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Pachycereus Elephant Cactus Info: Tips For Growing Elephant Cactus At Home

Pachycereus Elephant Cactus Info: Tips For Growing Elephant Cactus At Home


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By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

Love elephants? Try growing elephant cactus. While the name elephant cactus (Pachycereus pringlei) may sound familiar, don’t confuse this plant with the more commonly planted Portulacaria elephant bush. Let’s learn more about this interesting cactus plant.

What is an Elephant Cactus?

Known as the “tallest cactus species in the world,” Pachycereus elephant cactus is not only tall but grows with multiple branches. The primary lower stem, sized like an elephant’s leg, can reach more than three feet (.91 m.) around at the bottom. This is where the common name elephant cactus originated. Also, the botanical name “pachy” means short trunk and “cereus” means columnar. These are great descriptions of this large cactus plant.

Also called Cardón, or Cardón Pelón, the plant is native to California deserts and islands in the Gulf. It grows in Northern Mexico too. There it is found in alluvial (clay, silt, sand, gravel,) soils. There is a trunkless form of elephant cactus as well, with numerous branches rising from the soil. It grows on rocky hills and level plains in desert-like conditions in its native conditions.

As branches appear and the cactus slowly grows taller, you’ll find that a large space in the landscape is required for this plant. Although slow growing, this species can reach 60 feet (18 m.) or taller.

White blooms appear along the spines of the elephant cactus, opening in late afternoon and staying open until noon of the next day. These are pollinated by bats and other night-flying pollinators.

Elephant Cactus Care

Plant it in a gritty or sandy soil, much like its native soil. Avoid growing in rich soil but amend a poor soil area if needed to improve drainage. Other elephant cactus care includes providing a full sun environment.

Growing elephant cactus requires a desert-like setting in full sun. It is hardy in USDA zones 9a-11b. While it is prudent to start it in the ground, you can also grow it for a limited time in a large container, if necessary. Keep in mind you’ll need to move it later to accommodate its growth.

Otherwise, the plant is basically low maintenance. As with most cacti, too much attention can lead to death of the plants. Once you have it in the right conditions, only provide limited water when there has been no rainfall for an extended period.

When growing elephant cactus, if you feel like you must do something, cut a stem and propagate. Let the end callous, then plant in gritty, well-draining soil. The plant propagates easily.

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Read more about Cacti & Succulents


Pachycereus pringlei

Pachycereus pringlei, also known as Mexican giant cardon or elephant cactus, is a species of cactus native to northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora. It is commonly known as cardón, a name derived from the Spanish word cardo, meaning "thistle". [2]

Cereus pringlei S.Watson [1]

Large stands of this cactus still exist, but many have been destroyed as land has been cleared for cultivation in Sonora.

The fruit of this cactus was an important food for the Seri people in Sonora, who call the cactus xaasj. [3]

A symbiotic relationship with bacterial and fungal colonies on its roots allows P. pringlei to grow on bare rock even where no soil is available at all, as the bacteria can fix nitrogen from the air and break down the rock to produce nutrients. The cactus even packages symbiotic bacteria in with its seeds. [4] [5] [6]


4. Soil

If you are planting the elephant bush outside, then the soil you’re going to place the plant in needs to be sandy and well-draining. Rocky soil always works as well. And for the inside potted plants, basic potting soil or cactus soil would suffice as the soil mix.

The elephant bush does best in warm temperatures. It does not like the cold at all, and after a few days outside, the plant will start to wither. This plant should not be outside if it drops lower than 30F.

5. Repotting

If the elephant plant you have is too big for its current container, then you need to relocate the plant into a larger container, so it has room to grow. When you have the pot you want to transfer it too, make sure it can drain at the bottom. Drill extra holes if you need to. Combine some of the old soil in the old pot with new soil, so you don’t give you plant shock when you transfer it into the new soil. Then water lightly and monitor the plant to make sure it is accepting its new home. Don’t add extra fertilizer to the soil right after repotting. Give it a few weeks before you change the composition of the soil.

6. How to propagate the Elephant bush

Because of its long stem, this plant is a great plant to propagate. First, choose a health branch with a lot of leaves on it, and cut the stem all the way to the base where the stem meets the main stem. Plant the stem into the soil and water it thoroughly, but don’t soak it.

7. Height and spread

These large succulents can reach heights of over 12 feet, even if it is an indoor plant. As long as you practice the drought and soak methods and keep it in front of full indirect sunlight, your elephant plant will grow big and strong. The width it can cover is over two feet in diameter, depending on the size of the leaves.

8. Flowers

The elephant bust itself can stand hot weather and humid climate, but it’s flowers cannot. During the spring, its flowers only grow if the environment is mild and the heat isn’t strong. The flowers look like beautiful pink clusters of petals that grow around the elephant bush. They mostly grow along the brown stem of the plant. Sometimes, the flower can come in an arrangement of white, purple, and pink.


Easter cactus can be pickier than its relatives about reblooming because it requires specific cool nighttime temperatures and short days. In fact, all three types of holiday cacti are “short-day” plants, which means they must have 12 or more hours of darkness to bloom. Easter cactus requires 8 to 12 weeks of short days, which is why it blooms in spring, as opposed to Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, which only need 6 weeks of short days.

Easter cactus needs a period of rest from December to March to do its thing, so move the plant to a cool room with temperatures between 60 to 70 degrees for a few weeks, followed by a period of even cooler temps (50s) for four to six weeks. Cut back on watering, giving it just enough so that stems don’t shrivel. They also need about 14 hours of darkness, so make sure they’re not getting any light at all including from street lights or night lights. Once buds form during this period, you can give them a little more water and enjoy the blooms!


Elephant Cactus Care

Plant it in a gritty or sandy soil, much like its native soil. Avoid growing in rich soil but amend a poor soil area if needed to improve drainage. Other elephant cactus care includes providing a full sun environment.

Growing elephant cactus requires a desert-like setting in full sun. It is hardy in USDA zones 9a-11b. While it is prudent to start it in the ground, you can also grow it for a limited time in a large container, if necessary. Keep in mind you’ll need to move it later to accommodate its growth.

Otherwise, the plant is basically low maintenance. As with most cacti, too much attention can lead to death of the plants. Once you have it in the right conditions, only provide limited water when there has been no rainfall for an extended period.

When growing elephant cactus, if you feel like you must do something, cut a stem and propagate. Let the end callous, then plant in gritty, well-draining soil. The plant propagates easily.


Common Problems with Elephant Ear Plants

Although elephant ears are easy to grow, they may face several problems. Many problems are water-related. Elephant ears don’t like sitting in the water, but they are most likely to be affected by drought.

They are susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids, so check your plants’ foliage frequently.

Fungal leaf blight and Phyllosticta leaf spot are the most common diseases in elephant ears. They cause small, circular lesions that may turn yellow or purple, causing an infected leaf to collapse. Apply copper-based fungicide and avoid overwatering.

Other problems that may appear in elephant ears are:

  • Brown leaf edges – The plant is probably getting to much sun. Move the plant in a shadier position and avoid direct sunlight.
  • Pale leaves – This may indicate a lack of nutrients. Fertilize the plant.
  • Curled or wilted leaves – It could be a sign of water deficiency.


Watch the video: HOW TO FIX ELONGATED SUCCULENTS Secrets to Fast PropagationASMR


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