. I wish mine were a little less interesting...

Anyway!!!! I've never heard of anyone covering them but I don't think I've seen them anywhere that the temperature goes below 0 degrees. I've certainly seen snow on them before! If you don't even get frost then you should be fine as long as it doesn't get too wet.

As far as drainage, you've got lots of cactus mix and you're planning on a nice big hole, right?

Arroyo Grande, CA

Not a believer in big holes and non-native soil. I will just put it in a steep place where the soil is very sandy. I have two splendens and several others, so I think I will plant some and put some in pots. A couple didn't make it through the winter. I do not get frost here, except maybe once in ten years. Lots of other desert stuff does very well so I am hoping for the best. Thanks for the information. Eventually I will try them from seed just for the fun of it.

Mesilla Park, NM

Been wanting to get some Ocotillo for our garden. I did find one gallon pots of the Madagascar Ocotillo (African Ocotillo) a few months ago and they are starting to leaf. Hopefully I did not put them in the wrong area. They are still very small but will take photos tomorrow. I would love to see any pictures you guys have of your Ocotillo.

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

A lousy photo from last year.
The one on the left had (hopefully will have again!) bigger leaves than my others, the tall (bare) one has since been moved elsewhere and is likely permanently bare, and the one on the right is the only one currently showing strong signs of life. I'm hoping to take a picture this weekend to compare.

Thumbnail by TucsonJen
Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

Oh, I forgot I had some individual pictures of them in my journal. http://davesgarden.com/journal/edit/viewentry.php?rid=45697

Mesilla Park, NM

I ordered some Ocotillo seeds on ebay.. this time, I have to figure out a place that I can't spill the seed tray.. hopefully they will germinate and grow in my lifetime..lol. maybe it is time for another trip to Morongo Valley the Cactusmart there. They should have some now.

Those look great to me TucsonJen.

Arroyo Grande, CA

those are great, Tucson! Mine are all one gallon, I got them from Living Desert in Palm Springs. I think they were from either Living Stones in AZ or Mountain States Wholesale. I believe there are three or four species, but I do not remember the names, but they are labelled. Two have leafed out, two have not including splendens. They have not shrunk yet, so they are still alive. I have been looking for the Mexican fouquiera, common name upside down tree. B + T has the seeds, but I haven't ordered them. I had one a year ago, but I killed it. I think that one came from UC Riverside. I gathered some seed when we were in the desert but that was before I got into the seed thing. They are around but I am not sure where or whether they are still viable. Summertime, I think was when I collected them.

A tip I read for checking for life in an Ocotillo. “Bend a spine away from the plant until it pulls away from the plant. It should be green underneath.”
I tried it on an inconspicuous part of one of my new babies that wasn't doing any thing and it was very green under there.

Spring Valley, CA(Zone 10a)

I have one Fouquieria splendens that was started from a two-foot cutting. It's multi-stemmed now and leafs out and blooms reliably every year. It has a nice shape. I have another, larger and older. It was just sitting there at the nursery--bare root, bare everything with a bunch of other ones. After I planted it, it took about two years to really come alive but it does fine now. It doesn't have as elegant a shape as the other one though. In my experience Fouquierias are tough as nails here in SoCal. If you want them to leaf out, give them a nice deep watering. In a few weeks they'll be full of leaves. They leaf out whenever they get more water than usual.

I have a small Fouquieria fasciculata in the ground that bloomed two years ago, but didn't bloom this past winter. Don't know why. I also have a couple of Fouquieria diguettiis, a F. macdougalii, a F. columnaris in the ground. All of them are small at this point but doing fine otherwise.

Then in pots, I have F. shreevei, F. ocheterane, F. leonelae, F purpusii, F. formosa, F. burragei, and two other varieties of F. splendens (white and pink). I'd like to get the yellow variety of F. splendens.

www.lithosp.net carries a lot of them.

I don't know if you can tell, but the Ocotillo that I started from a cutting is the leafy stem in the pic. This pic was taken this last December during the real rainy period and the Ocotillo leafed out a lot. Right now, it has got some bloom spikes on it, but is bare-leafed. It will look its best in early summer with lots of blooms AND leaves.

Anyway, all of them seem to do fine in San Diego.


Thumbnail by RWhiz

What a lovely photograph

Arroyo Grande, CA

What a great garden and collection of fouquieri. See some nice aloes in the picture as well.

Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I think Ron is our resident Aloe King. http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/473476/ :)

I didn't know you had such a wide variety of ocotillo as well, Ron. Do you have a thread with them pictures of them all posted? If not... would you consider making one?

And, Chuck, do we get to see your pictures?

Arroyo Grande, CA

I was all set to buy the camera, all picked out, vendor on ebay, the configuration, everything. Then Nikon came out with an upgrade. I am going to wait a few weeks and see what happens to prices for the old and new. The new one will not ship for a couple of weeks yet. This forum is the main reason I am getting the new camera. My old Nikon F3 is fine for most everything else, except it is a chore to scan the slides and then the files are so big. Soon there will be pictures, but the garden is only a couple of years old and most things are still pretty small. Lots are still in cans or in my imagination on the want list in my head.

L.A. (Canoga Park), CA(Zone 10a)

We have one planted in our yard (clay soil, on a slope). It gets watered every other week, I think. (DH takes care of the slope.) We've had it for, I think, almost 3 years. It's doing o.k. DH said that he saw a decent sized one in someone's yard about 10 miles from here. I figure it is hotter here in the summer than in Arroyo Grande, but maybe not. You get some ocean influence, don't you?

Arroyo Grande, CA

We may have one or two hot spells a year (over 85) and that is about it. From about now until October we generally have fog in the morning and evening and hopefully it burns off about ten, though many days it doesn't. It is wonderful growing weather for most things but not the heat lovers. I think I will leave my ocotillos in pots this year, upsize them to 2 gallons, go to a very light mix and see what happens. I am planning on building a structure sometime before winter that will keep these things drier in the winter and warmer. I haven't decided where to put it, how big to make it, or out of what. Then I can move all the winter-dry stuff there and give them the warmth they seem to need.

Spring Valley, CA(Zone 10a)

Here's a pic of the one that looked like dead sticks for two years. This and the other one just leafed out this past week and are starting to bloom. The other one was started from a stem cutting and is much nicer looking. It's shorter, but wider and the stems are straight instead of crooked. Unfortuantely, it is in a place where I can't get a good pic of it, so this one will have to do.


Thumbnail by RWhiz
Tucson, AZ(Zone 9a)

I love your garden, Ron. Two years, eh? Alright, I'll give that "hopeless" one out in my desert another chance. :P

I now have 3 out of 5 with leaves! The three with leaves are all right next to each other but leafed out at different times.

Arroyo Grande, CA

Ron's picture inspired me to plant mine. I have also started some seed I got from JL Hudson. It is quite different from the seed I collected in the desert. It will be interesting to see how they come out. I haven't found my seed from last summer, which was well before I got interested in propagating to any serious degree.

Albuquerque, NM

I'm tempted to buy a 4ft Ocotillo from a local dealer. It will need to go in a pot and I read to make sure and not plant in one that it too large. Wondering what size pot? Also, is it ok to plant now (I live in the valley) or is it better to wait and purchase in the spring? TIA :)

This message was edited Sep 19, 2020 8:57 PM

Thumbnail by OHgrammy

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