Old man cactus care infographicThe Old Man Cactus is a variety of cactus with white hair. The hairy cactus can be quite endearing for many gardening enthusiasts as they fondly take care of the Grandfather Cactus. Typically, the Old Man Cactus prefers to be placed in a garden where the soil has a fair amount of sand in its mixture. The Bearded Cactus can also be quite content to be placed in a pot, where some of these plants can easily thrive as potted plants and houseplants under the right temperatures and moisture levels.

What Is an Old Man Cactus?

The Old Man Cactus is a slow-growing succulent that can be found in dry and warm climates as it thrives in high levels of sunlight and heat. Due to its appearance, this fuzzy white cactus is often referred to as the Grandpa Cactus or the Bearded Cactus.

Old Man Cactus Care

The Old Man Cactus does not require much care, although specific growing conditions have to be established for it to grow well. Using the right combination of light, water, soil, and temperature, many cacti cultivators have found success in growing this sweetheart of a succulent.

The only grooming this plant requires is an occasional shampoo and brushing of its fine, modified hair-like spines to wash away dirt and insects that may live there.

– Water

The Old Man Cactus does not require much watering, and it is recommended to water only when a few inches of the topsoil are dry. Due to the succulent nature of this plant, any water that the roots come into contact with will be efficiently absorbed and stored in the plant’s fleshy tissues.

Old Man Cactus watering method

Overwatering can cause the roots to rot and eventually perish, decimating the plant itself. Aside from root rot, pests are drawn to overly-watered cacti and could cause additional issues.

When grown indoors, the ideal watering method is the “soak and dry,” where the soil is thoroughly watered and drained and only watered when the few inches of topsoil is dry.

– Light

The Old Man Cactus loves long exposure to bright levels of sunlight. The native environment of this succulent plant has led to it preferring lengthy periods of light exposure, and in this case, the more light the plant receives, the better it grows.

The growth of longer and thicker modified hair-like spines indicates the plant’s positive response to extended sunlight exposure.

When grown indoors, the ideal locations for the Old Man Cactus to take up residence will be the spots that receive the most direct sun throughout the day. South-facing windows are the best locations for indoor spots if direct sunlight is not available.

– Soil

The Old Man Cactus prefers light soil made of sand, perlite, and garden soil, as this is the normal soil mixture in its native habitats.

When planted in containers, the soil mix should remain the same, although some commercial cacti soil mixes are available for potted succulents. Ideal pot containers are made of unglazed terra cotta, allowing the water to evaporate from the sides.

The Old Man Cactus may need to be repotted after three to five years, as it is very slow-growing and does not appreciate frequent transplanting activities.

– Temperature

The Old Man Cactus prefers warm temperatures, with the ideal ranges between 65 to 90 F in the summer and 50 to 65 F in the cooler months. Cacti do not tolerate frost and are not cold-hardy, as the temperature could cause the stored water inside the plant to freeze and split the plant open.

Gardeners living in North American USDA zones 9 and 10 may enjoy raising the Old Man Cactus as the climate is ideal and suitable for these succulents.

– Humidity

The Old Man Cactus prefers a warm area with great air circulation to keep its hair-like modified spines free from excess moisture.

Ideal Conditions of Old Man Cactus

As a result, excess humidity can be detrimental to this succulent as high levels could encourage fungus, bacteria, and mildew to build up. The ideal condition is to keep this plant in a dry, arid location.

– Fertilizer

The Old Man Cactus requires little to no fertilizing to grow and thrive. However, it can benefit from occasional solutions of a well-balanced water-soluble plant fertilizing food. Weak liquid cactus fertilizers can be administered to the plant once or twice a year during its active growing seasons.

– Rest Period

The Old Man Cactus does not require a rest period if it is planted in regions where there is no threat of frost. When grown indoors and in colder regions, the succulent may undergo a dormant period and will not need much watering during this time.



The Old Man Cactus can be easily propagated in different ways. The seeds collected from the flowers can be used to grow new succulents as long as they are sown in quick-draining soil, watered, and grown into seedlings.

A popular alternative is to use calloused cuttings and root them in quick-draining soil, which yields the fastest and most viable results. The technique of using succulent offsets growing from the base of the plant is also quite prevalent.

Whichever method, gardeners are encouraged to try the techniques that appeal most to their needs.


The Old Man Cactus can attract pests due to the hair-like modified spines, which spider mites, mealy bugs, and scale prefer to hide in.

Old Man Cactus can attract pests

Treating these pests with mild insecticide or a mild insecticidal soap can usually alleviate these concerns. Gardeners are encouraged to keep an eye out for any infestations or re-infestations.

