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Interesting Facts

Fouquieria are native to northern Mexico and the bordering US states of Arizona, southern California, New Mexico, and parts of southwestern Texas, favoring low, arid hillsides, and although they are still succulents, they are not true cacti.

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Ocotillo   (Fouquieria splendens)

Coach Whip
Vine Cactus

Fouquieria splendens is native to Colorado and Sonoran deserts east to Texas and south into Mexico. It bears fleshy, roundish leaves with attractive foot-long clusters of flowers, which range in color from birght to deep red orange.  For most of the year this plant looks like a dead bunch of upright sticks.  Upon closer observation these branches are slightly green and the plant is just readying itself for rainfall.  Upon which time the plant becomes lush and full. The flowers only form once the plant has received this rainfall.  So the bloom can happen at any time between springtime and the fall months.

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Plant Types: Perennial, Shrub
Light: Full Sun
Height: 10 feet to 20 feet
Width: 10 feet to 15 feet
Zones: 14a to 15b
Bloom Color: Red
Leaf Color: Green
Special Features: Edible, North American native
Shape: Irregular or sprawling, Upright or erect
Fertilizer: Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, Water Soluble Cactus Food
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Plant Care

In late spring or summer, grow from seeds or from shoot cuttings that can be simply stuck into the ground. It may take two years for a before a transplanted ocotillo starts growing again.

Plant Growth:

Ocotillos are native to desert climates so they do well with full sun. Thrives with intense summer heat and low humidity. They are frost tender when young. As ocotillo may go dormant for years at a time, you may need to check its status by bending a thorn until the skin breaks. If it is green and moist, then the stem the thorn came from is alive.


Ocotillos only bloom right after an irrigation event, but they may not bloom at all for up to two years.

Soil and Irrigation:

Requires excellent drainage. During periods of little water, Ocotillos will drop their leaves to prevent excess water loss. Right after an irrigation event occurs, leaves and flowers will resprout. As long as the plant is getting water on an infrequent but regular schedule, it will keep its leaves. Overwatering is a bigger risk than underwatering, as it can cause the roots to rot and the plant to blow over in strong wind.


Fertilizer is unneeded if grown in its native habitat.


Pruning destroys the tips and hinders flowering as well as promoting unattractive, tangled growth.


Scale insects. Another problem is rust.