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This old man, he plays it cool

Old man of the Andes cactus is just one of several hairy species

The cactus family is chock-full of old men and old ladies. Enough so that they deserve their own membership wing in the AARP. Ha, we kid, but the “old …” cacti all share an eye-catching attribute: a coat of protective white hairs. That hairiness, while not of identical density, can make it tough for nonexperts to distinguish individual species from one another. Today, though, we’re singling out one senior cactus in particular: Oreocereus celsianus, aka old man of the Andes. The prefix, Oreo, means “mountain,” from the Greek word oros.

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Celebrating the flowery side of cacti

Forgive us if we ever get a bit flowery in our musings about cacti. These plants are often noted for their spiny (not thorny) toughness, but — beyond cactus geeks — probably don’t receive their proper due for all the textures, shapes, and hues they possess. Their satiny, out-of-this-world flowers are some of the most fetching ones on the planet. Alluring reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, whites. Even purple. Some run small while many are certifiably ginormous. (The flowers of Hylocereus undatus — dragon fruit — can exceed 12 inches in length.) Many bloom after dark when other plants have closed up their displays for the night.

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Old man Andes has a point: The purposeful hairiness of Oreocereus celsianus

This old man dwells far above the sea, although you won’t encounter “him” unless you’re exploring the mountains of Argentina, Bolivia, or Peru. It is in those high-up places that old man of the Andes cacti stand like snowy sentinels, eventually reaching up to 10 feet tall. 

We recommend planting a specimen with porous cactus soil that allows for adequate or better drainage. Try to avoid watering Oreocereus celsianus during overcast or humid weather, or on cold winter days. Outdoors, this mountain native is fine with full sun, but it does not care for extreme heat. If indoors, it will want to be near a sunny window.

Look for old man of the Andes cactus at our retail shop and wholesale shop.

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