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Build an Ocotillo Fence

Ocotillo Plant

Erect an ocotillo fence and your Southwestern Dream Home takes on a much more…Southwestern look! The ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is an interesting and rather unusual plant found in the Sonoran and the Chihuahuan deserts, extending into central Mexico and east to the central part of Texas. You’ll also find it as far north as the southern part of the Mojave Desert. To make a long story short, it grows in the Southwest.

It’s not actually a cactus, and appears most of the year to be a bunch of thorny sticks in a sort of a bouquet. While in its dormant state, it can often be mistaken for dead. But when the monsoons come, the ocotillo comes to life in an opulent display of green topped with red flowers. Then, when the rains dwindle, the leaves once more die and fall off returning the plant to its former state. Hummingbirds love them, stopping off during migration to sample the sweet nectar and offer some handy pollination activity as well.

The interesting part about ocotillo is its many uses. The roots and flowers have several medicinal uses, and the flowers can be used to make a type of beverage when soaked in cold water. And the branches can be snipped off and used to create house walls, ramada roofs, and of course the ocotillo fence.

Even though the cactus grow easily, just needing to be placed in the ground and given a little water, it’s best not to cut all the branches from the plant. They’re a protected species, so if you don’t have any in your yard you should try to find someone that has some you can make use of. Dormant Ocotillo Fence

Another option is to purchase the branches from a retailer such as the Old El Paso Adobe Company. Old El Paso Adobe Company sells living ocotillo fence panels. Always fresh, ocotillo makes a most beautiful and natural living, blooming fencing. But an adventurous soul can just as easily wire their own ocotillo fence with a little effort and determination.

If you decide to create your own ocotillo fence, just choose your ocotillo, and snip off some of the stems. Choose mature stems, and cut each to measure approximately 6 feet in length (or whatever height you want your fence to be.)

Tree pruning clippers are a good choice for cutting the stems from the plant. Weave the stems together with galvanized wire to hold them together, but leave space between to allow growth. It’s best if you create sections about 5 feet long so you can roll them up and toss them in the back of the truck. Make certain you don’t cut too many of the stems from any one plant. You don’t want to kill the plant! If you cut less than half of the stems, the damage will be minimal.

So now you have as many panels as you need to create your fence. Dig a trench about 6 inches deep and install posts to hold up the panels. Place steel crossbars between the posts for extra stability. Then lash the panels to the crossbars, placing the ends into the trench you dug. Cover the bottom of the stems with a mixture of soil and sand, and water about once a week. It’s a good idea to spray the fence with water instead of simply adding it to the base of the stems. After a while the fence will take root and you’ll be rewarded with your own living fence!

The fence will need to be pruned about once a year, during the dormant season to keep it even and orderly looking. Or if you want, you can just leave it and let it grow wild and natural.

Then, you can sit back and enjoy your handiwork and revel in the fact that your Southwestern Dream Home is now much more…well, Southwestern.

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