Thursday, June 18, 2009

Old Man Cactus

Could there be a cooler cactus than the Cephalocereus senilis?

Okay, maybe there can be. Let me put it another way. Isn’t this one of the coolest members of the cactus group? It sure is.

Here’s how to care for one indoors:

Cephalocereus senilis – known as Old Man Cactus - is one of the most popular and identifiable members of the cactus group. Aside from its charm, the fine hair that covers the entire fleshy, columnar body and hides the sharp spines serves an important purpose; it protects against the harsh desert sun, which is common to this plant’s native home.

Grow in a well-draining, highly-porous soil mix to prevent rot. During the active growing season, water thoroughly and then do not water again until the soil is completely dry. During the dormant period – late fall to early spring – keep almost completely dry; water enough to keep the plant from shriveling. Select the sunniest spot available, especially during the winter when the quality and quantity of light is reduced considerably by shorter, cloudier days. Ample sunshine keeps this unique cactus healthy and encourages hair growth.

Humidity is not critical; a drier environment is preferred. Provide warm temperatures (18°C - 29°C / 65°F - 85°F) during active growth and cooler ones (13°C - 16°C / 55°F - 60°F) during dormancy. Do not expose to temperatures below 10°C (50°F) for extended periods. Cephalocereus senilis is one of the best performers in hydroculture. Transplant with great care to avoid being stabbed by the sharp spines. Conversion is rapid with no ill effects. Make sure the water level is always kept below the roots; let it dry completely before adding more water.


  1. Oh man that is the coolest thing ever! I'm actually learning quite a bit on your blog. But many other cacti don't have sun protection, and they seem to work just fine. I wonder how this one evolved...

  2. Yup, this plant is amazing. I almost keeled over when my brother told me that he tossed out his 'Old Man Cactus' that had grown to about 2 feet. These plants grow so slowly that getting that tall from the tiny size he got it was a miracle.

    I couldn't believe he did that. I said to him "For crying out loud, why didn't you just give it to me!??"

    1. I have an old man cacti, the oldest one half is 25 yrs old and the other 12 I have are fast growers, love them, even have pups growing on top of three cscti

  3. Yep that's a crime. He owes you. :)

  4. That is indeed a very cool cactus. It kind of reminds me of the old wizard Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Or maybe Albert Einstein. :-)

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your kind comment. I love your blog, too. I am a rather inexperienced but enthusiastic outdoor gardener, but know nothing about indoor plants. So I find your information fascinating. I look forward to seeing the progress of the gardens at your new house.

  5. He sure does Tatiana; mostly because I'd given it to him as a gift years ago!


    Beth, thank you! I enjoy your blog so much. Your stories are beautiful, and so is your family! I'll be popping in now and then to read more. Hope to see you here too!