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Old Man Cactus Cephalocereus senilis

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
sef-uh-low-SAIR-ee-us SEE-nil-is
Description

Old Man Cactus is a tall, columnar succulent in the cactus family with spines that form fine white hairs reminiscent of an old man.  It is native to Northeastern Mexico but becoming more challenging to find in its natural habitat, but widespread propagation and popularity in cultivation may reduce the demand on wild populations. Old Man Cactus has clusters of stems that may grow to16 to 50 feet tall. However, the most striking feature is the shaggy coat of long, white hairs, hence the common name old man cactus. The coat is particularly striking on the young cactus, but, as the plant ages, the stem loses its covering. The hairs are modified spines and serve to protect the plant from frost and sun. However, the hairs are only the radial spines of the cactus; beneath them are sharp yellow central spines. The flowers are red, yellow, or white, though the plant may not flower for 10 or 20 years.

Old Man Cactus is a popular houseplant, grown for its woolly appearance. It prefers a fertile, well-drained soil mix and bright sunlight, which encourages growth of the hair. Water the plants well and allow them to dry before watering again. During the growing season, fertilize it monthly with a balanced fertilizer. If kept well fed and watered throughout the warmest months, and acclimated to full sun, it can produce 7 inches of growth every year. If grown outside, place it in full sun; if inside provide bright light and some direct sun. During the winter, withhold water and fertilizer.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

Susceptible to fungal diseases if over watered. If kept damp through cold periods, they will suffer.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#houseplant#succulent#interiorscape#spines#cactus#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#houseplant#succulent#interiorscape#spines#cactus#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cephalocereus
    Species:
    senilis
    Family:
    Cactaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North Eastern Mexico
    Distribution:
    To Veracruz
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Houseplant
    Succulent
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Spines
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit usually are obovoid.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are nocturnal and may not appear until the cactus has reached 10 to 20 years old. solitary and grow one by one. Funnel shaped, including the ovary, 2 to 3 1/2 inches long, 3 inches in diameter, yellowish pink to rose-coloured.
  • Leaves:
    Hairs Present:
    No
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    Cylindrical, columnar, light to bright green, becoming grey, sometime branched from the base, top rounded. The individual stems are usually unbranched.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Houseplants
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen