Totem pole cactus: not doing it right?

One benefit of having to bring so many non-hardy plants indoors for the winter is that I get to look at them a lot more than I did when they were out in the garden. One plant that I'm looking at a lot (and loving what I see) is the totem pole cactus (Lophocereus schottii f. monstrosus).

I picked up a small one of these a few years at the Missouri Botanical Garden, where the Henry Shaw Cactus and Succulent Society were having their annual plant sale. I was so excited to find one of these locally, as it had been on my want list for a while!


Here's the plant when I purchased it in July 2013:

About 8" (20cm) tall, the two gentlemen I bought it from said that it would grow about 2" (5cm) a year -- in a really good year.

Today, two years later, I realize I must be doing something wrong.

Based on that math, this should be 8+2+2 = 12" (30cm) tall at most.

That photo above is a little misleading -- I tried using the panorama feature of my phone and things got a little distorted. Here's a single shot without distortion:

Topping out at about double that -- 24" (60 cm), I'm quite happy with how things are going!

Maybe mine will start producing arms this year, which means I'll be able to propagate this by cuttings -- apparently this form will flower but does not produce seed. I want to have multiple columns of this in a big pot!

With a maximum height of about 10' (3m) in-ground in a suitable climate, even if mine reaches 4' (1.2m) tall I'm not sure exactly how I'd overwinter this. At least it's not dangerous to move.

I love it, and love having it indoors for the next few months!

Do you grow this? Is the growth I'm seeing unusual, or is 2" a year an overly conservative estimate?


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outlawgardener  – (December 14, 2015 at 9:14 AM)  

Wow, that's great growth! I got one at the Portland fling two summers ago but never measured it. It's grown a little but didn't put on the incredible amount of growth that yours has. Congratulations, it's a great cactus!

Teri  – (December 14, 2015 at 10:15 AM)  

I use a dolly to move my big-uns. If there is some distance between the plant and the dolly, I lay an old comforter that has been folded to just the right size to cushion the plant. Works well.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 14, 2015 at 11:16 AM)  

Wow, that's a lot of growth! I've been wanting one for a long time, but all I ever see for sale are small plants. Clearly that's not a reason NOT to buy it, as I now know.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker  – (December 15, 2015 at 5:36 PM)  

I have been using the Plant Finder information on the Missouri Botanical Garden site for the past couple of years and have been nothing but impressed. The botanical garden is on my "Must See" list.

danger garden  – (December 15, 2015 at 11:18 PM)  

Nice work! Like Gerhard I've never considered buying a small plant when I see it, next time!

Alan  – (December 16, 2015 at 9:07 AM)  

Peter: I didn't think I was treating it specially, but it certainly did enjoy moving to a bigger pot this year!

Teri: I need to get a small dolly. My big ranch-style one can't easily come indoors!

Gerhard and Loree: so surprised you don't have this already. I was hoping for some more data to compare... :)

Charlie: Best thing about Plant Finder to me is that it specifically mentions St. Louis area. Really impressive place -- definitely worth the trip! (Have you seen my posts on MBG?)

sarah  – (May 30, 2018 at 7:04 PM)  

What size pot did you start in when it was 8" and what size did you move it to and when? Thanks!

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