How to Grow Pachycereus – Indian Comb

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Pachycereus is an easy-to-grow columnar cactus. Confined to a greenhouse or indoors, young plants make attractive potted subjects. Outdoors, Pachycereus grow tall, then branch outward.

Pachycereus can be grown in average, well-drained soil. Pachycereus needs plenty of water in hot weather and protection from frost. If temperatures drop to near freezing during a wet winter, plants can become misshapen or distorted.

Pachycereus flowers are night-blooming cereus. Flowers first open about 10 p.m. and remain open all night they close about 11 a.m. In overcast weather, some flowers may remain open for two full days.

Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum commonly known as hairbrush or Indian comb cactus
Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum commonly known as hairbrush or Indian comb cactus

Get to know Pachycereus

  • Plant type: Cereanae candelabra cactus
  • Hardiness temperature: 35℉ (1.7℃)
  • Shape and size: Some species to 70 feet tall; much smaller in containers. As plants grow tall they branch outwards.
  • Flowers: Bell-shaped white or pink flowers open at night or if weather is overcast; some may remain open for two days.
  • Bloom time: Spring
  • Common name: Indian comb, Mexican giant, elephant cactus
  • Genus name: Pachycereus
  • Family name: Cactaceae
  • Origin: Mexico

Pachycereus planting

  • Pachycereus can be grown outdoors in the garden or in a container where temperatures do not fall below 35℉ (1.7℃) in winter.
  • Pachycereus can be grown indoors in a bright sunny window or in a greenhouse with bright light. Pachycereus requires more light than other houseplants.
  • Light: Sun or bright light in a humid and warm location.
  • Soil: Porous, nutritious slightly acidic soil; use a cactus mix for potted Pachycereus. Soil must be well-drained.

How to water and feed Pachycereus

  • Water: Needs regular water in hot weather; water lightly if at all in winter.
  • Feeding: Fertilize with a cacuts fertilizer during the summer growing season.

Pachycereus care

  • Temperatures near freezing and wet weather can cause Pachycereus to become misshapen and distorted.
  • Propagate by seed.

Pachycereus species to grow

  • Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum (indian comb, hairbrush cactus). Giant cactus grows up to 35 feet or more. Stiff branches are thick, erect. White flowers appear only on mature plants. The fruit—about the size of a baseball—is covered with long, stiff golden spines and was once used by Indians as a comb, thus the common name.
  • P. pringel (Mexican giant, elephant cactus). Columnar growth to 70 feet with a woody trunk, ribbed branches, and white springtime flowers. The world’s largest cactus.

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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