Cephalocereus Senilis Old Man Cactus: Care, Propagation, Pest

The original appearance of the cephalocereus, as a rule, makes it the center of the succulent composition.

Reminiscent of a fluffy white cloud, the cactus is a long-liver and, subject to all conditions of care, can become an interior decoration for many years.

From this article, you will learn about the nuances of the care and propagation of cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus both in the open field and at home. We will also tell you about what diseases and pests can infect this plant and what to do in such cases.

cephalocereus senilis old man cactus 1

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus Botanical habitat and description

Cephalocereus (senilis Old man cactus), also popularly called the “old man’s head”, are columnar cacti native to Central Mexico, where they grow in the southern regions on warm limestone slopes. These cacti are also found in Ecuador and in the eastern regions of Brazil.

In nature, their height can reach fifteen meters, domestic representatives do not grow more than 35 cm. The stem of these plants has well-developed ribs, the number of which is an adult cephalocereus that reaches thirty. Areoles are often and densely located, in addition to spines, long white hairs grow from them.

The central spines are rigid, acicular, up to 4 cm long. The plant’s trunk is gray-green in color, the spines are yellowish or light brown. The flowers are funnel-shaped, cream or yellowish shades, up to five centimeters in diameter.

Important! In some species, a special organ is formed – the cephalic. It looks like part of a stem with weakly expressed ribs and modified areoles covered with bristles and hairs. It is on them that buds, flowers, and fruits are formed.

cephalocereus Old man cactus species and varieties

Senile (Senilis)

A cactus covered with thick and long, up to ten centimeters, hairs that give it the resemblance to a gray beard. Hence the nickname “Old Man’s Head”.

cephalocereus senilis old man cactus

Pilosocereus Herma (Pilosocereus hermii)

The plant is pubescent at the top of the stem, in the flowering zone. Sometimes pubescence appears on the sides of a thick, columnar, slightly branching stem. The cactus has wide ribs covered with densely spaced areoles.

pilosocereus herma pilosocereus hermii

Thick-branched (P. pachycladus)

The pubescence in this species is located in the upper areoles. The columnar stem of a young plant has a light blue color, consists of six ribs with bunches of thin thorns in densely spaced areoles.

Pilosocereus fulvilanatus

The plant is undersized and has a thin bluish-green stem with a waxy coating. The difference between this species and others is that its processes are located at the base.


The species was named after the place of origin – Nisanda (Mexico). Cactus with small, straight, low ribs, with densely spaced areoles. With age, the lower part of the stem loses its hairline. The flowers are creamy, funnel-shaped.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus care indoor


The florist needs to be puzzled by the observance of the temperature regime for the cephalocereus only in winter. During the dormant period, from October to April, you need to maintain a temperature no higher than 10-15 degrees. The rest of the time, the usual room temperature is quite comfortable for the plant.


Irrigation should be done with warm water and should be very sparse. As the soil dries out thoroughly. During the rest period, watering is completely excluded. It is necessary to ensure that water does not get on the cactus itself, as this will lead to sticking of the hairs.


The more light the cephalocereus receives, the better. This plant is protected from burns by hairs. If the cactus does not have enough sunlight, it will begin to retract, the hairs will become shorter and the plant will lose its decorative effect.

Soil Mix

A slightly acidic nutrient mixture is suitable for cephalocereus, which contains clay soil and coarse sand in equal proportions. The soil must be moisture permeable. You can also use a substrate consisting of equal shares of turf, leaf and peat soil with sand and fine brick chips.


The plant does not need shaping pruning due to its very slow growth.


Fertilizer should be applied from May to July.It is best to use a ready-made cactus dressing with the addition of calcium components, which have a good effect on the condition of the hairs.


The container for growing cephalocereus must be deep and always with drainage holes. The width of the container is determined by the size of the expanded root system.


Young plants are transplanted every year or every other year, adults – every two years.

  • The transfer is carried out by the transshipment method.
  • The earthen ball removed from the old pot must be dry.
  • The new container is also filled with dry soil, the plant is placed in it along with the old earthy clod.
  • The first watering is carried out no earlier than ten days later.

Wintering . For a comfortable well-being during the rest period, the cephalocereus must be provided with a temperature not higher than ten degrees. Compliance with this condition and ensuring the absence of drafts is the main guarantee of the successful wintering of a plant.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus outdoor care

For the summer, the plant can be transplanted into the garden. The main care during this period will be to remove near growing weeds and regular inspection of fluffy hair. Abundant pubescence of this cactus promotes easy reproduction of pests and makes it defenseless against parasite damage.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus Propagation


  1. Sowing is carried out in the spring.
  2. Previously, the seeds are soaked for half an hour in a solution of potassium permanganate.
  3. After that, they are washed, dried and sown in containers with a substrate.
  4. The dish is covered with glass and kept at a temperature of 25 degrees, opening daily for airing.
  5. During this time, exposure to the bright spring sun should be avoided.
  6. After a week, the soil can be moistened with a spray bottle.
  7. When the first spines appear at the sprouts, they can be dived into a spacious container and watered using a pallet.


Cephalocereus can be grafted onto another columnar cactus, not only for the purpose of reproduction but also to accelerate growth.

  1. Grafting is best done in late spring or early summer.
  2. A healthy, well-growing cactus should be chosen as the rootstock (the cactus that is grafted onto).
  3. The crown of the stock is cut at a height of about fifteen centimeters.
  4. In the scion (cephalocereus), the lower part with the roots is carefully cut off.
  5. After cutting, the scion is immediately applied to the prepared stock, not allowing it to dry out.
  6. The structure must be well fixed, for this, a piece of cotton wool is applied to the top of the scion and fixed with elastic bands or strings crosswise, passing them under the pot.
  7. The grafted cacti should be placed in a warm, humid place and kept fixed for 5-10 days.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus Propagation in open field

It is unlikely that it will be possible to propagate cephalocereus in the open field, due to the fact that the main, seed method of reproduction involves carrying out the procedure using small containers and indoor conditions.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus Diseases and pests

Lack of proper care provokes the appearance of mealy worms and flat red mites on the plant.

Also, cephalocereus can suffer from a spider mite brought in from the street. To prevent infection, you need to spray the cactus twice a year with a special tick repellent.

Stagnant moisture can lead to root rot and death of the plant. It is contraindicated to feed the cephalocereus with organic compounds, from this the cactus can become bald.

cephalocereus senilis Old man cactus alternative Plants

Cephalocereus has an external similarity with :

  • Hildevinteroy.
  • Cleistocactus.
  • Micrantocereus.
  • Espostoa.
  • Haagerocereus.

In general, cephalocereus is considered to be an unpretentious plant, but this is not entirely true. In practice, it turns out that under the long hairs, stem defects are not noticeable, which make it possible to diagnose care errors in time.

I am an avid plant enthusiast and horticulture aficionado with a deep passion for houseplants. With years of nurturing green companions, my expertise in caring for indoor foliage is well-rooted. Through my journey, I've cultivated insights into optimal plant care, propagation techniques, and creating vibrant indoor ecosystems. Join me as we explore the verdant world of houseplants together. Let's turn your living space into a thriving oasis of botanical beauty. Connect with me on admin@houseplantspro.com and Facebook and explore more at Houseplantspro. 🌿🪴