The Totem Pole Cactus ‘Pachycereus Schottii F. Monstrosus’

Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus

Cacti are probably the most popular succulents we have around. Remember the days when cactus and succulent were used synonymously?

Thank God, we know better now.

We know cacti are part of the larger succulents group and the two are not interchangeable. Succulents are diverse with a ton of individual plant types – and cacti are part of this diversity.

Further on, the cacti have a diverse background. There are so many cacti species. Any three you know of?

Well, here’s the fourth one: the totem pole cactus.

Have you seen the cactus plant? Heard about it maybe? Or this is your first time?

Whatever the case, you’ll have more than a handful of information about this yet another wonder from the succulent kingdom. Read on.

Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus
A thickly stemmed cactus @succulentsontheside

Totem Pole Cactus

Lophocereus schotii var. monstrosus is the name the totem pole cactus goes by in the botanical world. It is yet another beauty that goes against the usual spiny – and sometimes dangerous – nature of a majority of cacti.

Its entire height, which can be as high as 12 ft, is covered by a series of tiny spineless bumps – a characteristic brought about by mutation. But if it grows to maturity, you’re bound to see traces of its past spiky glory.

At full height, the cactus plant bears sharp grey spikes at the stem tips.

Native to the Mexican state of Baja California, the totem pole cactus is green and flowers only occasionally. The blooms are pink and open during the night – so probably you’ll never see them. They come out in summer.

Be sure to also check out “What Is Special About A Cactus?” to see more features on the cacti species and what makes them so special.

Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus
A young cactus @artslug_

Totem Pole Cactus Care

This cactus is pretty easy to nurture. It’s a set-and-nearly-forget type of plant.

As long you have a few pieces of the puzzle in place, you’ll have your plant for as long you wish — the most important details to pay attention to include watering, potting mix, and lighting.

Very paramount also is your area’s USDA hardiness. This will determine whether you’ll grow your totem pole cactus as an outdoor plant or an indoor one.

Have a closer look at each one of these below.

1. Ideal climate – outdoor or indoor growth?

The totem pole cactus is ideal for both outdoor and indoor growth. But there’s no denying – it’s such a darling with outdoor growth. This could be attributed to its rather imposing physique.

The bad news is that not every area will be suitable for growing this beauty piece outside, at least not all year round.

Places that experience a warm climate can accommodate the totem pole cactus in the open quite well. And that is throughout the whole year. In terms of hardiness zones, we’re talking of areas with values from 9 to 11.

For cooler parts, you can still grow your plant outdoors. But it should be in a container so that you bring it inside as the cold months approach.

Be sure to also check out our guide “How to Successfully Grow Indoor Succulents” for more info on growing indoors.

2. Lighting for the totem pole cactus

The totem pole cactus cherishes the sun, so much. That means you should make sure it’s getting as much of it as possible – not a few hours, we’re talking a full day here.

This is fairly simple if you’re growing this cactus plant in a garden – assuming your climate is ideal for such. All you need is a clear spot devoid of any shade.

For indoors, place your plant near the window receiving the most hours of sunlight throughout the day.

Anything partial and your plant won’t be as impressed with its growth.

Don’t miss this opportunity to take away our ebookBest Lighting Practices for Succulent Growth” for our full guide to taking care of your succulents with the best lighting practices.

3. Totem pole cactus watering requirements

This is a drought-tolerant plant. A few prolonged periods of not quenching it isn’t much of a bother.

Nevertheless, you still need to be watering your baby – and your frequency will depend on whether you’re raising it in a container or out there in the garden.

Indoors, it’s best to wait at least two weeks between watering and a week when the plant is outdoors, in the ground. These are the rough timelines during which the soil would have dried up.

If you can’t keep with counting the days (it’s only natural) then simply checking whether the top part of the soil is dry or not will do just fine. You want to make sure that the soil has completely dried out before heading for your watering can.

The frequency will also be influenced by seasons. You’ll need to water your plant often during, say, a heatwave and much less when the temperatures tumble. The trick is in keeping an eye on the topsoil.

Sometimes you may even overwater your cactus. For that, check out our piece “5 Dangers Of Overwatering A Cactus” for tips on salvaging your cactus plant.

4. Soil requirements

The above watering requirements will only make sense if you have the right soil in place for your totem pole cactus.

As it is the norm with succulent plants, make sure the soil you put your plant in is well-draining. It just ensures your plant is getting the scarce water conditions it’s used to in the wild. And that’s how you end up with a truly ornamental possession.

Learn how to make your own succulent soil in “How to Make Your own Succulent Soil at Home“.

Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus
Close up of a cactus @crazy_plant_guy

Totem Pole Cactus Propagation

Getting new totem babies is possible through stem cuttings. And the whole process is a piece of cake.

Here’s a cheat sheet for going about it:

  • Identify a stem with a few healthy bumps and cut it off, a few inches from the tip, using a sharp, sterilized knife. Make sure your cut is at an angle to prevent water accumulation on the parent plant.
  • Treat the wounds on both the remaining stem and the cutting using scouring powder to prevent infections. This is optional, but it’s always good to be proactive.
  • Store your cutting away from direct sunlight, giving it just enough time for the cut part to callus. This takes a few weeks.
  • Now it’s time to stick your cutting in a well-draining mix.
  • Give your cutting a few days before you start watering. Follow the watering routine outlined above and keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • The roots will form between 2 to 6 weeks, and you’ll have a new plant to look out for. At this point, you can start to gradually increase the exposure to sunlight and follow the above caring tips.

Check out more tips on propagating by taking a look at “5 Tips for Propagating Succulents“.

Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus
Succulent planted in a black planter @soitgrows_

Pests and Problems

The totem pole cactus is a hardy succulent plant. Sure, the cactus can go for long periods without water– like all succulent plants. But what sets it apart is its resistance to pests and diseases. So you shouldn’t worry at all on those fronts.

What you want to keep tabs on are your watering and the soil mix. Root rot is still a major nightmare here. Refer to the caring requirements above.


Totem Pole Cactus Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus
Top view of a potted succulent @nicoleska665

There is no shortage of places when it comes to buying a totem pole cactus. The most no-brainer options are Amazon and Etsy.

Aside from these e-com giants, there are many enough options that are even better since their sole focus is on succulent plants. Check out the full list in this post. Check out this totem pole cactus we found online just for you!

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out more from the cacti species by checking out “Blooming Beauty: Moon Cactus (Gymnocalycium Mihanovichii)” or even “Cottontop Cactus – Echinocactus Polycephalus“.

If you liked this read you’re going to love our full in-depth ebooks! With so many of our succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it with you here! With our very detailed ebooks, you’ll get more information than these short articles, some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read. 

Happy Planting!


Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

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2 thoughts on “The Totem Pole Cactus ‘Pachycereus Schottii F. Monstrosus’

  1. I have a totem pole cactus that I have been growing outdoors for 4 years now. It is 3 feet high. Today I noticed that the totem pole is now leaning at about 80 degrees. I also noticed that it is a little soft. Any ideas what may be going on here? It gets a light watering every 2 weeks. I live in St. George, UT, where the temps have been getting to 105 for the last month. Any ideas?

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Posted in Cacti