Shopping at OASIS, Altman Plants’ retail outlet in San Diego County

The first nursery I visited on my recent San Diego trip was OASIS Water Efficient Gardens in Escondido. Originally an independently owned nursery specializing in succulents, OASIS is now part of Altman Plants, one of the largest wholesale grower of ornamental plants in the U.S. Virtually every big box garden center carries Altman’s succulents, typically in 2- and 3-inch pots near the entrance—I’m sure you’ve seen the displays and you may even have bought a few of their plants yourselves. Altman is also responsible for monstrosities like spray-painted succulents and cacti with glued-on flowers, but that’s neither here nor there.

OASIS sells a large variety of Altman succulents at prices that are about 25% lower than at the big box stores. The retail area is bare bones: Small plants are on tables inside a shade house, and larger plants (1 gallon and up) sit on the ground outside. You’re free to wander around without anybody breathing down your neck; the employees I saw were friendly and went about their own business. There weren’t many customers when I was there at 8:30 a.m., but some knew exactly what they wanted, loading up their wagons with 2" and 3" plants. I’m pretty sure that quite a few plants purchased at OASIS end up being resold on Facebook, eBay or Etsy.

The photos below give you a good idea of what you can expect to find:

Larger plants for landscaping use are lined up on the ground

Opuntia ‘Snow’ looking spectacular when backlit. I was tempted, but I don’t want any more glochid-producing cacti in our garden.

Agave schidigera ‘Shira ito no Ohi’

Agave stricta

Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

2-gallon plants outside on the ground. The shade house on the right is stocked with small plants.

Soft-leaved succulents for landscaping use.

Peek into the shade house

Euphorbia obesa hybrid—judging from the price, a sought-after plant

Back row: Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus, a hardy cactus that produces spectacular flowers (check out my friend Justin’s rubrispinus)

Ferocactus pilosus (9 cm = 3½ inches)

Melocactus azureus

×Mangave ‘Barney’, Altman Plants’ first mangave introduction

×Mangave ‘Tequila Fire’, a new introduction

×Mangave ‘Tequila Fire’

Aloe castilloniae, $6 in 3½" pots. The price on this once rare species has come down dramatically in recent years. Five years ago, even a small plant would have cost upwards of $50.

Aloe ‘Blue castilloniae hybrid’, to me an even more attractive plant than the species

Aloe ‘Amethyst’, one many Kelly Griffin hybrids sold by Altman

Aloe ‘Sidewinder’

Aloe ‘Purple Haze’

Aloe ‘Swordfish’, much larger than the dwarf aloes above (up to 24" across) and hence suitable as a landscape plant

Hundreds upon hundreds of echeverias

Echeveria ‘Love’s Fire’, a richly colored Echeveria agavoides hybrid large enough to be put in the ground (I got a couple in 3½" pots from the clearance table)

Echeveria ‘Crimson Tide’

It may not look like much when dormant, but Cyphostemma juttae is a very cool member of the grape family (check out this photo from the Cal State Fullerton Arboretum). A few Northern California Home Depots carried these last year, but I missed out then. Not so now; one came home with me.

I assume this sign is meant to be taken seriously, but it felt so incongruous, it made me smile.

The most exciting thing I found was a small clearance area with plants so cheap, they were almost free: $0.75 for 2½" and $1.50 for 3½". I don’t know why these plants were on clearance; there was nothing visibly wrong with them.

Below is my haul: 11 clearance plants and 9 at full price, with full price still being lower than at the big box stores that typically carry Altman Plants.

My entire haul from Oasis

Clearance plants: Lithops (4 at $0.75) Faucaria tigrina ($0.75), Echinocactus grusonii ($0.75), Aloe castilloniae (2 at $1.50 each), Echeveria ‘Love’s Fire’ (2 at $1.50 each), and Echeveria ‘Crimson Tide’ ($1.50).

Clearance plants

Full-price plants: Echinocereus rigidissimus var. rubrispinus (3 at $4.25), Ferocactus pilosus ($4.25), Aloe ‘Swordfish’ ($6.00), Aloe ‘Blue castilloniae hybrid’ (2 at $6.00), Aloe distans ($8, 1 gallon), and Cyphostemma juttae ($30, 5 gallon).

