Answer: If purchasing a bare-root plant, make sure the canes are green and pliable, meaning it's still alive and capable of rooting. Plant it in well-drained soil and water deeply, once every 2 weeks during summer. The plant has lost its small water-collecting roots during the digging and selling process and must re-grow this system. It will not grow roots in dry soil, so the soil around the plant needs to be moist to stimulate new root development. However, desert plants do not like to sit in saturated soil or they will rot, so be careful not to overwater. Watering the root itself before planting isn't necessary. Ocotillo go dormant and drop their leaves in winter, so no water is needed.
As for the tag, I think you are referring to the permit from the Arizona Department of Agriculture. If digging an ocotillo that is not on your property, you must first get a permit because ocotillos are protected plants. Wholesalers must also do this. The idea is to orient the plant in the same direction it was growing naturally, so "fresh" tissue doesn't get sunburned. Even desert natives can burn in our intense sun. I'm not sure that the tag provides the original orientation, but it it does, duplicate it in your landscape. Good luck with your ocotillo!
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