If you love succulents and cacti and feel like you’re already familiar with all of them, we will surely surprise you with this peculiar, but eye-appealing species of cacti.
Just one look at this cactus will make you want to add it to your unique plant family. Requiring little to no effort on your part to thrive for a long time, this buddy won’t mind if you neglect it once in a while. But let’s get to know it better first, shall we?
Espostoa lanata, commonly known as the Peruvian old man cactus, is a member of the Cactaceae family of plants. As the name suggests the native habitat of this interesting plant ranges from southern Ecuador to northern Peru.
This cactus grows mostly on the west slopes of the Andes mountains. This being said, the Peruvian old man cactus will grow and look fabulous in environmental conditions that are somewhat similar to those from its origins, but it will also thrive on your desk or on a sunny windowsill.
About Peruvian Old Man Cactus
- This friendly plant is a pretty rare columnar species of cacti. However, it has gained a lot of popularity around the world thanks to its natural beauty and easy-going style.
- Espostoa lanata goes by several common names in cultivation. These include Peruvian old man cactus, cotton ball cactus, snowball old man, snowball cactus, and other similar variations.
- Peruvian old man cactus looks very much like the Old Man of Mexico (Cephalocereus senilis). Both species have dense hairs on their stems, but the Peruvian old man cactus comes with an additional feature – sharp spines.
- Many people of Peru use the woolly hairs of the Peruvian old man cactus to fill pillows. You can also do this at home if you want to have some fun with the fluffy coat, but make sure you do not also remove the spines, as they might hurt your skin.
- This cactus is an excellent addition to various landscape additions, such as xeriscaping, cacti or succulent gardens, desert gardens, specimen plantings, greenhouses, solariums, and pots. Plant them near succulents and cacti with similar needs.
- Peruvian old man cactus is not poisonous to humans or pets. The only parts of this cactus that might hurt your curious kids or pets are its spines. If you are not worried about this, you can place this cactus wherever you wish.
Peruvian Old Man Cactus Features: An Overview
- Peruvian old man cactus belongs to the Espostoa genus that contains exactly 16 known species of cacti. Other interesting species from this genus include E. frutescens, E. guentheri, E. melanostele, and E. nana.
- This fluffy cactus is a slow-growing plant that usually branches at the top with age, forming an overall tree-like shape. It has between 18 and 25 ribs. The cactus can store high quantities of water in its roots and stems.
- It is quite variable in size, reaching from 5 to 23 feet (1.5-7 m) in height. In cultivation, the Peruvian old man cactus will grow only as tall as 10 feet (3 m), with a width of 2 to 8 inches (5-20 cm).
- The stems of this species are densely hairy because they feature a warm woolly coat. Besides the soft coat, the Peruvian old man cactus also has sharp spines all over its body.
- After several years of growth, the Peruvian old man cactus may produce flowers from a lateral cephalium in late spring or early summer. Its blossoms are nocturnal, nearly hidden by the wool, white to purple, and measure up to 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) in diameter.
Growing Peruvian Old Man Cactus
The Peruvian old man is a type of cactus that grows like crazy when it does well overall. This particular growth speed is noticeable mostly during its first two years. After this period, the Peruvian old man cactus will grow a bit slower than usual. Plus, this is the moment when the cactus might start to produce branches from its columnar stem. What can be more rewarding?
Even if the Peruvian old man cactus can do just fine without constant attention, it will still need a bit of emotional support from its owner. And the best way to do this is to meet those elemental demands of your cactus as much as possible.
Although this might seem a bit daunting if you are a novice gardener you do not have a lot experience with plants, growing and caring for this buddy is a piece of cake.
When it comes to lighting, all you have to do is place your Peruvian old man cactus in the greatest spot you can find for it. Keep in mind that this cactus, like most other desert species of cacti, will appreciate lots of full sunlight daily.
During the winter, make sure that the Peruvian old man cactus receives bright and direct light. In the summer, it will perform well with partial to full sun lighting.
Peruvian old man cactus is also not as picky if we are talking about the temperatures it requires to grow healthy and happy. The plant can tolerate temperatures that drop as low as 10 °F (-12 °C).
Still, it will do better if you pay a little extra attention to this part of its caring routine. In other words, try to protect your Peruvian old man cactus from harsh winters and frost.
Since the Peruvian old man cactus has a thick woolly coat, it may tend to attract and harbour intruders like mealybugs and scale insects. The best way to avoid these pest infestations is by watering your cactus exactly as often as it needs without over-watering it. Moreover, you should examine the plant once in a while to be sure there are no forbidden pest parties under that fluffy coat.
