The Cardon cactus – Pachycereus Pringlei [pak-ee-KER-ee-us] [PRING-lee-eye] is a flowering cactus belonging to the Cactaceae family.
It’s the tallest cactus in the world and native to Northwestern Mexico in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonoran Desert of Sonora, and Southern Arizona.
It’s part of the columnar cacti family from the Sonoran Desert which includes the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea).
Many of these cacti grow to a much more manageable size and are often cultivated in the American Southwest and in areas like San Diego, CA.
It’s popular as a houseplant due to its easy-to-care-for nature and unique appearance.
The Pachycereus Pringlei (S. Watson) Britton & Rose goes by several common names:
- Elephant Cactus
- Mexican Giant Cardon Cactus
- Cardón Pelón (Spanish)
- Sagueso (Spanish)
- Sahuaso (Spanish)
- Cardón Gigante (Spanish)
Synonyms: Pachycereus calvus and Pilocereus pringlei.
Mexican Cardon Cactus Care
Size And Growth
Elephant cactus is the tallest growing cactus in the world with a growth capacity of a staggering 63’ feet with a trunk diameter of 39″ inches.
But the tallest cactus ever measured was an armless Saguaro cactus.
Your elephant cactus will be slow growing, and the size of the plant will vary depending on the age.
When the plant reaches maturity, it will grow flowers about 3” inches long.
Flowering And Fragrance
Elephant cactus blooms during the spring once it reaches maturity.
The white flowers and around 3” inches long.
The hair growing from the areole conceals the base of the flowers.
The plant will grow spiny fruit high in pectin – a substance used to make jellies.
In the past, Seri used the fruit for food, to make walls, and rituals.
Light And Temperature
Because these plants grow best in desert conditions, make sure they get enough sun and heat.
When growing them indoors, place them next to a window that gets plenty of bright light.
If planting outside in full sun be sure to make the transition slowly, so your plant gets time to acclimatize to the sunlight.
Younger plants should be grown in filtered light, move them outside once they are matured.
The ideal temperature for Elephant cactus is above 32° degrees Fahrenheit (0° C). There minimum cold USDA hardiness zone is -9a 25° degrees Fahrenheit (-4° C).
Watering And Feeding
This is a drought tolerant plant with low watering requirements.
You should water it moderately until it’s well established. After that, this plant can survive on much less water.
Refrain from overwatering your plant as too much water can cause irreversible damage.
Elephant cactus does not have a great need for fertilizer.
However, feed it with a cactus fertilizer from time to time if you feel like your plant needs a boost.
Soil And Transplanting
This giant cactus can grow even in the absence of soil.
Its unique symbiotic relationship with bacteria means it can gain nutrients from the rocks and carry them on to the plants.
As such, soil may not be necessary to grow your elephant cactus.
However, if you want to use soil, any well-draining cactus potting soil will do.
Repotting your Elephant Cactus is essential to keep it growing.
If you never repot your plant, it may stop growing.
It’s best to repot every 3 – 4 years, right at the end of winter.
This will give your plant a chance to recover before the growing season begins but it’s ok to transplant your cactus at any time of the year.
Once you’ve transplanted your cactus, wait for 1 – 2 weeks before you water it to avoid the risk of rotting the plant.
How To Propagate Elephant Pachycereus Pringlei Cactus
Elephant cactus, like other cactus species and succulent plants, will propagate through cuttings.
Remove a branch from your cactus and, once the cut’s healed, place it in your potting mix.
Cuttings with properly dried ends will take root quicker than others.
Pachycereus Cactus Pest Or Disease Problems
Suggested Uses For Elephant Cactus
Because of its great overall appearance and low water needs, it’s an excellent plant for xeriscaping your garden.
Additionally, it is attractive and easy to manage addition as a houseplant.