Lophocereus schottii var. major
Botanical Name — Lophocereus schottii var. major
Common Name — Senita cactus, Totem pole cactus
Plant Family — Cactaceae
Lophocereus schottii is a desert-dwelling cactus native to southern Arizona and northwest Mexico. Nicknamed the totem pole cactus, it is naked until it reaches maturity, at which point it develops sharp, downward angles spines. It exhibits a mutualistic relationship with the senita moth. The moth is the only nocturnal pollinator of the species and the cactus serves as a host for reproduction. This plant bears edible red fruit, and where it is native in Mexico, its stems are used as homeopathic remedies for diabetes, stomach ulcers, hair loss, and other physical ailments.
These desert cacti require full sun. Eight hours of direct sunlight a day is ideal but at a minimum, these plants should be provided with at least five hours.
Totem pole cacti thrive in warm temperatures and low humidity. They will thrive in temperatures above 70 ºF.
In climates where the weather is consistently warm, they can be grown outdoors year-round. In cooler regions, place them in a sunny spot indoors when nighttime temperatures fall below 50 ºF.
Once established, these plants are extremely drought tolerant. Water them thoroughly, fully saturating the soil. Always allow the soil to dry out completely in between waterings.
If you are unsure whether or not the soil is dry, wait a few days before watering. It is much better to underwater than overwater. Excessive moisture can quickly lead to root rot.
These plants prefer a gritty, sharply draining mix. Use cactus soil or amend regular potting mix with sand and fine pumice up to 50% to improve texture and drainage.
In desert climates, these plants can be potted directly in the earth and grown outdoors year-round.
Totem pole cactus flowers bloom during the summertime. Flowers blossom from the stems and are nocturnal, opening and dusk and continuing to bloom until early morning.
These cacti are unlikely to bloom indoors.
Lophocereus schottii do not require fertilization, however, you can feed them to give them a boost or refresh old soil that you’ve been using for a while. Use a fertilizer formulated specifically for cacti and succulents, once a month, during the spring and summer only.
This plant can be propagated by seed or by cuttings. Sow seeds in a seedling mix and cover lightly. Keep soil moist until seeds germinate and begin to establish themselves.
Cuttings should be taken with a sharp knife. Allow the cut piece to sit in a shaded spot for a few days until the cut has calloused then pot in soil. Mist soil every few days to provide light moisture until the cutting has started to root.
Totem pole cacti are not especially prone to pests and diseases. Root rot can easily occur if the plant is overwatered. Keep an eye out for common pests such as mealybugs, aphids, and scale.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
These hardy plants require very little maintenance. Container grown cacti prefer to be rootbound, so repotting should be necessary only once every 2 to 3 years. Repot into a planter 2” larger in diameter to give the plant plenty of room to continue growing.
Totem pole cacti are non-toxic to humans and pets.