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Silver Torch Cactus Facts – Learn About Silver Torch Cactus Plants

Silver Torch Cactus Facts – Learn About Silver Torch Cactus Plants


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Common plant names are interesting. In the case of Silver Torch cactus plants (Cleistocactus strausii), the name is extremely characterizing. These are eye catching succulents that will astound even the most jaded cactus collector. Keep reading for Silver Torch cactus facts that will astonish and make you yearn for a specimen if you don’t already have one.

Cactus come in a dazzling array of sizes, forms, and colors. Growing a Silver Torch cactus plant will provide your home with one of the most stunning examples of these succulents. Make sure you have plenty of room for the multiple ten foot (3 m.) tall stems.

Silver Torch Cactus Facts

The genus name, Cleistocactus, comes from the Greek “kleistos,” which means closed. This is a direct reference to the plant’s flowers which don’t open. The group is native to the mountains of Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, and Bolivia. They are columned plants that generally have numerous stems and come in many sizes.

Silver Torch itself is quite large but can be used as a potted plant. Interestingly, cuttings from this cactus rarely root, so propagation is best through seed. Hummingbirds are the chief pollinator of the plant.

About Silver Torch Plants

In the landscape the potential size of this cactus makes it a focal point in the garden. The slender columns are comprised of 25 ribs, covered in areoles that bristle with four two inch (5 cm.) light yellow spines surrounded by 30-40 shorter white, almost fuzzy spines. The whole effect actually looks like the plant is in a Muppet suit and simply lacks eyes and a mouth.

When plants are old enough deeply pink, horizontal flowers appear in late summer. Bright red fruits form from these blooms. USDA zones 9-10 are suitable for growing a Silver Torch cactus outdoors. Otherwise, use it in a greenhouse or as a large houseplant.

Silver Torch Cactus Care

This cactus needs full sun but in the hottest regions it prefers some shelter from midday heat. The soil should be freely draining but does not have to be particularly fertile. Water the plant spring through summer when the top of the soil is dry. By fall, reduce watering to every five weeks if the ground is dry to the touch.

Keep the plant dry in winter. Fertilize with a slow release food in early spring that is low in nitrogen. Silver Torch cactus care is similar when potted. Re-pot every year with fresh soil. Move pots indoors if a freeze threatens. In ground plants can tolerate a brief freeze without significant damage.

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Thanks! Can you tell me more about this yearly cycle? Do you mean with watering? I will find a pot tomorrow and separate them. Do you think to roadkill cactus might do good potted with the silver torch or should all 3 have separate pots?


I treat my jade plants exactly the same as my cacti.

Thanks! Can you tell me more about this yearly cycle? Do you mean with watering? I will find a pot tomorrow and separate them. Do you think to roadkill cactus might do good potted with the silver torch or should all 3 have separate pots?

long story short Both plants take different care to thrive. In typical home care, The jade will out grow the others and smother the others out. I would keep the jade in its own pot.


I treat my jade plants exactly the same as my cacti.

Your plants are in zone 11 though. Cacti go dormant. Jade less so.

Is this to say if jade goes less dormant that in the winter they should be watered more frequently?

anxiouscactusparent said: So how about if I plant another cactus in the pot with the silver torch? Would that work?

Is this to say if jade goes less dormant that in the winter they should be watered more frequently?


My indoor cacti never go dormant.

I see no problem with those plants sharing a pot, given the mix is quite rocky and the pot is unglazed terra cotta.


My indoor cacti never go dormant.

I see no problem with those plants sharing a pot, given the mix is quite rocky and the pot is unglazed terra cotta.



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My jades have to be indoor in the winter. From Nov to early March, I rarely water my jade plants, if at all.

You may separate them in the spring if you like.


Didnt you yourself said you cant provide enough light indoors?


I think part of the confusion here stems from cause and effect being hard to distinguish.

Cool temps and low light will slow down the growth of many succulents, and in the extreme they will pause growing. The natural tendency of many plants is to go dormant when conditions are not permissive. This is the time when overwatering is the most dangerous, because the plant does not need or want water when it is asleep, except perhaps intermittently to keep the roots in good shape, and evaporation is at its slowest in cool temps and low light. So many people in zone 5 or 6 who overwinter their cacti indoors tend to pull way back on the water during winter, like Charlinex has described. Not everyone has a warm (room temp) growing area where their plants can see the sun for hours a day year round. I understand that.

At some point though, withholding water can also trigger dormancy on its own. It may seem like the changes in temperature and light (ie. environmental changes due to the season) are causing the observed effect (dormancy) but in fact what often tips the balance is a lack of regular hydration (ie. environmental changes due to care). Depending on the relative strength of all those different changes, some natural and some due to our behavior in response to nature, the actual cause for the observed result may be obscured. I would caution people against assuming that the season alone is the direct cause of the dormancy they observe, except where it is obvious (like in a dim basement for example).

I have learned to filter out almost all recommendations to water starve cacti (and many other succulents) during winter given the mild, bright conditions they enjoy in my indoor growing area. Withholding water doesn't make things better when conditions are otherwise permissive, it makes them worse. Now in a cooler, darker environment the situation changes dramatically, and that's when you have to apply judgment.

All of these observations would apply equally to a jade plant and the average xerophytic cactus.

