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CEPHALOCEREUS senilis

Image of Cephalocereus senilis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Cactaceae

Botanical Name

CEPHALOCEREUS senilis

Plant Common Name

Old Man Cactus

General Description

Old man cactus is a slender, columnar succulent native to the rocky regions of central Mexico. It is densely covered with long, bristly, grayish white hairs that resemble those on the head of an elderly gentleman. It slowly grows to very tall heights in the wild but remains much shorter in cultivation. Underneath the hairs are sharp, yellow spines. In mid-spring to summer it produces large, pink, night-blooming flowers with a pleasing fragrance. These are pollinated by moths and bats and followed by pinkish red fruits.

Old man cactus is a xeric plant that is sensitive to frost. If grown outdoors, ensure it receives full sun and plant it in fast-draining, sandy soil. Do not over water it, especially in fall, winter and spring. This is an ideal plant for indoor culture if one can provide it with bright sun. It is most stunning as a southwestern landscape plant where it can reach its largest, most impressive size.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    11 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Cactus or Succulent

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    15'-40' / 4.6m - 12.2m (20)

  • Width

    1'-6' / 0.3m - 1.8m (2)

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Mexico

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Very Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Narrow Upright/Fastigiate

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Green, Pink

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    White

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    White

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    White

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    White

  • Bark Color

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Houseplant, Rock Garden / Wall

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No