Cephalocereus Senilis: How to Grow & Care for old Man Cactus

Cephalocereus Senilis - White Persian Cat Cactus

Cephalocereus Senilis Care Guide: How to Grow and Thrive with the Old Man Cactus

Cephalocereus senilis is a plant with many names, including Old Man Cactus, Old Man of Mexico, Bunny Cactus, or White Persian Cat Cactus. It’s a succulent plant that belongs to the Cephalocereus Genus. As a species of cactus, it falls in the Cactaceae family.

Cephalocereus senilis is characteristically tall with clusters of stems whose growth may be up to 50 feet (15m) tall. It also has a diameter of about 18 inches (45cm). Usually, the stems are unbranched and have about 12-30 ribs. In addition, it has 1-5 central spines up to 2 inches (5cm) long and 20-30 hair-like laterals.

Shaggy coat, long and silvery-white hairs cover young cactus which one can compare with the unkempt hair of an older man. The covering begins to fall off the stem as the young plant matures. Cephalocereus senilis flowers are in different colors, including yellow, red, or white. Nonetheless, the flowers may not bloom until the plant is one to two decades old. However, Cephalocereus senilis thrives in growth, particularly in Mediterranean climates.

Cultivation and History.

Cephalocereus senilis is native to Guanajuato and Hidalgo in Eastern Mexico. It’s a well-known cactus in cultivation which many people love because of its woolly appearance. For the Cephalocereus senilis to survive and thrive, cultivators must stick to particular requirements.

Old Man of Mexico

It needs a well-draining soil mix and enough sunlight for vigorous growth of the hair. By providing Cephalocereus senilis with excellent outdoor conditions, you’ll make it grow large and increase its chances of flowering. If not possible, then you can have it indoors to control its environment correctly.

Propagation of Cephalocereus Senilis.

The methods to propagate Cephalocereus senilis are not farfetched. But you should know that its growth may be slow. Nonetheless, you should see its slow growth as an advantage. Therefore, repotting the plant every year is not necessary. You can propagate the succulents through three primary methods. These include removing offsets, stem cuttings, and growing from seeds.

During propagation, try to use proper handling techniques even though Cephalocereus senilis may appear to have soft and fuzzy hairs. Also, note that the central spines of the plant can be sharp. So, the process may require the use of protective gear and caution when necessary.

Removing Offsets.

Removing offsets is the easiest way to propagate Cephalocereus senilis. This method is just about separating individual cacti gently since the cacti grow naturally in clumps.


To start the process, uproot one or more offsets gently from the clump. For this, you can use both hands if you have your protective clothing on. You can also use a sharp and clean knife to cut the roots. After separating the offsets, please leave them in the open air for some days to dry out.

Note: cutting and breaking them away from the mother plant can expose the open wounds to fungi or bacteria.

Nevertheless, the drying process will harden the open wounds to prevent infection and increase the plant’s chance of survival. You can proceed to plant the offsets safely in new containers once you notice that the cuts have been calloused. After the transplantation process, you can then start caring for the offsets.

Cephalocereus Senilis Cutting it Stems.

Another method available to propagate Cephalocereus senilis is stem cuttings. To apply this method, you will need a sharp, clean knife or shears or pair of scissors.

Note: Ensure the cut is clean so as not unnecessarily damage the mother plant or the cutting.

It would be best if you allowed the cutting to be callous for the offsets before planting them safely into well-draining soil. To get an effective result, you may want to try an optional step: Dip the cuttings in rooting hormone (a powdery substance) for faster rooting.

Growing Cephalocereus Senilis from Seeds.

Growing from seed is a propagation method for patient gardeners. However, if you’re impatient, you should try other methods.

Bunny Cactus

It may take a while before you begin to get a reasonably sized cactus because the cacti are slow growers. However, if you’re a daring cactus lover, you may want to engage yourself in a fun and exciting experiment with this method.


For this method, you need to get some seeds. You can get it either from the cacti that have blossomed or purchase some online from a cactus and succulent seed vendor. Then sow the Cephalocereus senilis seeds in moist and well-draining soil.

Note: The soil needs to be slightly moist but not overly wet during germination. Excess moisture can result in seed putrefaction for mature plants.

Then the moment you see tiny seedlings on the surface of the soil, begin to care for them.

How to Grow Cephalocereus Senilis.

Knowing the right way to grow Cephalocereus senilis is an important step to have healthy plants. Below are the critical things you need to observe when growing Cephalocereus senilis:

Temperature and Sunlight

Since Cephalocereus senilis grows at a languid pace, position it near a window facing the west or south to get enough sunlight. The perfect temperature to make Cephalocereus senilis thrive indoors is 65-85°F (18-29°C). Ensure you move the plant to a space with  61°F (16°C) but less than 41°F (5°C) temperature in winter. You need to provide your Cephalocereus senilis with not less than 6 hours of sunlight daily so that it can produce more long and silky white hair.

Note: As the sunlight becomes more intense, the hair will become thicker; this protects the plant from the sun’s heat.

Watering of Cephalocereus Senilis.

