Oreocereus celsianus

Accession Count: 2
Common Name: old man of the Andes, South American old man
Family Name: Cactaceae
Botanical Name: Oreocereus celsianus
Sub Species:

The old man of the Andes is a barrel-shaped to columnar cactus that possesses 10-15 ribs. Colonies are formed up to 3m tall in the wild, but only reach 2m in domestication. The stems are thickly covered with yellow spines and woolly white hair, sprouting from the head of the cactus and decreasing toward the base. Over time, basal branching may occur, with new growth either prostrate or ascending. Mature cacti bloom in spring, developing tubular flowers that are cerise to magenta in color, borne from the stem tips. Its extensive coat of hair protects O. celsianus against the ultraviolet rays of the sun, as well as providing “antifreeze” chemicals within the sap, allowing the cacti to be frost and sunburn resistant.

Compound: Ore cel
Geographic Origin: Bolivia, Peru, Northern Argentina
Ecozone Origin: Neotropic
Biome Origin:
Natural History:
Oreocereus celsianus originates from the semi-arid Andean region, on rocky slopes with eastern and northern orientation. The species is widespread in its native environment, growing in Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru from altitudes of 2,600 to 4,000 meters above sea level. 
Cultivation Notes: The old man of the Andes has a slow growth rate and requires little to no water - irrigate moderately in the summer, provided that the soil is allowed to completely dry in between waterings. However, do not irrigate on humid or overcast days, and keep as dry as possible during the winter, especially in cold locations.
Repot when necessary - as often as once a year - and fertilize monthly from spring to summer for the best growth. Plant in a rich, fast draining cactus soil, adding pumice or perlite in a 1:1 ratio with soil to improve drainage. However, ensure that a pH between 6.1 and 7.8 is maintained. Provide direct sunlight for most of the day, if possible. Greater light exposure will encourage a dense coat of hair and the development of flowers. However, protect from very hot summer days. Additionally, protect from strong cold - the species tolerates USDA hardiness zones 8a to 10b, surviving 10°F, down to 5°F if kept completely dry. The old man of the Andes cactus can be propagated both from seed and woody stem cuttings. However, due to the slowness of growth, it is not recommended to propagate from seed. For cuttings, allow to fully callous before planting directly into soil.

The old man of Andes is most commonly used as a container plant, but has landscape value outstanding by itself. Additionally, the showy flowers attract both bees and Patagona gigas, the largest species of hummingbird, and the fruits of Oreocereus species are edible and are often consumed by people within its natural habitat.

Height: 6 - 10 feet
Width: 0 - 5 feet
Growth Rate: Slow Growing
Grow Season:
Flower Season: Summer
Color: Pink
Function: Screen
Spread: Spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use

  1. Llifle, the Encyclopedia of Cacti. Retrieved February 17th, 2022.
  2. Mountain Crest Gardens. Retrieved February 17th, 2022.
  3. Succulents NetworkRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  4. GardenRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  5. Planted ShackRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  6. Dave’s GardenRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  7. Plant LustRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  8. Garden TagsRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  9. Kykeon PlantsRetrieved February 17th, 2022.
  10. JSTORRetrieved February 17th, 2022.

Oreocereus celsianus