Woolly cactus (Espostoa lanata)

The spines of the Espostoa lanata are sharp

Sure, or almost certainly, you've ever gone to a nursery and seen specimens of columnar cacti with numerous white hairs and apparently no or very few spines. Well, these plants are known by the scientific name of Lanata wife, surname that refers to the amount of those hairs or fibers that cover your body.

Although that is the official name, among 'friends' it is called woolly cactus or old man's head cactus, among other things. But whatever its name is, its maintenance is quite simple. Therefore, then we are going to talk to you at length about this curious cactus.

Origin and characteristics of Lanata wife

It is a columnar cactus with a branched bearing originating from northern Peru and Ecuador, specifically from the Province of Loja. It can reach a height of up to 5 meters, and develops branches up to 12 centimeters in diameter.. It has between 20 and 30 ribs, in which there are white and circular areolae from which several short, sharp and yellowish radial spines sprout, and two robust and yellow central spines that are 4 to 8 centimeters long. Its flowers are white, 3 to 6 centimeters in diameter, and open at dusk.

It is popularly known as the Peruvian elder cactus, woolly cactus, old man's head cactus, chuna from Peru, or red fish from Quito. Instead, its scientific name is Lanata wife.

What are the care you need?

If you dare to have a copy, we recommend you take care of it as follows:


It is a cactus that it has to be outside, in an area where it gets sunlight throughout the day. In any case, you must take into account that if you buy it in a nursery where it was protected, you have to get it used little by little and gradually to direct sun exposure, otherwise it would burn.

If it is kept indoors, it would end up etiolating, that is, bending and growing in the direction of a light source, something that would greatly weaken it.


It requires sandy soils so that the water drains quickly. It is very sensitive to excess watering, and that is why we recommend the following:

  • Flower pot: fill it with pumice, quartz sand, kiryuzuna or if you prefer construction gravel with a thickness of 1 to 4mm mixed with 30% black peat.
  • Garden: make a planting hole of about 50 x 50 centimeters, and fill it with some substrate or mixture mentioned above.


Irrigation it must be very scarce: once or twice a week in summer, and every 10 to 20 days the rest of the year. In case of doubt, it is better that you do not water until a few days have passed, or that you check the humidity of the substrate or the soil by inserting a thin wooden stick, or if you have it in a pot, weighing it once watered and again at after a few days.

Very important: avoid waterlogging. If it is in a container, it must have holes in the base, and NOT have a plate underneath, otherwise the roots will rot.


From early spring to late summer it is interesting to pay it with Blue nitrophoska or with a liquid fertilizer for cacti, following the indications specified on the product packaging. Thus, you will get its roots to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow and have excellent development.


View of the Espostoa lanata

Image - Flickr / Megan Hansen // In the center of the image is a Lanata wife

La Lanata wife multiplies by seeds in spring and by cuttings in spring-summer:


The seeds are sown in low-rise seedbeds with universal substrate mixed with perlite in equal parts, ensuring that they are not piled up. Then they are covered with a thin layer of soil or with, for example, quartz sand, and watered.

Finally, it only remains to place the seedbed outside, if possible in full sun or, failing that, in a very bright area. Thus, keeping the soil moist, and avoiding sudden changes in temperature, they will germinate in about 5 to 10 days.


When the woolly cactus reaches a certain age, it tends to produce branches. Are they can be cut and placed in a bright area but protected from direct sun for a week to allow the wound to dry, and then planted in individual pots with volcanic sand like kiryuzuna for example.

To have a better chance of success, it is highly advisable to impregnate the base of the cutting with rooting hormones before planting. If all goes well, in about 15 days it will begin to emit its own roots.

Pests and diseases of the Lanata wife

In general it is quite resistant, but you have to control the risks a lot since excess water weakens its roots, which end up attracting fungi, which end up rotting them.


It withstands well cold and weak frosts of up to -2ºC.

Where to buy?

You can buy your specimen in nurseries or seeds from here:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *



  1. Responsible for the data: Miguel Ángel Gatón
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.