The Totem Pole Cactus – Lophocereus schottii var. monstrous (lof-oh-KER-ee-us SHOT-ee-eye) is a perennial member of the plant family Cactaceae. It hails from the desert areas of Baja, California, ranging into Mexico. There are also some in limited areas of Arizona.
The plants’ genus name, Lophocereus, is Greek and means “crest cactus” or “torch”. Schottii, refers to German 19th century naturalist Arthur Carl Victor Schott. The variation name, monstrous, refers to the plants’ large and strange growth habit.
Lophocereus schottii var Monstrosus goes by the synonym:
- Pachycereus schottii var Monstrosus
Common Names include:
- Monstrous Whisker Cactus
- Totem Pole Cactus
- Totem Cactus
- Totem Pole
Many of the common names of Schottii Monstrosus come from the fact that the bumpy surface of the cactus gives the appearance of many faces.
In the wild, Totem pole cactus look very beaten and battered due to exposure to the elements. When kept in a sheltered garden or indoor setting, they can be quite attractive.
Totem Pole Cactus Care
Totem Pole Cactus, Monstrous Form
Totem Pole Size & Growth
In the wild, the totem pole cactus can reach a height and spread of 15’ feet tall and wide.
Schottii monstrosus is a slow growing cactus. When grown as a potted houseplant, you can control the plant size by the size of the pot.
This trunkless cactus grows in tall columns which tend to branch out like a candelabra. The waxy stems can grow to be 15′ feet high. Each stem has between 5 and 9 ribs which are spaced widely.
At the tip of each tall, mature stem, you will find approximately 20 long, gray bristles. Younger stems have 5 shorter, cone-shaped spines.
Flowering & Fragrance
The sterile flowers may grow to be a couple of inches long. The nocturnal blooms are pale greenish white on the outside and pale pinkish white on the inside with an unpleasant smell. They do not set seed but may produce edible red fruits.
Light & Temperature
Totem Pole Cactus can tolerate a great deal of direct sun and high temperatures. It cannot tolerate long periods of cold weather. It can survive short spells of below-zero temperatures.
The plant is winter hardy to 25° degrees Fahrenheit. It grows outdoors in a succulent cactus garden year round in USDA hardiness zones 9-11.
Pachycereus Schottii Watering & Feeding
Totem pole cactus plants are drought tolerant when grown in large grouping. This growth configuration conserves water well.
When growing as a potted plant, allow the potting mix to dry completely between waterings. Water from beneath using rainwater, filtered water, or bottled water.
In mid-spring, feed with a diluted all-purpose fertilizer or one formulated for cactus and succulents.
Soil & Transplanting
Pachycereus schottii monstrosus cactus thrives in open, gravelly plains landscape. It also does well on a rocky hillside or alongside a body of water in the desert.
Totem pole cactus likes a porous, rich, sandy well draining soil. Every couple of years, in the springtime, repot with new soil. Be sure to use a container that provides ample drainage.
Grooming & Maintenance
When grown in the landscape, once established, these cactus are maintenance free. This makes this drought-tolerant cactus well suited to desert gardening and xeriscaping.
- Pachycereus Pringlei Care (Cardon Cactus)
Propagation Of Lophocereus Schottii var. Monstrous
Propagate schottii monstrosus from a cutting. In the wild, bits of the plant fall, break off or are washed to new locations. Once settled, they set down roots and begin to grow slowly.
To propagate, cut off young cuttings, shoots or segments of mature columns. Allow the cut end to dry for a few days and then plant in loose, well-draining sandy/gravelly soil.
Do not water the cacti for a week. Then mist every few days to provide a bit of moisture until the cutting develops roots.
Lophocereus Schottii var. Monstrous Pests or Diseases
If growing in a shady environment or allowed to stand in water, it will become susceptible to common pests such as aphids on cactus, scale, succulent mealybug, and the like.
Too much moisture will lead to fungal infections and rot.
Is The Pole Cactus Considered Toxic or Poisonous?
Monstrous Whisker Cactus and its fruits are non-toxic.
Are Pole Cactus Considered Invasive?
This slow growing cactus needs very specific climate and soil conditions to flourish. It is not considered invasive in any setting.
Suggested Lophocereus Schottii var. Monstrous Uses
The desert totem Pole Cactus makes an excellent indoor, potted plant in any climate. Make sure to give these succulent plants a warm, sunny setting.
Plants should receive full sun all day long. South or west facing windows provide the best exposure.
In colder climates, the totem pole cactus can stay outdoors during the spring and summer. Bring your plant indoors when the temperatures begin to drop in the fall.