Scientific: Fouquieria splendens
Common: ocotillo
Family: Fouquieriaceae
Origin: Rocky soils and upslopes and uplands of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts from southeastern California to southwest Texas and northern Mexico

Pronounciation: Foe-u-qui-ER-ee-a SPLEN-dens

Hardiness zones:
Sunset 10-13, 18-20
USDA 8-10 (arid zones only)

Landscape Use: Accent, focal point, barrier, silhouette, desert plantings, living fence posts, uncompromising.

Form & Character: Stiff and upright, beautiful, wild, imposing, excellent xeriscape upright native desert shrub.

Growth Habit: Moderately vigorous to 15 feet (20 feet with supplemental water), branches at base with individual stems extending upwards.

Foliage/texture: Generally leafless except after rains. Small, green sessile leafs along the axillary meristems of stems quickly yellow a few weeks after desert rain events and thereafter shed leaving green and gray striped stems with prominent spines. In irrigated urban landscapes, foliage is more persistent; coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: Two 12-inch terminal flower spikes per each stem bearing numerous vermilion-colored flowers; fruits insignificant.

Seasonal color: Flowers are seen from late February through March and on rare occassions during September.

Temperature: Ocotillo is not surprisingly well adapted to the Phoenix area.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Fast drained soil is best, found on rocky slopes in native habitat.

Watering: Very drought tolerant. Supplemental landscape irrigation will increase growth and vigor.

Pruning: Usually none required, removal of stems to ground.

Propagation: Dug and transplanted easily, cutting using large stem sections, seed.

Disease and pests: Root rot if drainage is poor.

Additional comments: Hummingbirds and carpenter bees are pollinators in west and east, respectively (both in Phoenix). Flower intensity and duration related to pollinator. A fresh bark tincture is rich in at least 12 iridoid glucosides that can be used to reduce swelling of hemorrhoids, cervical varicosities and benign prostate enlargement.

In addition to Fouquieria splendens, there are two other prominent species that are native to our North American deserts. Fouquieria macdougalii (Mexican ocotillo tree) is from Sonora and north Sinaloa, Mexico and is similar but much smaller to 6 feet in height and more cold sensitive than ocotillo. The other is the boojum tree.