How to Grow Lophocereus – Whisker Cactus

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Lophocereus is a columnar cactus that branches at the base forming a small trunk. It is one of the candelabra-type cacti.

Lophocereus bears colorful nocturnal flowers; the colors range from white through pink to sometimes red. Usually, two small flowers appear from areoles that also bear dozens of bristle-like flowers.

Lophocerus can tolerate intense heat and sun but will be damaged by extended periods of frost.

Tall Lophocereus shcottii in back pots; smaller Opuntia microdasys in front pots
Tall Lophocereus shcottii in back pots; smaller Opuntia microdasys in front pots

Get to know Lophocereus

  • Plant type: Cereanae, Organ pipe cactus
  • Hardiness temperature: 45℉ (7.2℃)
  • Shape and size: Grows to 15 feet (4.5m) tall
  • Flowers: Small, noctural flowers from white through pink, sometimes red
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer, rarely blooms
  • Common name: Whisker cactus, totem pole cactus
  • Genus name: Lophocereus
  • Family name: Cactaceae
  • Origin: Southern Arizona to Sonora, Mexico

Planting Lophocereus

  • Lophocereus can be grown outdoors and in pots where temperatures do not fall below 45℉ (7.2℃) in winter.
  • Lophocereus can be grown indoors in a bright sunny window or in a greenhous with bright light. Lophorcereus requires more light that most houseplants.
  • Light: Lophocereus can tolerate intense sun
  • Soil:

How to water and feed Lophocereus

  • Water: Water Lophorcerus regularly during the growing season, but the soil should not stay wet past nightfall. Do not water Lophocereus during the winter rest period.
  • Feeding: Feed Lophocereus with a cactus fertilizer during the growing season.

Lophocereus care

  • Lophocerceus can be propagated by seeds or cuttings.
  • Lophocerus should be protected from frost; the stem tips should be covered.

Lophocereus varieties to grow

  • Lophocereus schottil (whisker cactus) may reach 15 feet tall, 8 inches in diameter; erect stems, branching just above the ground, Radial, gray spines are conical, slightly larger at base, and surround a single, central spine. Upper areoles have twisted, bristlelike spines 1 to 4 inches long; areoles produce small pink flowers in spring, summer.
  • L. s. ‘monstrosus’ (totem pole cactus) nearly spineless ribs are irregularly spaced; this species has an almost knobby appearance.

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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