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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ocotillo Watering Should be Infrequent in Desert Landscapes

Q. I have trouble with my Ocotillo.  They get beautiful green leaves that last about two to three weeks and then turn brown and fall off.  They are on my watering system.  Are they getting too much water?

It is common for ocotillo to lose its leaves in the winter months like this one. But it should put on some new growth and new leaves in the spring.
A. Ocotillo is a desert plant so it has special characteristics that allow it to survive when water is not available.
            The first response ocotillo displays to a lack of water is to drop its leaves. Another reason it may drop its leaves is from the soil around its roots staying too wet. That makes diagnosis of leaf drop difficult.
Ocotillo does not require alot of care in Las Vegas like Cathy and Bill's ocotillo. Water and fertilize infrequently.
            If ocotillo is put on a “normal” irrigation schedule used for most home landscape plants, it would most likely receive water too often. It would, ideally, be irrigated with agave and yucca in a landscape, not photinia and star jasmine for instance.
            It can tolerate frequent watering ONLY if water drains from the soil quickly. If water in the soil drains easily then it might be able to handle the same irrigation frequency as photinia and star jasmine even though it would not be ideal for it.
            It can probably handle an irrigation frequency of about once every two to three weeks in the summer but not more often than once a week.
            In winter changed it to once every 4 to 6 weeks. When it with enough water to wet the soil at its base to a depth of about 18 inches. Three or four emitters spaced about 18 inches from an established plant would be adequate in most soils.
            If you choose to water with a hose, filling a basin around the plant would make it easier to water. Watch for leaf discoloration or leaf drop to signal a time to rewater. Eventually this will help you anticipate a watering schedule for the plant.

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