Other Cacti: ocotillos and more

Plants

ocotillo

Ocotillo cacti are nearly as iconic as saguaros. They only grow here, have an unusual shape for a cactus (stick-like), have vibrant orange flowers that attract hummingbirds, and can get quite large (20 feet).

Did you know ocotillo leaves are edible? They taste mild, like lettuce. Large specimens for sale have usually been harvested from the desert somewhere, sometimes from as far as Texas. These “bare root” specimens aren’t always healthy. Of four I’ve purchased, only two grew. Smaller specimens grown from seed are more eco-friendly but will take years to reach a mature shape. I’ve noticed that landscaped ocotillo tend to branch more, I’m pretty sure this is due to overwatering. I’m not sure the ideal amount of water to give, especially if you are trying to encourage growth.

Ocotillo lose their leaves during dormant months, usually mid-summer and mid-winter. While you are supposed to be able to grow these from cuttings, I think you need quite a large piece and propagation is not as easy as for prickly pear.

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