In the end I went out and got a couple pots that could fit them and separated them because I thought about the massive jade plant a client of mine had and realized no matter watering it would outgrow the cactus in no time. I plan on using my bigger pot to either plant a couple like-minded succulents together or combine my two snake plants that are in two separate pots and one of them really ought to be repotted in the spring anyways (has been in the same small pot for 2.5 years now).

My last question is when you say "cactus with spines" does that also include pad cactuses like angel wings?


Potted Desert Garden: Get to Know the Silver Torch

The “silver torch” cactus (Cleistocactus strausii) is a great choice for your desert landscape or patio, because it is an eye-catching accent plant and can easily be grown in pots.

The silver-white colored spines offer a contrasting color in most landscapes. Its slender, vertical columns can reach a height of 10 feet, even in pots, and are only about 2.5 inches across, which keeps the plant neat and tidy. The plant is also easy to grow and care for.

Don’t confuse this cactus with the “old man” cactus (Cephalocereus senilis) which has an unshorn coat. I have nothing against old men, but I prefer the neat comb of the silver torch rather than the unruly shags of the old man, which turn brown and lose their appeal with age.

A great feature for hummingbird lovers: Once the cactus reaches 18 inches in height, it will begin to produce tubular, deep red flowers from February into May. (See the pic to the right.)

Tips for growing the silver torch in your potted desert garden:

  • Place this plant where it gets partial shade or morning direct sun.
  • Don’t worry about the cold. Hardy to at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the cactus will survive even lower temperatures when sheltered by a tree or other overhang.
  • Plant in a mixture of loamy/sandy soil to provide good drainage.
  • Water regularly during the summer, and sparingly during the winter months.
  • Stake the cactus if it begins to tip as it grows taller.
  • The silver torch will multiply by growing new “pups” at the base of the plant. (See below.) These will shoot up quickly as new columns. They will space themselves away from the mature main stem to create a colony of white pillars. Neat and tidy!


Cactus FAQs

Curious about cactus? These frequently asked questions might have the answer to your questions.

1. What is inside of a cactus?

A cactus has a succulent stem that is dense and tough-walled. This succulent stem can retain water inside the stem. Both of these stems are green, fleshy, and photosynthetic.

Depending on the cactus, the inside of the stems is somewhat solid or spongy. A thick and waxy coating inside the cactus prevents the water from evaporating.

2. Why do cacti have spines?

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about cactus. Why do these plants have spines?

Cacti have spots known as insoles, from which spines grow. In a sense, spins can be regarded as modified leaves. Spines shield the plant from predators, although spines don’t always make a cactus safe.

3. Are cacti succulents?

Short answer: yes. Yes, they are. Keep in mind, however, while each and every cactus is a succulent, not all succulents are cactus.

Cacti retain water easily. These plants store water throughout their fleshy part. What makes cacti different from other succulents is that they contain isolates.

Isolates are the areas from which cacti’s spines grow. Most of the other succulents don’t have this, allowing cacti to stand out from them.

4. Are cacti trees?

No, but there is no denying that they do resemble trees in many ways. Despite these resemblances, cacti are not considered as trees. Those that look very similar to trees are called treelike.

Some cacti have characteristics that trees have. For example, bark, leaves, and the ability to grow into treelike forms.

In short, cactus plants are considered as a part of Cactaceae. They are not trees.

5. Are cacti flowers?

Most cacti are not considered as flowers. That said, some species of cactus are recognized to have flowers that grow out of them.

For example, varieties such as Echinopsis produces beautiful flowers, causing many people to assume that cacti are flowers.

For the most part, cacti are the host for flowers. This is why cacti are always considered as plants. Some cacti only grow spines and no flowers at all, so the term flowers don’t apply to them.

6. Can cacti grow indoors?

The answer is, of course, yes. Cacti can grow indoors. What is important to note is that for the cactus to grow well, they need a similar atmosphere to that of their natural habitat.

In general, that means placing the cactus where it can get enough sun.

The soil in which the plant grows also matter. It is recommended to use different soil to provide a similar setting like the natural habitat of the cactus. For example, combining sand and water.

7. Can cacti grow in a container or pot?

Of course they can. Cacti come in various shapes and sizes. There are plenty of types of cactus that can grow in a container or pot.

In fact, cacti that can grow in a container or pot are among the most popular types for people who want to breed cactus.

These cacti are very convenient to take home. They can be a decoration in the house, apartment, or garden too. Best of all, they are low-maintenance plants and very easy to take care of.

8. Can cacti grow in average soil?

Yes, they can. They wouldn’t grow healthy and well, however. Average soil does not provide the optimal condition for a cactus to grow healthy and well.

Fortunately, cacti potting soil are widely available. Planting a cactus couldn’t be easier, thanks to that.

9. Can cacti grow in sand?

Most wild cactus plants grow in a mixture of soil and sand but yes, they can grow in sand. Cacti can grow in sand or around sand. Why? Because sand is a vital part of the environmental makeup of cacti’s habitats.

There are various types of cactus, each with its own unique characteristics. From flowering cacti, cacti that can grow very tall, to cacti that bloom every Christmas or Easter. So, which one is your favorite type?


Watch the video: Best use of the Golden Barrel Cactus