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.
Cacti 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 the midday heat. The soil should be free-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 the ground, plants can tolerate a brief freeze without significant damage.