Oreocereus Celcianus cold hardiness

Quick little question related gardening and landscaping. But do any of you have experience with Oreocereus Celcianus, and how cold hardy it is? With it’s location in the Andes and Atacama desert you would assume it’s quite hardy, but I see a lot of conflicting reports on different websites ranging from -5c to -20c.

I ask because I have one, but I’m not really keen on houseplants and would like to plant it this year if possible (high desert, four corners, USDA Zone 7a)

for gardening stuff, i think this is usually a good reference: https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/67349.

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Yeah, I’ve looked at davesgarden for some stuff, but like I said different places give different answers. I just wanted to see if anyone had first hand experience here.

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I have no first-hand experience with cold-hardiness of South American cacti, but I notice that the airport at La Quiaca, Argentina is within the distribution of this species. Data from the airport weather station suggests that minimum temperatures in winter (i.e. July) are usually around -4°C. Wikipedia reports the average low in July is -6.8°C and the coldest ever recorded is -15.2°C.

For Farmington, NM, the average January low is around -7°C which seems pretty comparable, but it looks like the risk of extremely low temperatures is a lot greater than in the Andes. Farmington’s record low is -28.9°C, and the USDA Zone 7a designation implies that the average annual extreme low is between -15°C and -17.8°C.

Another factor to consider would be winter precipitation, but this seems comparable in both locations with less than 3 mm total across the four coldest months.

Overall, I’d guess that this species would do fine in mild and average winters in your location but would be vulnerable during really severe cold snaps.

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Yeah I was looking at weather data in towns where Celcianus exists and the coldest record I could find was -15c. -17 is really the coldest it ever gets, -28 is a once in a century kind of thing. At least it’s never happened in my lifetime, and the winters only seem to be getting warmer.

I might just do it for the hell of it and see, rather let it die outside than inside my window sill. I could also just get some burlap and monitor the weather in winter. Appreciate the feedback.

Edit: I feel like I should note if it’s relevant to anyone, those kind of temps only happen at night. Days rarely go much below ~0c if at all. Upwards of 5 or even 10c is common.

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O. celsianus can easily survive temperatures as low as -5 to -12°C or so, if the substrate remains dry then they can survive lower for short periods, moisture and cool temperatures are not a good combination. Ultimately the high temperatures are pretty similar between your region and the distribution of O. celsianus, but I’d be more worried about the highs and watering during the cold than the cold hardiness alone. O. celsianus inhabits the Andes at around 2,500-4,000m elevation and the dense fibers on the stem are an adaptation to protect the epidermis from the intense sun exposure and to insulate from the low temperatures during the winter. In sufficiently warmer climates the plant will cook. It is not a huge worry given your similar climate but be mindful that the warm temperature readings of towns within the species range will be higher than at the elevations they inhabit, they experience much cooler temperatures than the surrounding areas. From Jujuy to Chuquisaca, Tarija, etc. the winters are extremely dry, with less precipitation than the already semi-arid summers so careful consideration regarding protecting the plant from precipitation during the cooler months is necessary. Often botanic gardens throughout the SW US even have trouble raising healthy specimens of Cactaceae from the Andes and Atacama, but don’t let that disuade you.


“Ultimately the high temperatures are pretty similar between your region and the distribution of O. celsianus”

Do you mean winter highs or summer highs? I’m pretty sure our summers our quite a bit hotter than the Atacama and Andes mountains.

Precipitation would of some concern, but I can add some sand and gravel to the soil. In terms of snowfall, we get a little bit here and there but it’s pretty dry and light snow that usually doesn’t last more than a couple days. I got a south facing wall with metal sheeting that speeds that up further.

And being high desert, our coldest temps our when it’s the driest. Snowfall brings “warmer” nights. I think I’ll go ahead and plant it this year and see what happens.

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Good answers from Aidan and Rupert. I’ve seen it in habitat at several dozen places and expect it could survive your conditions whether hot or cold. Here’s the climate diagram for the famous population a few miles east of Yavi.

Just to be clear about the distribution of Oreocereus celsianus; it is only found in Bolivia and Argentina between 2600 and 3900m. It does not occur in the Atacama of Chile (check the Map on the taxon page :slightly_smiling_face: ).

Good luck!


It seems I assumed the Atacama was bigger than it is, my bad.

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