You need to provide the Cephalocereus senilis with more water, and you can adopt the soak and dry method (watering when the soil is dry to the touch). Water the plant once you notice that the soil’s top centimeter (0.4 inches) is dry.

The plant won’t need frequent watering in winter because the soil stays moist longer when the temperature is low.

Potting Old Man Cactus.

You can grow Cephalocereus senilis in a pot (3-inches or 8cm) until it grows up to 4-inches or 10cm tall.

Cephalocereus Senilis

Note: Try checking the height of the plant every spring to know the state of the roots in the pot. If the roots are filling out the container, ensure you transplant it to a new larger pot.

An unglazed pot is excellent for growing Cephalocereus senilis because it is more porous and gives room for better air circulation, which is great for the roots and the plant as a whole.

Soil type for Cephalocereus Senilis.

The ideal soil to grow Cephalocereus senilis indoors is cactus soil, or a combination of perlite, topsoil, and pumice.

Note: The soil variety must be fast draining.

To remove excess moisture properly from the soil, you can add lime chips. Then, the moment you notice the succulent is growing, you can stir in slow-release fertilizer into the ground.

Note: Avoid applying fertilizer on the hairs of the plant.

Growing Tips.

The following tips will be helpful when growing Cephalocereus senilis:

  • Ensure you provide Cephalocereus senilis with hot, dry climates and bright sunlight. You can grow it indoors near the window to get temperatures less than 65°F (18°C). However, please place it in an area with a temperature of 65°F (18°C) in the winter for the best growth.
  • You will need to use an unglazed pot to grow Cephalocereus senilis to evaporate any excess moisture.
  • Ensure you use a cactus mix or combine sand, topsoil, and perlite for indoor growing.
  • Make sure you water it regularly and thoroughly. Before watering, you need to be sure that the soil is parched. Then, depending on the season, you can water it every 2-3 weeks or less in winter.

Old Man Cactus: Pruning and Maintenance.

Cephalocereus senilis does not need pruning because it grows nicely in one straight line. What the plant may need is an occasional combing brushing.

The way you maintain and care for Cephalocereus senilis is unique compared to other cactus types. However, it is a plant that needs special attention.

It doesn’t require too much maintenance or work to stay healthy. All you need to do is to observe the things that can make it stay healthy.

To do this, you can start by choosing the appropriate specific soil and conducive environmental conditions for the plant. Then, provide it with proper temperature, watering, and potting.

Cultivars to Select.

Of all the species of Cephalocereus, Cephalocereus senilis is popular in cultivation; This is because of its very distinct long white hair. Although other species have wool or hair, they are almost unknown or not nearly as prominent as Cephalocereus senilis.

Currently, they recognize six species in this genus, and they all grow in Southern Mexico.

These six varieties of Cephalocereus include Cephalocereus senilis, Cephalocereus apicicephalium, Cephalocereus columna-trajani, Cephalocereus glaucochrous, Cephalocereus nizandensis, and Cephalocereus totolapensis.

Managing Pests and Diseases.

While growing Cephalocereus senilis, you may encounter some pests and diseases. These may affect the health of your plant and may cause its death.

The leading cause of problems for Cephalocereus senilis is over-watering. When roots are wet, it usually leads to rot, which attracts pests. In this situation, mildew can be a severe problem because of the long and soft hair of the plant. The moment mildew sets in; it will only take a short time before it spreads, eventually killing the plant.

If you don’t check the plant occasionally, there is a tendency that an outbreak of cactus mealybugs or a spider mite infestation may occur. These pests may hide in the cactus hair and make it seem healthy. For instance, spider mites and mealybugs can damage the plant by sucking out the juice. The difference between the two is that one can easily spot the root mealybugs. They damage the plant by sucking the roots because that’s where they live.

So, you must do a careful check to detect infestations as early as possible. Check out tips below on the way you can deal with Cephalocereus pests.

How to Deal with Cephalocereus Pests.

To avoid attracting pests to your plant, try to water it correctly and ensure that it dries out properly after a shampoo.

Ensure you take care of the plant; healthy plants are less prone to pests and disease. So, it would be best if you provide enough sunlight and grow them in well-draining soil.

Immediate action is necessary the moment after checking carefully and noticing Cephalocereus pests.

Use a stream of water to wash off spider mites and mealybugs. If the mealybugs are small, you can use a cotton swab and alcohol. If you have a diluted isopropyl alcohol situation, you can use insecticidal soaps and sprays.

Note: Following the instructions carefully on the product label is very important. You can use sticky traps for fungus gnats. Ensure you keep the newly grown plants separate if the mother plant is unhealthy.

Best Uses of Cephalocereus Senilis.

In Southern Mexico, they use the hair of the Cephalocereus senilis plant to make wool-like sweaters. Besides, the natural coloring and fluffiness of the hair in commercial sweater production is a cheap alternative to cotton.

Cephalocereus Senilis - White Persian Cat Cactus

Cephalocereus senilis is great for aesthetic purposes. You can put them in a pot and strategically position them for decoration in your home. With this same plant, you can also offer your environment stunning beauty when placed outdoors.

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