Features of the Old Man Cactus

– Origin

The Old Man Cactus’s scientific name is Cephalocereus Senilis, which roughly translates to a tapering head of an old man.

The name Cephalocereus is from the words “kephale,” which is Greek for head, and “cereus” which is Greek for a candle or a tapered wax.

When joined together, they combine to mean a tapered waxy candle head. The word senilis is Latin, which means “old man.”

Other Names

Other common names for the Old Man Cactus, aside from those previously mentioned, are The Old Man of the Andes cactus, The Hairy Old Man Cactus, The Old Man of Mexico Cactus, and The Old man of Peru Cactus.

Over the years, the Old Man Cactus has acquired additional colorful names, such as The Bunny Cactus, The White Persian Cat Cactus, and even humorously The Bernie Sanders Cactus, after the famous comedian of the same name.

– Size

The Old Man Cactus can often grow up to 20 feet tall in its native habitats. Mature plants can grow in clumps, and when they cluster together, the white fuzzy hair can drop off at the bottom of the cacti.

The Old Man Cactus will most likely when grown in a pot. While its size may be limited by its container not reaching its full potential height, the cactus can still reach impressive heights even when grown indoors.

– Roots

The Old Man Cactus grows actively in warmer weather, producing thin fibrous roots that are relatively shallow in comparison to the plant. The roots of most cacti are covered in a membrane that prevents moisture loss.

These roots are specialized to absorb the maximum amount of water that may penetrate the ground and efficiently deliver the moisture to the plant’s tissues for storage.

– Flowers

The Old Man Cactus flower can come in red, yellow, and even white. The succulent plant does not usually produce flowers unless it reaches at least seven or 10 years old since it is a slow-growing plant. When it does so, the flowers come out of the cactus with delightfully fragrant blooms that usually open at night.

The flowers of the Old Man Cactus are vibrant hues of pink or red, and sometimes white. The flowers tend to have flat surfaces, with colorful pink or red outside and white inside. The cactus blooms are produced from a mass of modified spines and yellow spines that cover the stem.

In cultivation, the Old Man Cactus rarely flowers.

– Spines

The cactus’s long white hairs are modified spines, which experts believe help protect the plant from extreme heat and excessively cold temperatures. These modified spines are also believed to help the cactus retain its much-needed moisture for a relative time frame.

The modified spines of the Old Man Cactus are fine, long, and soft. These modified spines hide the actual spines of the cactus, which may cause severe injuries when the plant is mishandled. Handling the Old Man Cactus, despite its gentle appearance, needs to be taken with care.

– Adaptability

The Old Man Cactus grows slowly and may live for up to 200 years old under ideal conditions.

adapted to living in extreme conditions

The Old Man Cactus is a succulent plant, which means it has evolutionarily adapted to living in extremely dry conditions and stores water in its thick fleshy tissues. The cactus is usually without any branches, as the plant is unable to support the weight of any side branches.

– Habitat

The Old Man Cactus can be found growing all over Mexico since it requires a hot and arid climate to thrive. In Mexico, it can be found extensively in the Hidalgo and Guanajuato regions in the eastern parts of Mexico. These areas are dry for most of the year, with the cactus happily adjusting to this condition.


Will Old Man Cactus regrow if it breaks?

Old Man Cactus can regrow if it breaks, given proper care and conditions. Prune the broken part and provide adequate light and water.

How do I winterize my Old Man Cactus?

To winterize your Old Man Cactus, reduce watering frequency, provide cooler temperatures (around 50°F), and limit exposure to direct sunlight.

Should I mist or water my Old Man Cactus?

Water your Old Man Cactus rather than mist it. Allow the soil to dry out between watering, and avoid overwatering to prevent root rot.


The Old Man Cactus is an endearing plant that does not require too much maintenance yet a lot of patience. The slow-growing succulent is a favorite for many cacti enthusiasts due to its unique appearance, so let’s go over what we’ve learned so far about this quirky cactus:

  • The Old Man Cactus has beautiful hair-like modified spines that resemble an old man’s head of hair.
  • This succulent thrives in hot and dry climates, prefers plenty of sunlight, and needs little watering.
  • The Old Man Cactus can grow up to 20 feet outdoors and live up to 200 years old.

A succulent worthy of its name, the Old Man Cactus is an excellent addition to sunlit gardens and arid lands. Charming, quirky, and enduring, it’s no wonder cacti enthusiasts love the Old Man Cactus!

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