Old Man Cactus – The Unkempt Hairy White Cactus!

Old Man Cactus is a delightful addition to any succulent collection. The whitish fuzzy covering, which resembles unkempt white hair, has earned it the nickname of Old Man Cactus. It’s also called that because it may live up to 200 years in the wild. ‘Bearded cactus’ and ‘hairy cactus’ are two other names for this plant. Cephalocereus senilis (USDA zones 9-11) is the scientific name for this cactus. ​


Old Man Cactus


These white hairs aren’t just for show; they also serve a functional role. The hairs aid in hydration retention and provide a protective layer against cold and hot conditions. While the white coats seem to be pleasant to the touch, underneath them are vicious yellow spines that should be avoided. This unusual cactus makes an excellent house plant.

Find out how to take care of Old Man Cactus below.

Sunlight Needs For Old Man Cactus

This cactus enjoys being in direct sunlight. It requires at least 6 hours of direct sunshine or 8 hours of indirect sunlight to thrive. Because of its long white spines, the Old Man cactus can withstand direct sunlight.

If you live somewhere where the sun shines directly on your cactus, we suggest rotating it every day so it receives the same amount of light on all sides and grows evenly. When inside, place the Old Man cactus near a sun-facing window.

Your cactus will produce more blossoms the more sunshine it gets. A vast old man cactus may have as many as 20 blooms at once!

Water Needs

This plant has to be watered when the soil is completely dry. It should be watered once or twice a month, although this may vary depending on the temperature and amount of sunshine the plant receives.

When watering your cactus, wait until the soil has thoroughly dried before adding additional water.

Find a container for your cactus with drainage holes so that any extra water may drain.

As long as you water your cactus when it’s dry and provide it with adequate sunshine, it should thrive.

Cephalocereus Senilis Old Man Cactus

Requirements for Soil

Loose, fast-draining soil is ideal for Old Man Cactus. A cactus soil mix is perfect, but any well-draining soil mix would suffice.

In nature, Old Man Cactus prefers gravelly or sandy soils.

If you wish to make your soil, use coarse sand, one part perlite, and 1-2 parts potting soil as a general rule of thumb.

The soil should drain adequately and not retain water, which might cause root rot.

If you live in a humid environment with a lot of rain or humidity, you should take additional measures like putting your cactus pot on top of the soil (if outdoors) rather than burying it, so excess moisture drains away from the roots.

Humidity and Temperature

The Old Man Cactus prefers a temperature range of 71 – 82° F (22 – 28° C)  during the day.

During the winter, when light levels are lower, the plant may endure temperatures as low as 59°F (15°C) .

Avoid temperature of 50°F (10°C) or below for this plant. It does not like the cold.

In terms of humidity, it thrives in dry climates with less than 50% relative humidity. If growing in a terrarium, make sure there’s enough airflow to avoid rot.


The Old Man Cactus does not need much fertilizer. For the most outstanding results, use a balanced (20-20-20) water-soluble fertilizer throughout the growing season.

As required, dilute to half strength and apply weekly to two-week intervals.

Be cautious not to over-fertilize your plants. Plants like the Old Man Cactus are resilient, but too much nitrogen in the fertilizer causes soft, succulent growth that is more prone to pests and disease.

Because this cactus is primarily a spring/summer grower, fertilized throughout the winter months.

Potting and Repotting

This cactus is often cultivated in a container, although it may also be grown outside if the weather is closely controlled.

The container for this plant should be proportional to the plant’s size. Because the branches it may grow several meters long, big pots are necessary to keep the plant healthy.

Because the Old Man Cactus needs adequate drainage, fill the bottom of the container with pebbles or broken ceramic pieces before adding soil. Ensure there’s sufficient space between the ground and the pot’s rim.

Cacti are generally potted in porous soil with enough drainage to minimize root rot, while some gardeners prefer to use simply gravel.

The Old Man Cactus is repotted every three years until it reaches its maximum size, then every five to eight years.

If the soil seems to be losing its capacity to retain water, some gardeners may repot the cactus more often.

Pruning Old Man Cactus

The cacti does not require pruning. It will get bigger, and the plant will eventually become too big to hold itself upright.

You’ll need support or a chain in this situation to keep the branches secure.

If this isn’t a possibility, cut off the bottom of the main branch where it gets heavy for its strength using a sharp scissor. It will be able to stand on its own this way.

Keep the branches clean by brushing them with a light paintbrush. This keeps dust and debris from accumulating and blocking light and water.

Diseases and Pests

Aphids, mealybugs, and red spider mites are common pests that attack the Old Man Cactus. They are usually readily removed with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol.

Insecticidal soap, which can be obtained at any garden store, may also be used to get rid of pests. To permanently eliminate the bugs, this method must be repeated.

Stem rot, root rot, and Trichocereus fungal disease are among the conditions that may affect this plant.

Watering the plant at its outer borders rather than putting water on top of it is the best strategy to avoid these illnesses.

Before adding any water, be sure the soil is complete dry. If these diseases do emerge, the only alternative is to remove as much contaminated material as possible before replanting.

Wrapping Up

Cephalocereus senilis, Old Man Cactus, is a wonderful, quirky succulent that is easy to care for. Just be careful of its viscous spines!

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