Espostoa lanata (Peruvian Old Man Cactus)

Scientific Name

Espostoa lanata (Kunth) Britton & Rose

Common Names

Peruvian Old Man Cactus, Peruvian Snowball Cactus, Peruvian Old Man, Cotton Ball Cactus, New Old-man Cactus, Snowball Cactus, Snowball Old Man


Cactus lanatus (basionym), Cephalocereus dautwitzii, Cereus dautwitzii, Cereus lanatus, Cereus sericatus, Cleistocactus lanatus, Espostoa dautwitzii, Espostoa sericata, Oreocereus lanatus, Pilocereus dautwitzii, Pilocereus lanatus

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Trichocereeae
Genus: Espostoa


Espostoa lanata is a columnar, densely hairy cactus, covered by a warm, woolly coat and well adapted to high altitudes. It looks like Cephalocereus senilis. The main difference is the presence of sharp spines on E. lanata. It is wide spread in its habitat and quite variable in size and spines and for this reason it has received several names. It is up to 8 inches in diameter and up to 23 feet (7 m) tall. There are 18 to 25 ribs. The ribs and the sharp are mainly hidden by tissue woolly. It branches only after several years. It flowers at night from a lateral cephalium after several years. It has nocturnal flowers, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, white to purple and appear in late spring to early summer.


USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Several species of Espostoa, are especially popular in cultivation due to their fuzzy white hairy appearance. The plants are typically sold by large commercial growers as up to 12 inch (30 cm) stems. However, being large columnar species, these plants do not grow nearly as vigorously in pots as they would in the ground. Plants tend to quickly fill the pots becoming pot bound and then growth slows to a crawl. As such, these plants rarely, if ever reach maturity meaning they don't produce the cephalium and subsequently do not flower. On the other hand, those in warmer climates that can plant the species directly in the ground may indeed have plants that form a nice grouping of stems that will eventually flower.

Like all cacti, Espostoa requires a sunny location and well-drained soil. But in summer, it appreciates fertilizer and wetter conditions. In winter, it needs a rest, but the temperature must not drop below 54 °F (12 °C)…- See more at: How to Grow and care for Espostoa


Its original habitat is from southern Ecuador to the northern Peru on the west slopes of the Andes mountains.


  • Back to genus Espostoa
  • Succulentopedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus

Photo Gallery

Subscribe now and be up to date with our latest news and updates.

Peruvian Old Man Cactus


Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

From seed direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen clean and dry seeds

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Espostoa lanata

The Espostoa lanata is indigenous to Ecuador and Peru. The majority of individuals are located on the western slopes of the Andes Mountains. A tree-like, columnar species, this cactus sports an average of 20 - 30 ribs with white areolas. Spines are short and white to pale yellow in color. Central spines are up to 3 1/4 inches long. As pictured, whitish hairs cover the plant's green stem.

Flowers are nocturnal, funnel-form and protected by the plant's whitish wool. Purplish-white flowers are large, up to 2 1/4 inches long and 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Blooming season takes place during late spring, concluding in mid summer. Fruit is near spherical, typically 1" in length and diameter. Fruit is purplish-red, edible, juicy and sweet! The stark contrast between this plant's wool and bright fruit makes for a stunning show.

The Espostoa lanata is an easy species to grow. Great candidate for containers. Hardy down to 30 degrees F (USDA hardiness zone 10). Good choice for xeriscaping.

1. Maintains manicured appearance 365 days a year
2. Sports short white/yellow spines and long radial, yellow spines
3. Stunning, purplish-white funnel-form flowers
4. Large/showy flowers (2 1/4 inches long and 1 1/4 inches in diameter)
5. Fruit creates a beautiful contrast with the whitish wool

1. Hardy down to 30 degrees F
2. Great candidate for containers
3. Easy species to cultivate (a good choice for novice gardeners)
4. Good choice for xeriscaping

1. Fruit is edible, sweet and very juicy
2. Fruit can be eaten raw or cooked
3. Fruit is often used to make wine, preserves etc.

Watch the video: #158 Star Cactus, Mall Security Guards, and the Plant That Did Time in Police Lock-up

Previous Article

Tridentea gemmiflora (Black Carrion Flower)

Next Article

Pests of roses