I’ll bet you didn’t know you knew at least one word of O’odham! The word “jojoba” comes to us directly from the O’odham name for that plant. The spelling comes to us through Spanish, and is pronounced “ho-ho-ba.”
There are a number of common names for jojoba, including goat nut, deer nut, pignut, wild hazel, quinine nut, coffeeberry, and gray box bush. Although there are references to jojoba as nuts, they are, botanically speaking, a seed. The seeds are economically valuable (as discussed in my book Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today.)
Why should you consider growing jojoba? Jojoba is an attractive silver-gray bush, native to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of Arizona, Southern California, and Mexico. Places that get as little as five inches of rain per year.
Along with requiring very little water, jojoba works well in the landscape where you want a screen. It has unusually dense foliage for a desert shrub. It looks good in mass plantings, and can be trimmed into a hedge form, although it will need extra water if trimmed often. While it can be trimmed, jojoba is a wonderful no-maintenance plant. You can plant it and forget about it as long as it gets five inches of rain a year.
Planting and Care.
While jojoba can survive on five inches of rain a year, it will thrive and reach its mature size more quickly with extra water.
Jojoba can tolerate reflected light, so it does well in hot south and west situations, and by pools. That said, it also grows just fine in the shady filtered light under mesquite trees.
Jojoba will require soil with good drainage (not clay), but does fine in rocky soils.
Jojoba plants are cold-hardy to around 15oF.
There can be no doubt that water use is an issue in the Southwest. Yet we all want a nice landscape around our homes. Planting native plants that are used to living on marginal rainfall is one good option. Yes there are some puny, scraggly, un-appealing native plants, but there are also some truly lovely ones to select from, like jojoba.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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