Cephalocereus senilis

Old man cactus

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Key information

Plant type

Cactus or succulent

Flower colour





Half hardy

Skill level


photo by bbc.co.uk/gardening

Plant details

One of Anne Swithinbank's favourite cacti, Cephalocereus senilis gets the common name of old man cactus from the bristly white hairs that cover it. It is found growing wild in rocky areas in Central Mexico and so enjoys good drainage. Plant in cactus compost with added grit and grow in a well-lit spot. Water moderately during the growing season and give a low-nitrogen liquid feed once a month. During the winter, keep completely dry and move to a cooler spot, away from radiators which may cause it to carry on growing when it should be resting. Its pink flowers are produced in summer, although you may not notice them as they only appear at night.

Family: Cactaceae

Genus: Cephalocereus

Species: senilis

Plant type: Cactus or succulent

Flower colour: Pink

Feature: Flowers

Sun exposure: Full sun

Soil: Well-drained/light, Dry, Sandy

Hardiness: Half hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 1200cm

Spread: 200cm

Time to plant seeds: March to April

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