Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) has to be one of the slowest growing shrubs in my garden. I had to look back on earlier photos to see if it had grown at all, since I can’t see any increase in size in the two years since I planted it. Jojoba is a very slow grower at first, but once settled it will grow at a moderate rate to six to eight feet high and wide.
This nondescript shrub is good as a background plant for cacti and succulents. Its blue-green, leathery foliage contrasts nicely with desert wildflowers and spiky Agaves. Another common landscape use is as a hedge or screen. When used this way, minor pruning is usually necessary.
Although the Jojoba shrub is unremarkable in appearance, some things about it make it a fascinating plant:
- It is dioecious. The female flowers (small and green) are on one plant, and male flowers (larger and yellow and in clusters) on another. Both must be in proximity for pollination to occur. Pollination is by wind or insect.
- The leaves have a waxy coating to reduce water loss.
- The leaves can angle in such a way as to keep sunlight at a minimum during the hottest part of the day.
- The seeds produce a liquid wax that became the alternative to Sperm Whale oil when the whales became a protected species in 1969.
- Jojoba is commercially grown in the U.S. and Mexico, as well as Israel, Argentina and Australia.
- The oil, now used in cosmetics, shows promise for use in cooking and in industry.