Cephalocereus senilis Care Guide (Old Man Cactus)

The first things that come to mind when we hear or read the word cactus are the needles or thorns, and we think that all cacti have these long and very sharp spines that, if we are not careful when approaching or handling them, we can get a good prick, but not all cacti have spines only of this type, and that is the case of Cephalocereus senilis or old man cactus. Learn all about Cephalocereus senilis care in this article.

This cactus earned its name because among its spines it develops very flexible and elongated ones that give the appearance of being “white hairs” (criniform spines), it is also known by the names of senile cactus, old man’s cactus, old man’s beard, and cephalocereus, it is a very beautiful cactus that has become very popular for its beauty and unique appearance, unfortunately, this popularity has caused that wild specimens have been diminished and are endangered.

So, if you want to acquire it, just be careful to buy it from a nursery that can prove the legal origin of its specimens.

Characteristics of Cephalocereus senilis

The old man cactus is a columnar cactus native to Mexico, particularly in the states of Hidalgo and Guanajuato, like most cacti is slow-growing, in nature has come to find specimens up to 39 ft (12 meters) high and are estimated age of over 200 years.

As this cactus grows, it loses the “hairs” of the lower part, exposing areolas of small thorns and leaving hairy only the highest and youngest part of the cactus, it belongs to the Cactaceae family.

Cephalocereus senilis - Old Man Cactus 2" Pot Cacti Succulent Real Live Plant -e32
  • Cephalocereus senilis Old Man Cactus Cacti 2" pot Succulent Real Live Plant.

Care of Cephalocereus senilis:


This cactus tolerates direct sun exposure perfectly, just remember that, if your little old cactus is small or you have just acquired it, the adaptation you do it little by little, since being cultivated in a nursery they are not used to direct sun exposure and if we expose them immediately to the intensity of the sun’s rays can suffer burns.

It is a cactus that we do not recommend having indoors, and good sun exposure will promote a greater growth of your Cephalocereus senilis.


Cephalocereus senilis is very sensitive to excess moisture and watering, it tends to rot easily. So water it sporadically, of course, with enough water, and you will not have problems, in winter with watering it at the beginning of that season will be more than enough.

Care of Cephalocereus senilis – Temperature:

Cephalocereus senilis does not tolerate frost, nor temperatures close to 46 °F (8°C) if it is a very young specimen, if it is already a cactus with some years it can withstand up to 32 °F (0°C). Its ideal temperature is between 59 °F to 82 °F (15°C to 28°C).


This particular cactus requires a very draining substrate, it is necessary to avoid the minimum waterlogging, so a common cactus substrate will not be enough so, if we provide it with a mixture of a little more draining 40% soil and 60% sand it will be fine.

You can also use a substrate 20 to 30% organic and the rest mineral (avoid tezontle), you can add a little lime, this will be more than enough to prevent rotting problems, at the top try to leave a layer of gravel so that moisture does not accumulate.

Hoffman 10404 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, 4 Quarts, Brown/A
  • Organic cactus and succulent soil mix
  • Professionally formulated for use with both jungle and desert cacti
  • Provides the drainage cacti need to flourish; ready to use; pH balanced

Care of Cephalocereus senilis – Fertilization:

It can be fertilized during spring and summer once every two months with special fertilizer for cacti or with a mineral fertilizer rich in lime.

How to Propagate Cephalocereus senilis

They can be multiplied through their seeds, but we will be honest with you, Cephalocereus senilis that are not found in nature will hardly give us seeds, so it can be done by cuttings when our old cactus branches, this they do from the base of the stems.

The treatment for your cuttings will be the same that we give to most of the cactus, you have to let the cuttings dry and once dry plant them in the special substrate for Cephalocereus senilis.

how to propagate old man cactus

Cephalocereus senilis Flower

The flowering time of Cephalocereus senilis is in summer, their flowers are large, white, and open at dusk or night, in pots it is rare that they bloom, and if they do this occurs in adult specimens over 10-20 years of age.

cephalocereus senilis flower

Frequent Problems in Cephalocereus senilis:

How many of the succulents the biggest problem that occurs in old cacti is rotting due to overwatering, rarely pests attack healthy specimens, but if they are not they can be attacked by mealybug.

It is necessary to be attentive to the appearance of fungi especially when transplanting.

Apart from these two observations, your old cactus will not present any major problem, it is a very healthy cactus.

We hope you found this article on how to care for Cephalocereus senilis useful. We recommend our article about Why Is My Cactus Turning Yellow?.

old man cactus care
About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgan family, Henry, and Morgan, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.