How to Grow Espostoa – Cottonball Cactus

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Espostoa is a genus of shrub-like or tree-shaped cacti, all have a more or less dense white woolly coat of hair.

Espostoa are cylindrical in form and multi-ribbed. The flowers are funnel-shaped and covered even on stamens with scales and auxiliary hairs. When Espostoa are old enough to bloom, a tight woolly, white, yellow cephalium is created laterally at the shoot; white blossoms grow out of it.

Get to know Espostoa

  • Plant type: Cereanae, old man cactus
  • Hardiness temperature: 45℉ (7.2℃)
  • Shape and size: Grows to 15 feet (4.5m) tall
  • Flowers: Funnel-shaped, covered with scale an auxiliary hairs
  • Bloom time: Rarely blooms
  • Common name: Cottonball cactus
  • Genus name: Espostoa
  • Family name: Cactaceae
  • Origin: Andes of Southern Ecuador and Peru
Espostoa lanata
Espostoa lanata

Planting Espostoa

  • Light: Full sun or a bright warm greenhouse
  • Soil: Well-drained soil preferably a cactus soil mix
  • To reach full growth, Espostoa must be planted in the ground, not a container.

How to water and feed Espostoa

  • Water: Regular light watering during warm weather, drier in winter. Sprinkle or mist the plant regularly durig the growing season.
  • Feeding: Apply a cacuts fertilizer during the growing season; do not feed during winter.

Espostoa care

  • Keep Espostoa dry and cool during the winter period.
  • Propagate Espostoa by seed.

Espostoa species to grow

  • Espostoa lanata (cotton ball, Peruvian snowball, Peruvian old man). Attractive, yellow-spined cactus is completely covered with fluffy, white, almost silky hair. Wool appears to grow in spiral manner. A fine potted plant for indoors, lath house, or greenhouses. Usually grown for its interesting appearance rather than profusion of blooms; flowers appear only on mature plants and are often hidden by hair.
  • E. melanostele, large, thick cylindrical cactus bears areoles with brown wool. Numerous, inch-long, black, radial spines surround single, stouter central one.
  • E. ulel. Treelike species may reach 15 feet tall or more. Unusual cephalium on top.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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