In total, I got 20 plants and paid $85 (including $30 for Cyphostemma juttae). Without counting Cyphostemma juttae, the total was $55 for 19 plants, i.e. an average of $2.89 per plant. That’s quite a deal, I’d say!

Another good reason to stop at OASIS is to walk around their small demonstration garden. February is a great time to see the aloes in bloom:

Aloe ferox and Aloe marlothii, with rows of mandarin trees on the far side

I don’t know which aloe this is, but talk about flower power (update: probably Aloe 'Blue Elf)

Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

Aloidendron barberae (left), another Dracaena draco (right)

Aloidendron barberae (top), Aloe speciosa (bottom)

Monstrose Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus repandus) in front of a massive pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli)

Unidentified agave with bulbils on the inflorescence

Small red teeth on the leaf margins

Possibly Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’

Agave titanota

Agave titanota in front of Euphorbia resinifera

Agave titanota detail

Agave macroacantha

Agave parryi var. truncata

Agave parryi var. truncata

Agave victoriae-reginae

Not sure what this is, but it looks like an Agave macroacantha × victoriae-reginae hybrid like ‘Royal Spine’

With agaves, it’s all about the teeth

The teeth don’t have to be big to be formidable

If you ever find yourself in San Diego’s North County, OASIS Water Efficient Gardens is well worth a stop. They’re located at 10816 Reidy Canyon Trail in Escondido and are open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check out their website for more information.


© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. An hour and a half drive from here....hmmmm...

    Pretty agaves in the display area. the 'flower power' Aloe--'Blue Elf'?

    1. Yes, I was going to say Aloe 'Blue Elf' too! Gorgeous!

    2. 'Blue Elf' makes sense, considering they have about 10,000 of them for sale :-)

  2. That's a great haul! As I've no idea when I might get down that way, I guess I need to drop in at the local big box stores more often. Their new Mangave 'Tequila Fire' looks interesting, although 'Barney' is the only Mangave that flat-out died on me.

    1. I don't go to big box stores all that often, but I always check to see what's new in the garden center.

      I'm surprised to hear Mangave 'Barney' died in your garden. I've heard the same from a local friend, but our conditions are a bit harsher here.

  3. Feels so satisfying to get so many great plants at such a deal. I hemmed and hawed over a E. obesa last year (very difficult to find up here) and finally caved and purchased it for a $100 (a treat with some birthday money). Feel like the effort of procuring a phyto certificate and a road trip would be a worthwhile endeavour. E. Love Fire is gorgeous. Will look out for that one.

    1. I almost got one of those Euphorbia obesa hybrids, but this spring I'm trying to only buy plants that can go in the ground.

  4. Good thing I don't live in Southern California. I wouldn't be able to stop myself! I want them all.

  5. With prices lower than big box stores, there's room for a secondary online market to flourish, for anyone without access to such plants.
    Who doesn't love the clearance rack? Good haul. I'm particularly interested to see Cyphostemma juttae establishing itself in your garden.

    1. Agreed. Many people don't have the same kind of access to plants. There's a lot of demand out there.

      There's a huge Cyphostemma juttae in the ground on the UC Davis campus so I know it can thrive here.

  6. Looks like a great place to shop, with quality plants. Next time I'm out that way, maybe...

    1. Most plants are small enough to find in a suitcase or even a carry-on.

  7. Oh, I hope those bargain Aloe castilloniae make their way up here!

  8. Nice haul! I continue to be amazed by the variation in mangave colours and forms. Have you ever tried your hand at hybridising the specimens in your garden? That would be an interesting experiment…

    1. I haven't tried to make any crosses myself, but a friend of mine recently crossed Mangave 'Silver Fox' with Agave parrasana. Can't to see what the seedlings turn into...

  9. I've been wanting to do a trip to WaterWise (I'm in Livermore) - the prices ! My daughter got a chance to visit with Casper & Daryl (Oakland) and tour the garden yesterday. She sent me a link to your write-up. I am thrilled to find your blog. :)

    1. Welcome! I'm so glad you found Succulents and More!!

      And the next time you're in the SD area, do stop at Oasis and Waterwise!


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