What Is The White Hair On Some Cacti Plants?
Introducing The “Old Man” Cactus
Cephalocereus senilis is commonly known as the Old Man cactus due to its long white hair. Old Man cactus can be propagated from seeds or cuttings that should be rooted in fast-draining soil. The plant can grow both outdoors and indoors but it requires special care compared to other cactus species.
Cacti plants have different appearances depending on their species and where they grow. For instance, a jungle cactus such as the holiday cactus plant has a different appearance from the Saguaro plant which thrives in arid areas. However, one cacti species that stands out from the rest is the Cephalocereus senilis which is covered in white hair.
What is the white hair on some cacti plants? The white-haired cactus plant is known as the “old man” cactus or Cephalocereus senilis. The most striking feature of this cactus is the shaggy coat of relatively long white hairs suggestive of unkempt hair on an old man. The coat is particularly noticeable in young plants. As the plant grows old, its stem begins to lose its covering, and some of the hairs start to fade away. Therefore, if your cactus plant is covered with white hairs, you could be cultivating the old man cactus plant.
Why Cephalocereus Senilis Called The Old Man Cactus?
Before we dive deep into other aspects of this plant, it is good to know why many people out there choose to call it the Old Man cactus.
One of the reasons why this plant is known as the Old Man cactus is obvious; the existence of long white hairs on the surface. After all, most of us associate white hair with old people. However, this is not the only reason why this plant attracted such a unique name.
Apart from the white hair, the plant is also incredibly long-lived. Typically, when grown in the wild, the Old Man cactus can live for as long as 200 years and grow to about 20 feet tall.
Cacti experts say that the primary reason why this plant can survive for such a long time is that its long, soft, and white hair protects it from both excessive heat and cold, which helps it to retain moisture for a relatively long period.
Although the relatively long hairs are quite soft, the plant still needs to be handled with a lot of care. The shaggy white hair covers sharp spines that can cause severe injuries when they penetrate your skin.
The species name of this plant (Senilis) is derived from Latin and loosely translates to “Old Man” in English. The Old Man cactus is typically tall, and thin, and its head and stem are covered with white hairs just like an old man.
Growing An Old Man Cactus At Home
If you are looking for a beautiful houseplant with unique properties, then you should consider growing the Old Man cactus. Its unique appearance is quite reminiscent of an old man lightly cushioned by beautiful long wavy hair.
In this section, we cover some of the essential things you need to know about growing the Old Man cactus at home.
The Old Man cactus does well in fast-draining soil and full sun. If you prefer potting your plant, make sure you use a good potting mix, and the container should also have plenty of drainage holes to let out water pretty quickly.
You can purchase commercial soil or prepare your own potting mix by adding equal parts of pumice, perlite, or coarse sand to regular soil. If you are growing your plant outdoors, be sure to mix grit or sand with equal parts of native soil or compost to improve drainage.
The plant does well in slightly alkaline soil, so adding a handful of calcium to the soil at the planting time is an excellent way of keeping it happy.
When it comes to watering, make sure you water your Old Man cactus only when the potting mix is completely dry. During watering, soak the pot thoroughly and allow excess water to drain out as quickly as possible.
This plant requires very little fertilizer to thrive. Therefore, there is no need for overfeeding it because the results can be catastrophic. Always use a well-balanced water-soluble fertilizer once or twice a year to feed the plant.
There are several ways of propagating Old Man cactus, but propagating from seed is the most effective way. In fact, some experts believe that it is the only way of propagating the plant. However, when kept indoors, these plants rarely produce any flowers or fruits, which makes propagating from seed quite difficult.
Another way of propagating the plant is by removing and potting the small offsets that usually form at the base of the plant.
Be patient until the offsets are about two inches tall, and then break them off from the main plant. The good news is that pieces of any part of the Old Man cactus can easily grow into a new plant.
Once you take a cutting, let it cure for at least two days before rooting. This helps to prevent rotting.
Once the cutting forms callus, carefully inserts it into a mixture of half sand and half moist peat moss. Position your container in a brightly light space, but make sure you are keeping your plant out of direct sunlight.
Keep in mind that it might some time before you start noticing any significant growth. Just be patient and give your cuttings the best care possible.
Old Man cactus requires extra care
Unlike other cacti plants, the Old Man plant requires a bit of special care if you want to keep it alive for many years. But it doesn’t mean that the Cephalocereus Senilis is hard to grow at home. It only requires special attention to thrive.
Everything starts with the potting mix- therefore; make sure you follow our advice on a well-draining potting mix. In fact, the plant is an endangered species, and having one in your home can be a massive privilege.
During summertime, when the sun is so bright, don’t be afraid to take your plant out and let it enjoy the bright light. The Old Man cactus loves the bright light and heat. If you don’t want to move it out, position it in a window that receives plenty of sunlight and let it rest there throughout the summertime.
During winter, keep your plant indoors but strive to provide as much light as possible in a cool and dry setting. Typically, the plant grows well in temperatures of between 50oF and 60oF. Also, make sure you reduce the watering frequency during winter.
Bonus care tip: Consider planting your Old Man cactus in terracotta or unglazed pots because they are good at absorbing moisture and keeping the potting mix relatively dry.
Once you have potted your plant, do not disturb it at all. Avoid changing spots now and then and only consider repotting once every three to five years.