Seeds and seedlings are the most critical stages of cacti life cycles. From the thousands of seeds produced in a reproductive season, only a small fraction successfully germinate, the rest are lost to predation, go dormant and remain viable in the seed bank or lose viability. These early stages often depend on facilitation by nurse plants for germination and seedling recruitment. We aim to prescribe actions for the conservation of Cephalocereus polylophus by improving recruitment in the population. The viability of seeds with different storage times was evaluated as an indicator of their potential to form a short-term seed bank. Through the analysis of seed germination and seedling survival under the canopy of two nurse plant species and open areas, we assessed the importance of facilitation for recruitment. A predator exclusion experiment evaluated the intensity of herbivory on seeds and seedlings of different ages. Seeds had germination rates above 90\% under laboratory conditions, even after two years of storage. Seed germination was only registered under one of the two nurses and after two years, up to 4 % of the seedlings planted under both nurse plants survived and protection against herbivores increased seedlings survival. Considering that facilitation and age are crucial for seedling survival of C. polylophus, future conservation programs should include the protection of plant communities and the introduction of seedlings instead of seeds.