Ocotillo Plant Propagation: How To Grow Ocotillo From Seed?
How To Propagate Ocotillo Plants (From Seeds)
The first thing you need to know is that it takes time to germinate ocotillo plants from seed. You will have to wait until they are at least 6 months old before you can try to start them. However, once you have the seedlings, you can keep them alive by feeding them water regularly. They will not die immediately but their growth rate slows down considerably.
If you want to get rid of your seedling quickly then just cut off its roots and throw it away or burn it.
There are many ways to propagate ocotillo plants from seed. Some methods require a little bit more effort than others so choose one that suits your needs best!
Plant propagation using cuttings
Cuttings are the easiest way to propagate ocotillo plants. Cuttings can be propagated through either vegetative or flowering stages. For example, if you want to propagate your ocotillo plants into seeds then you must take cuttings during the vegetative stage. When the plant starts growing leaves and flowers, you can remove some of these leaves and make a cutting that contains all of the necessary parts needed for propagation.
Another good time to cut stems is right after the plant has flowered. Cut down some of the dead flowers and leave it for about a week so it can dry out. Take a cutting (4-inch long) and remove all of its leaves. Then cover the ocotillo cutting with a damp cloth or newspaper and wait 2 weeks before planting it in soil.
Finally, you can take cuttings of your ocotillo plants during the spring or summer months. The best part is that you don’t even need to wait for the plant to flower in order to start taking cuttings. For every 10-inch tall adult plant that you have, cut off 20% of it. Each cutting should be about 6-inch long and 0.5-inch in diameter.
Choose a cutting that has no flowers or very small ones. The bottom of the stem should not be discolored or mushy. Place the cuttings in a bucket of water and let them soak for about 2 hours before you plant them.
Take each cutting and dip its base in a rooting hormone before placing it into a pot filled with perlite and vermiculite (in equal parts). Put the pots in a location that receives full sun or filtered sunshine. Water them every day to keep the soil moist.
Once your ocotillo cuttings start showing new growth, you can transfer them into bigger pots or plant them in your garden. Make sure you harden them off by placing them outdoors during the day and bringing them back inside at night for a week before planting them permanently outside.
Ocotillo from seed
If you want to grow ocotillo plants from seeds, then you need to gather the seeds from a mature flowering ocotillo plant. Make sure that it is not flowering at the time or it won’t have any more seeds left to produce.
Take a paper bag and fill it about half-way with sand. Then, wet the sand until it’s as damp as a wet sponge. Now take your ocotillo flowers and rub them over the paper bag to collect all of the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to gently shake the stem side-to-side over the bag.
Once you have collected all of the seeds, dump them into a strainer and rinse them under cool water. Let them dry out for 1 day before planting them (or more if you want). Ocotillo seeds need to be exposed to temperatures between 90°F and 100°F in order to germinate. You can either place the container of seeds indoors (on a windowsill) or place it outdoors (in the sun).
Once you see the seeds beginning to sprout (usually 2-6 weeks after planting them), you can plant them in your garden or a pot (using the methods discussed above).
Transplanting your ocotillo
When you choose to transplant your ocotillo plant will depend on how you initially planted it. If you planted it from a seed, then you can transplant it as soon as the plant has at least two sets of leaves. Make sure you harden off the plant first (for at least a week) before placing it outdoors permanently.
If you initially planted the ocotillo from a cutting, then you can wait until it is at least 6-inch tall before transplanting it into a bigger pot or in your garden. Make sure that you harden it off as well.
Finally, if you initially planted the ocotillo from a flower spike (or head), then you need to wait until after it has set seed. The ocotillo’s seeds are quite small and require light to germinate. You can either plant the seeds right away or store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant them.
The ocotillo is also known as the “pride of the southwest”.
The ocotillo gets its name from the Apache Indians who occupied the areas near the Sonora Desert where it grows naturally. It’s known as “okatti” among the Tohono O’odham people of Arizona.
The bulging stem of the ocotillo is actually a thick, woody root called a “taproot”. Most plants have a smaller, weaker root system called “fibrous roots”, but the ocotillo’s fibrous roots do not grow as long as its taproot, which can reach up to 15 feet in length and allows it to extract water from deep underground.
