Fouquieria splendens Engelm.
Ocotillo, Coachwhip, Candlewood, Slimwood, Desert Coral, Jacob's Staff, Jacob Cactus, Vine Cactus
Fouquieria spinosa, Fouquieria splendens f. micrantha, Fouquieria splendens f. albiflora, Idria columnaria
Fouquieria splendens is an unusual spiny shrub that grows up to 33 feet (10 m) tall. It branches very heavily at the base, but above that, the branches are pole-like and rarely divide further. For much of the year, the plant appears to be an arrangement of long spiny dead sticks. However, the plant quickly becomes lush with ovate, up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long leaves with rainfall. Stems are up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Flowers are orange-red to red (rarely pinkish, creamy-white, or white) and appear especially after rainfall in spring, summer, and occasionally fall. They are clustered indeterminately at the tips of each mature stem.
USDA hardiness zones 8a to 11b: from 10 °F (−12.2 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Ocotillo is a semi-succulent with good drought tolerance once established and cold hardiness of 10 °F (-12 °C). This plant requires well-draining soil and full sun. When exposed to extreme drought, it tends to lose its leaves but leaf out in spring and summer rains.
The plant may be difficult to locate at a nursery. Ocotillo is protected, which means it is illegal to harvest it from the desert. Plant Ocotillo in a shallow container as a stunning desert display in the home landscape.
Ocotillo has few pests and no known diseases, but watch for scale and sucking insects, which you can zap with insecticidal soap.
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