Plant of the Month – December


Fouquieria splendens


  • Plant Form: Deciduous succulent shrub
  • Water Use: Very low, low
  • Mature Size: 8-20 ft. tall x 5-10 ft. wide
  • Exposure: Full sun, reflected sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March – May),
    Summer (June – Aug)
  • Native to: Southern California, southwest US, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 0-10°F

Do you need a striking accent plant for your yard, or a living sculptural shape to light up at night against a wall for interesting shadows? Ocotillo is waiting for your discovery. This extremely water-wise, drought-tolerant California native plant produces orange-red flowers that hummingbirds and orioles can’t resist…and that will make your yard pop with vibrant color from spring to summer.

Ocotillo is an iconic symbol of the southwest that forms a vase-shaped shrub with up to 100 wand-like, thorny stems that radiate from the crown. Small, oval, fleshy leaves appear after rain, persisting for weeks or even months, then fall off during drought. Bright orange-red, tubular flowers form on the tips of each cane that attract hummingbirds and orioles in late spring and early summer. While bare-root plants are available from nurseries, potted plants are more reliable (always check for legal tags and permits). Water newly-planted ocotillos frequently by lightly spraying the canes from top to bottom during summer months. No added water is needed once established, but leaves can be retained by watering twice a month over the summer. Ocotillo is stunning as an accent, especially when lit up in front of a wall, or for interesting vertical structure as a specimen, in beds and borders, hummingbird and bird gardens, or as an impenetrable hedge.

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for December