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How to Plant Ocotillo

The ideal time to plant an ocotillo in your desert landscape is from March through May. If you buy an ocotillo in Arizona, the desert plant is tagged with an Arizona native plant tag, verifying you legally acquired it. You must keep the tag on the ocotillo until you've planted it. The ocotillo typically comes from the supplier with its canes tied up, making it easier to handle and plant. To increase the chances of survival, the bare-rooted ocotillo should be planted immediately. If you can’t plant it immediately, water the canes and store the plant in the shade.

Choose a sunny location for the ocotillo, where it will not be subjected to excessive water from runoff or rain. It prefers sandy soil with good drainage.

Dig a hole that is the same diameter as the roots and deep enough so that when the plant is set in the hole, it will have the same dirt line as it did in its previous location. Typically, the dirt line is an inch or two beneath the section where the canes come together on an 8-foot ocotillo or 4 to 5 inches for an ocotillo that is 10 to 15 feet tall.

Trim any broken roots. Trim the damaged part of the root, but leave the rest intact.

Identify the south side of the ocotillo. The side of the plant that originally faced south must face south when planted in its new location. Typically, the wire tied around the ocotillo (holding the canes in place) is twisted on the ocotillo's south side.

Set the ocotillo in the hole with its south side facing south, and hold it so the dirt line is at ground level. Backfill the hole, then pack the hole using your shovel.

Remove the wire ties from the plant. The canes will spring out when released, and they are very sharp.

Water the roots, and sprinkle the canes of the ocotillo daily for the first month or two. If it is very hot, sprinkle twice a day. The ocotillo takes in most of its water through the canes.

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