Does the Old Man Cactus Ever Bloom? ( You Must have Patient)

Does the Old Man Cactus Ever Bloom?

The Old Man Cactus is slow growing and takes around 15 years to bloom. The flowers are red, yellow, or white, though the plant may not flower for 10 or 20 years. Pollination occurs via a moth in the family Geometridae. Seeds can be collected from the fruit and sown in a well-draining soil mix.

The old man’s head cactus ( Cephalocereus senilis ) is a popular succulent in the Cactaceae family. It is quite easy to identify: a columnar cactus completely covered in long white hairs. 

Obviously, this shaggy white blanket suggests an old man’s white hair. Besides, even the botanical name says so. Cephalo means head ( cereus  refers to a candle, a reference to its columnar shape) and  senilis means old.

The woolly cover of this cactus almost seems like an invitation to give it a little hug, but that would be a mistake. Under the down there are sharp spines pointing outward. Ouch!

How to take care of an “old man’s head” cactus so that it lasts forever

There are some cacti species that truly win our hearts, like the Cephalocereus senilis. Known more often as “old man’s head” because to the long white filaments that coat its spines, which resemble gray hair.

Care of the old cactus

It is important that when acquiring it, it has the seal that it does not harm the environment, that is, it comes from a greenhouse. 

Step 1

This pale green plant with a columnar stem grows to a height of 15 to 40 centimeters, and its hairs can reach a length of 30 centimeters.
A room with lots of light is the ideal location for it. This cactus like the sun, and the more sunlight it receives, the bigger it becomes and the more spines it has.

Step 2

Ideally, the land should be prepared on “mulch.” It is a layer of organic material that protects the plant’s roots and is comprised of bark or coconut waste. It has a wide variety of nutrients and preserves moisture.

Step 3

Substrate for cacti. It is very easy to do, you only need to mix a part of pumice stone or volcanic rock and another part of peat moss or fir bark. 

Step 4

The best time to water is once every week, but if the soil is already dry, you can wait until it is, then put the pot in its place after letting it soak in a bucket of water for a few minutes.

Step 5

If your cactus’ hairs look dirty or brown, clean with a soapy water solution. Be careful, cover the base, where the earth is, with plastic to prevent the liquid from penetrating. 

Put these tips into practice and share with us how it went with your old cactus!

What is an old man cactus?

Old man cactus is a common name for the species Cephalocereus senilis, a type of cactus native to eastern Mexico. 

The striking name refers to the white, fluffy hairs that grow on the cactus in its early stages; this hair is also the source of its various other names, including White Persian Cat Cactus, Bunny Cactus, and Viejo, meaning old.

 The cactus often grows as a singular stem without branches and can reach heights ranging from 16 to 50 feet (5 to 15 meters). 

It is generally grown as an ornamental plant and, like many cacti, is relatively easy to care for. While the old man’s cactus is considered endangered in the wild, the species is not believed to be endangered due to the many nurseries that sell the cactus.

Characteristics of the Old Man’s Head Cactus ( Cephalocereus senilis )

Native to Mexico, this cactus attracts attention. Neither its flowers nor its shape is anything out of the ordinary.

It’s a very long-lived species that can live up to a few centuries.

Flowering it is usually produced outdoors when the specimens reach a few meters (the longest). Indoors, it’s impossible or nearly impossible. If someone succeeds, they will deserve recognition.

Although it has hair, it is still a cactus, and as such, it has yellow spines that originate just before the hair.

Hairy for a Good Reason

But what caused this plant to develop such hair, all the more surprising since most cacti are relatively hairless? The answer is its environment.

The old man’s head cactus is found growing wild in Mexico’s high highlands, where it endures intense sunlight and heat during the day and perhaps cold temperatures at night.

Both are protected from by lengthy hairs. They shield the delicate developing cells from damaging UV radiation during the day, and the down also traps a layer of air near the shaft to keep it colder.

The same layer of air acts as insulation against chilly night winds during the winter since it holds heat throughout the day.

On mature specimens, the lower hairs eventually fall out, leaving only the upper part covered in down. This type of hairy growth only at the head of the plant is called a cephalium.

Other Hairy Candles

There are other candle cacti covered with white hairs, most growing in the same high altitude conditions as the old man’s head cactus.

When young, the Woolly Taper (Espostoa lanata) has a similar appearance, but its white hair is contrasted by golden spines. It can be grown in the same way as the old man’s head cactus.

Strauss’s candle flowers ( Cleistocactus strausii ). Photo: World of Succulents

Strauss’ squid ( Cleistocactus strausii ) is more slender, with narrower multiple stalks and shorter, less dense white hairs. It flowers quite easily indoors, with curious red tubular flowers, but only after about 15 years.

How Long Does an Old Cactus Live and How Long Does It Take to Grow?

Given the correct circumstances, this species can survive for hundreds or even thousands of years, which is one of its hallmarks.
Although it only grows 10 to 15 cm tall per year and typically blooms in the middle of spring and early summer, this cactus is slow-growing.
Adding fertilizer with mineral fertilizer high in lime in the spring and summer is a good idea to promote the growth of this species’ “white hair.”

old man head cactus

How to Reproduce Old Cacti?

This species is usually reproduced by means of seeds, taking into account that: 

  • After an adult plant flowers, you can either purchase the seeds or collect them yourself.
  • In warm climates, it is possible to grow them outdoors, but growing them indoors is easier, either at home or in a greenhouse.
  • When planting them, making sure the soil has sufficient drainage is crucial.
  • This can grow in as little as two months indoors under good light.


How do I get my Old Man Cactus to flower?

I’ve had my Old Man Cactus for eight years now and I’ve never seen it flower. I know that you’re supposed to keep cacti just barely moist, but my friends tell me that I’m over-watering it. How do I get my Old Man Cactus to flower?

I actually had this same problem with my own Old Man Cactus. It’s important to realize that your cactus can go without water for months at a time and that it won’t die if you forget about it for a few weeks. But I was worried about the health of my plant, so every week I meticulously doused the soil in hopes of luring out some buds.

Then one day, I left town for an extended period and forgot to water it again. When I got back several weeks later, lo and behold, there were a few gorgeous flowers! At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes; the plant looked like a skeleton—all brown and desiccated—and then suddenly there were these bright pink flowers popping out!

Can you touch an old man cactus?

What is an old man cactus, you ask? It’s a type of succulent that grows in the desert and has long, white hairs all over it. These hairs often fall off in later years and are covered with tiny little spines that are sharp enough to break the skin.

An old man cactus is technically called a “tentacle cactus” because it kind of looks like a small octopus with tentacles. If you have ever seen one of these creepy plants, you know that there’s not much to distinguish them from other types of cacti—they look like green balls with lots of spiky things sticking out.

The name “old man cactus” comes from the thick, white hairs on the plant, which look a lot like hair on an old man’s head. The name also brings up some images of an old man who may have just been cut by one of those tiny spines and has gone completely insane.


Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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