Q. Ocotillos, the most beautiful plant in Nevada. I have tried twice to grow this and not even one sign of life in 5 years. Now I'm trying at a different home. I wonder where am I failing?
The soil is mostly poor in Henderson and sandy. I have lots of sun but I avoid western afternoon sun. I also have an area with partial shade. Is this a failure to properly fertilize? Watering? A local nursery indicates I'm doing it correctly but it is a tricky plant. (Now they tell me).
A. These ARE tricky plants and not easy to transplant if you are not familiar in dealing with desert plants and cacti. It is also possible to pick up dead plants from the nursery. When they have no growth on them it is very difficult to tell if they are living or not.
One method you can use is the thumbnail method. You can use your thumbnail and scrape a small layer of bark from the stem. It should be green under it and scrape away fairly easily. If it does not, or it is brown under it, then it very well could be dead.
If you want to know if the plant is at all alive, check in several places including near the base closest to where the soil would be and look for green as well. When planting it, make sure it is securely staked into the soil so the roots do not move.
Water around the base of the plant no more frequently than about once every two weeks during the summer. These plants are easily propagated or started as cuttings, stem pieces cut and planted directly into the soil. The trick is not to water so often the stem rots and dies.
I attached a pamphlet on how to establish ocotillo from the Tucson Cactus Society. I am not a big proponent of wetting the canes but the Tucson cactus society is.
Planting Ocotillo -