Habitat: Mexico and Central-South America
Cultivation: Pilosocereus prefers a full sun exposure and high temperatures. It is a slow-growing plant which does not need repotting every year.
Curiosity: The name Pilosocereus literally means “hairy cereus”. It shares with other cereus the typical candelabrum shape (which is the reason of the last part of its name, “cereus”, which means torch), and large size, while it differs from them in the thick hairs that grow on the adult plant.
The genus Pilosocereus includes around a dozen columnar cacti which reach considerable heights in their natural habitats, up to 10 meters depending on the species. This genus includes both commonly cultivated cacti and species so rare that they’re almost unknown outside botanical sources. The most commonly cultivated plant in the genus is Pilosocereus pachycladus, a beautiful blue cactus with hairy areoles that form golden spines.
Their natural habitat is in Mexico and Central-South America, in areas with a dry period between October and April and a more humid season that goes from May to September.
Their stem is similar in shape to the one of other Cereus: columnar, branched, divided into vertical ribs along which the areoles grow. From the areoles, as in every cacti, the spines sprout. Areoles are cacti’s buds, from which spines and often flowers develop. The colour of the stem is generally dark green or blue-green, with various shades. The typical feature of this genus is the dense hair, which appears when the plant is mature, usually white and woolly, soft to pleasant to touch. This hair is more or less dense depending on the species. Like the spines, it grow on the areoles and can be more or less long depending on the species: when short, it tend to form some charming, white hairy “stripes” all along the areole line (such as in P. palmeri crested form), while, when longer (such as in P. pachycladus), it grows more in long woolly tufts, which create an irregular covering of the stems. The spines, instead, are usually erect, yellow and grouped in “tufts”: one tuft for each areole. In P. pachycladus, spines are shorter and whitish, while in P. chrisacanthus they are longer and more intricate.
The beautiful flowers are funnel-shaped, large and generally light in colour, white or pinkish. They open at night and sprout from areoles along the stem, ending up in forming fleshy fruits. They can sprout all along the stem, giving the plant a flashy appearence when flowering.
Your Pilosocereus will give a nice touch as a houseplant with his charming big flowers and its white, woolly hair on its turquoise stems. Also, it can stay outdoors only in warm climates, in which temperature doesn’t fall below 10-12ºC. If you live in a warm place, just put it outdoors: its big size and its need for a well-draining substrate will suit perfectly in a rocky garden, exposed to direct sunlight.
VARIETY AND TYPES
- P. azureus
- P. chrysacanthus
- P. gaumerii
- P. gaumerii f. cristatus
- P. glaucescens
- P. gounellei
- P. nobilis
- P. odilensis
- P. pachycladus
- P. palmerii
- P. palmerii f. cristatus
- P. rosae
- P. superfloccosus
- P. vilaboensis
TIPS FOR GROWING
Pilosocereus are slow-growing and seldom reach the height they’d be in their natural environment. Here are our cultivation tips:
- Put your Pilosocereus in a bright spot, under direct sunlilght.
- Being native to the warm climates of Central America, they can withstand temperatures above 10-12°C (50-50°F), so they should generally be placed in greenhouses or indoors in temperate climates during the winter.
- Like for all cacti, water every 3-4 days during the vegetative period and gradually decrease watering as winter approaches, until it is completely stopped. Between one watering and the next, the soil must be able to dry out completely. Whenever you notice that the stem shrivels, it means that the plant is thirsty and you must water
- It is advisable to use a specific soil for cacti.
- Fertilize once a month during the vegetative period, using a specific product for cacti.
- Given its slow growth, repotting is not necessary every year. Choose deep pots to properly house the plant’s roots.
Pilosocereus can be propagated either by cuttings or by seed. A portion of the stem can be used as cutting, preferably obtained from a side branch. The best time to plant cuttings is in summer.
Reproduction by seed, on the other hand, is less advisable because of the slow growth of this plant.