Mammillaria plumosa, commonly referred to as the Feather cactus, is a species of flowering plants in the Cactaceae family. This cactus is native to various regions of Northeastern Mexico. Most often, it shows up on limestone cliffs in habitats like sparse xerophytic shrublands.
Feather cactus is, without a doubt, an unusual ornamental plant. Although it comes along with dense white spines, the cactus is actually very soft, feathery to the touch. This particular feature makes it a nice and safe companion, especially if you have curious kids or pets around that might find it attractive.
Besides its friendly nature, Feather cactus is also super easy to grow and care for. This low-demanding plant will thrive in well-draining soils, warm temperatures, and a variety of lighting conditions without constant effort on your part. Moreover, Feather cactus is fairly drought-tolerant for a long time, so it is the perfect option if you are a novice or forgetful grower.
About Feather Cactus
- Feather cactus grows at altitudes of 2395 to 4429 feet (730-1350 m) above sea level. In the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the species appears categorized as “Near Threatened”.
- Thanks to its unlimited beauty and easy-going style, Feather cactus is one of the many recipients of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
- Feather cactus belongs to the Mammillaria genus that comprises about 200 species and varieties. It shares this genus with species like Finger Cactus, Old Lady Cactus Pincushion Cactus, Fishhook Cactus, Thimble Cactus, etc.
- This weird-looking cactus tends to send offsets, providing that attractive woolly overall appearance. However, it may take a couple of years to produce offsets. But once the process begins, the plant can fill a 10 inch (25 cm) wide pot in just a few years.
- Feather cactus is a lovely addition to various landscape decorations. Some of its landscape uses are rock gardens, pocket gardens, succulent gardens, dish gardens, accent plantings, window sills, patios, and containers.
- The superb Feather cactus can make for an excellent companion to many interesting species of plants. As a rule, you can plant this cactus near any other succulents, cacti, and flowering plants with similar growing requirements.
Feather Cactus Features: An Overview
- Feather cactus is a clump-forming species of cacti that usually produces low, dense mounds. Depending on the specimen, the clumps can reach up to 5 inches (12 cm) in height and a maximum of 16 inches (40 cm) in diameter.
- Each clustering globose or somewhat elongated stem will grow as wide as 2.8 inches (7 cm). The individual stems are light green and appear completely covered with masses of white, downy, feather-like spines.
- Unlike many other species of cacti, the Feather cactus stores high amounts of water in its raised tubercles, not its ribs. With time, especially if it receives enough water, the tubercles will expand to increase its potential for water storage.
- Feather cactus typically blooms in late summer. Once this period approaches, the cactus will surprise you with adorable small, funnel-shaped flowers that can exhibit shades of white, creamy-white, greenish-yellow, or pink.
- Sometimes, the blossoms of Feather cacti may turn into fruits when the autumn comes. The fruits are elongated capsules that contain many tiny, black seeds. When overly-ripe, the fruits make the seeds visible and ready for sowing.
Growing Feather Cactus
Feather cactus has a few very basic demands just like all other types of cacti. When it comes to lighting, this cactus can do just fine in a wide variety of conditions from full sunlight to partial shade. However, the plant will perform best if you provide it with a minimum of six hours of bright, direct sunlight daily. In indoor settings, you can place your Feather cactus in a spot where it can get as much sunlight as it can, such as near south or north-facing windows.
In terms of temperatures, the Feather cactus is not a hardy species, especially if you live in an area that’s more on the cold side. If the temperatures in your area drop lower than 20 °F (-6.7 °C) during the winter, it’s best to grow your Feather cacti in pots and to bring them inside over the cold months. On the other hand, Feather cactus can do nothing but thank you for spoiling it with warm or hot weather.
As long as you are growing your Feather cactus in proper lighting conditions, soil, and also provide it with good air circulation, pests and fungal diseases should not be an issue. In general, the most common problem that can occur while caring for this cactus is over-watering. When this happens, Feather cactus will become more susceptible to mealybugs. If you notice these pests on your plant, handpick them and apply insecticidal soap to prevent future infestations.
Planting Feather Cactus
Feather cactus can grow in a wide variety of soils only if they come packed with very sharp drainage. Likewise, this plant is not picky when it comes to the pH levels of its growing medium. For pot-grown specimens, you should look for a high-quality commercial mix designed exclusively for cacti and succulents. Outdoors, you can plant your Feather cactus in a mix of garden soil and high amounts of coarse sand or fine gravel to improve the overall drainage.
Your Feather cactus will require regular fertilizing to grow healthy and happy. But not too much of it! Make sure you feed your cactus with a slow-release fertilizer once every year in spring. If you cannot find this particular product, an all-purpose liquid fertilizer diluted at ¼ strength twice a year in spring and midsummer is a nice alternative.
Since Feather cactus does not grow like crazy, it will not need frequent repotting during its lifetime. However, if your plant begins to outgrow its current pot, you will have to take some action. You can transplant your beloved cactus in a new container that is one size larger than the one in which it has grown until now. After repotting, do not forget to provide your Feather cactus with a nice drink to help it settle in its new environment.
Watering Feather Cactus
Like most species of cacti, this buddy right here can store impressive amounts of water in its succulent components. This feature makes Feather cactus very tolerant of drought for prolonged periods. Which is great! However, this does not mean that you should completely ignore your Feather cactus. After all, it is still a plant and needs some attention and love once in a while!
In general, the frequency of watering may vary depending on the environmental conditions. During the hot summer months, Feather cactus will appreciate regular drinks, but make sure you do not allow it to sit in soggy soil. In regions with decent amounts of rain, your outdoor Feather cactus will do just fine without supplemental watering. During the winter, you can even skip watering for good until the next active growing period of this cactus, typically in spring.
Because too much water can easily cause your Feather cactus to rot, it would be wise to adopt a certain watering routine for its overall well-being. The best way to avoid over-watering your Feather cactus is to use the “soak & dry” method. Firstly, you will have to always check its soil in-between waterings. Secondly, water your cactus only when the substrate has dried out completely.
Propagating Feather Cactus
What makes the Feather cactus an awesome companion is its ability to respond very well to several methods of propagation. In fact, propagating this cactus is an absolutely mandatory process to avoid overcrowding it with the numerous offsets it produces.
If you lack some space in your garden or home, no worries! All you have to do is gift some of them to your cacti-lover family members or friends. Believe us, they will be more than delighted to have at least one of this beauty in their collection!
The most common way to propagate Feather cactus is, obviously, through offsets. This is not only a super simple process, it also shows spectacular results in little to no time. You can remove the offsets from the mother plant by cutting them at the base using a very sharp and sterilized knife. Once you have the offsets, allow them to dry out for two days or so. After this period, you can just plant them in fresh, well-draining soil and treat them as individual plants.
If you are one of those blessed owners that have a fruit-bearing Feather cactus at home, you can also propagate yours from seeds. First things first, allow the fruit to over-ripen before harvesting the seeds. After you collect the seeds, make sure you clean them and let them dry for a few days. When the seeds seem dry to the touch, you can sow them in well-draining soil and wait for the magic to happen.
With its cuteness and low-maintenance habit, Mammillaria plumosa a.k.a. Feather cactus has all it takes to be your next everlasting companion. If you already are the parent of this adorable cactus, go on and share your experience with us in the comment section! If not, what are you waiting for? Add it to your edgy plant family as soon as possible and thank us later!