Planting Peruvian Old Man Cactus
In terms of soil, the Peruvian old man cactus will benefit from a growing medium that comes with very good drainage. This type of soil will help you avoid over-watering and also keep fungal diseases like root rot away. Likewise, you can look for a substrate that has a soil pH between 6.1 to 7.8.
If you want to enjoy your Peruvian old man cactus as a houseplant, in a pot, make sure you plant it in an unglazed container that features ample drainage holes at the bottom. Opt for a combination of half potting soil and half perlite to improve drainage. In case you cannot spoil your cactus with this recipe, you can also use a packaged cactus soil potting mix.
The Peruvian old man cactus does not really need frequent fertilizing to thrive. In fact, it will show its gratitude if you feed it only once every month during its active growing season. From spring to late summer, we recommend you feed your plant with a cactus fertilizer.
- To ensure the well-being of your new green friends, especially if you reside in colder regions, we recommend considering a heat pack for safe shipping during chilly weather. This optional accessory can help protect your plants from the cold during transit, ensuring they arrive in the best possible condition. We appreciate your commitment to providing a warm welcome for your plants. Happy Succulenting!
- Authentic Peruvian Charm: Bring the enchanting beauty of the Peruvian Old Man Cactus (Espostoa melanostele) into your home, known for its unique appearance resembling an old man covered in white hair.
- Fully Rooted and Thriving: Our Peruvian Old Man Cactus comes fully rooted in a durable four-inch plastic pot, ensuring a healthy start for your new plant companion. Watch it thrive and grow, adding character to your indoor garden.
- Compact and Space-Saving: The four-inch plastic pot is perfect for those with limited space or looking to create a charming cactus collection. Place it on windowsills, desks, or shelves for a touch of South American elegance.
- Distinctive Appearance: The unique white spines covering the cactus give it a distinctive and intriguing appearance. It's sure to become a conversation piece and a focal point in any room.
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Watering Peruvian Old Man Cactus
Due to its ability to store water, the Peruvian old man cactus is super tolerant of drought for a long time. In winter, you can basically forget about this cactus and it will look as fresh and healthy as always. During the hot summer months, however, its watering routine will come back to life.
We suggest you water your Peruvian old man cactus regularly whenever the soil has dried out completely. The ideal watering technique for the Peruvian old man cactus, but also for other succulents and cacti is known in the gardening world as the ‘soak and dry’ technique and it consists of watering a plant only when the soil feels dry to the touch.
You should wait for the top two inches of soil to dry, because sometimes you might think that the soil is dry just because the surface is. It is quite common for succulents and cacti to succumb to overwatering, so check the soil before adding more water.
Propagating Peruvian Old Man Cactus
If you want more Peruvian old man cacti for your collection or maybe you want to offer a special gift to a plant-loving friend or family member, we have good news and bad news. Luckily, the bad news is not very bad, it only refers to the fact that you will have to wait a few years to propagate your unique-looking cactus.
The most effective methods to propagate the Peruvian old man cactus are through seeds and cuttings. If you want to start your own cacti from seed, waiting is key, as the Peruvian old man cactus usually blooms after several years of growth.
On the other hand, with cuttings, you will have to wait for your cactus to produce branches. The good news, though – once you have your propagation material, it will be very easy to obtain more Peruvian old man cacti.
Starting your own Peruvian old man cacti from seed requires only sowing the seeds directly into the soil right after the last sign of frost in your area. Sow the seeds in a moist cactus mix, place them in a warm, well-lit area, and all you have to do from now is to wait for a miracle. Seedlings will typically emerge after several months or so.
If you don’t want to wait that long, you can propagate this cactus through cuttings. All you have to do to make more cacti is to cut the offset branches from the mother cactus with a sharp, sterilized knife. After this, allow the cuttings to form a callus at the cut end for a few days on a paper towel.
Once the callus is there, you can plant each cutting in its individual pot filled with perlite or sand. Keep the cuttings in a warm, airy place, and make sure they receive plenty of bright but indirect light. When the cuttings form roots, you can transplant them into a cactus mix and treat them as adults.
The Peruvian old man cactus is a pleasant, friendly, and unique-looking plant to have around. As long as you spoil it with lots of sunlight, good air circulation, and well-draining soil, this buddy will be by your side for a long and exciting time. If you do not already have this cactus in your collection, this is the perfect time to get your family bigger for the summer. It is worth it!
Are you growing Peruvian old man cacti? Share your experience in the comment section!