The ocotillo is a very wind resistant plant and can even grow in salty, barren grounds where most other plants cannot, making it an ideal plant to stabilize desert dunes.
In 1973, a massive ocotillo plant was accidentally imported to Australia when some of its seeds blew away from the US and landed there on the breeze. It has since spread all over the Australian Outback where it’s regarded as an invasive species that out-competes native plants. It can also tolerate salt, so it is able to spread into salty areas that most plants cannot.
Ocotillos are also known as “creepers” because their trunks are often so thin, they can actually crawl across the ground.
The ocotillo gets much of its nutrients from a fungus that grows on its roots called “mycorrhiza”, which increases the plant’s ability to take in water and nutrients.
Ocotillo leaves contain a toxic substance, but it is so mild that it is only dangerous to animals that literally eat the plant (such as goats). It is also distasteful enough to humans that it can be used to make poison darts.
The Spanish word “faro” means “lighthouse” and is the origin of the word “farolito”, which is what some people call ocotillos.
Ocotillo flowers are popular with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
The flower spikes last about a month and then collapse and turn brown within 10 days.
Ocotillo seeds remain viable for up to a year before sprouting.
All parts of the ocotillo are toxic to humans.
Protect your ocotillo plant by digging a wide moat around it and putting chicken wire or screen on the bottom to prevent gophers from reaching it.
Ocotillo branches make great firewood due to their high oil content.
Ocotillo seeds can also be roasted and eaten, but you need to leech the poison out first (the same substance that makes them bad for animals).
Ocotillo branches can be used to make baskets.
Ocotillo wood is so brittle that it cannot be used for firewood or for making tools. Native Americans used ocotillo joints as flutes and their thinness made them a good material for flute stems.
Ocotillo branches make great material for making bird cages. It is so brittle that you can just bend it into whatever shape you want and it will hold the shape.
Ocotillo leaves can also be used to make baskets. The fibers have to be separated from the leaf first, but then the leaf can be soaked in water to separate the fibers which can then be braided to make a sturdy basket that can hold liquid (such as a water bucket).
If you want to try roasting the seeds yourself, be sure to get a fully grown ocotillo plant because the leaves are poisonous too.
The sap of an ocotillo plant can be used as a natural soap.
The mescal bean (the seed of the species Prosopis juliflora) is poisonous. It is very similar in appearance to the ocotillo seed, but can be spotted by its longer seed holder. Mescal beans will also grow into a small tree if left untreated. This tree produces hard, dense wood that is resistant to dryness and rot and is sometimes used for making boxes and utensils.
Mesquite trees can grow quite tall (20-40 feet) and are native to North America.
The taste of mesquite flour is like a mixture of sugar and salt (in other words, it tastes sweet and salty).
Mesquite pods can be eaten either green (young) or ripe (the inside has turned dark brown/black). The ripe ones are too hard to eat if eaten raw, but can be soaked in water for a day to soften them up.
Sources & references used in this article:
Pollinator availability as a determinant of flowering time in ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) by NM Waser – Oecologia, 1979 – Springer
Leaf production can be decoupled from root activity in the desert shrub ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens Engelm.) by KT Killingbeck – American Midland Naturalist, 1990 – JSTOR
Dry Mass Partitioning and Gas Exchange for Young Ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) in the Sonoran Desert by EG Bobich, TE Huxman – International journal of plant …, 2009 – journals.uchicago.edu
Cultivation of Ocotillo from Seeds to Flowers: A Ten Year Experience in Northern Italy by E Ceotto – 2017 – repository.arizona.edu
Cactus, Agave, Yucca and Ocotillo by J Kelly, R Grumbles – 2009 – repository.arizona.edu
Vegetative and floral growth of Fouquieria splendens by RA Darrow – Ecology, 1943 – JSTOR
Fouquieria splendens Engelm. ocotillo by JAR Ladyman – Wildland Shrubs of the United States and Its Territories …, 2004 – fs.usda.gov
Are growth rings accurate fingerprints of plant age in a stem-succulent, drought-deciduous shrub growing in the Chihuahuan Desert? by KT Killingbeck – Journal of Arid Environments, 2017 – Elsevier