The Q&A Archives: Propagating Cuttings Of Ocotillo In Arizona

Question: I have some large ocotillo that I want to take some cuttings from, and transplant to other areas of my property here in the desert southwest in AZ. How often do I water the fresh cuttings, any soil additive recommended (I heard most cacti like sulfur), and when is the best time to try to start new plants from existing ones? I have been told everything from no root watering at all, but only frequent misting of the stems; to little or no watering after you plant it. Please help.


Ocotillos was traditionally used as "living fences," as stems could be stuck in the ground with minimum fuss and they would sprout. Or not. Ocotillo work on their own timetable, as is evidenced by plants that will be in a landscape situation for several years, looking dead and forlorn, and just when the frustrated homeowner is ready to yank it out, it will burst forth with green foliage.  The variety of answers you are receiving points out their unpredictability.

I would not suggest taking cuttings now, as we are heading into June, which is our driest month. Wait until the monsoon season. They will benefit from the increased humidity and rainfall. If the middle of summer is too hot for you, wait until the winter rainy season, assuming we have one, of course. No soil additive is needed. (Mother Nature is not putting sulfur or anything else around ocotillo in the wild and they do just fine.) You may want to give them a soaking when you first plant them, but then let rainfall take over. Misting is one of those things that some people swear by. Others try it and it makes no difference. If you have the time and want to try it, go ahead. But if you plant just before a rainy season, that might take care of it for you. Don't be disappointed if nothing happens for months (or even years). It doesn't mean that something won't happen! Finally, just a technicality, but ocotillo are not cacti, they are from the genus Fouquieria.  If memory serves me, there are only a few species in this genus, so we are lucky to have them growing all around us. Good luck!

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