When we think about cacti, we almost always conjure an image of thorny, rough, and tough green plants, but cacti come in many different shapes, sizes, and textures.
The feather cactus, as you might make out from its name, is a little cuddle, feathery, tiny cactus that looks like a little cloud ball.
However, don’t be deceived by its looks because if you touch it, you will realize that all the fluff is actually hiding several little spikes.
The feather cactus also goes by the name Mammillaria Plumosa and has been around for several centuries.
Did you know the feather cactus is classified as nearly extinct?
If you ever come across these adorable plants, make sure to bring them with you, take care of them, and propagate them using our guide, which will tell you all you need to know about feather cactus.
All You Need to Know About Feather Cactus
The feather cactus is a cacti species from the Cactaceae plant family and is native to Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
In its natural habitat, Mammillaria Plumosa can survive for several years; however, if they aren’t planted in arid conditions, it’s best to bring them indoors during colder months.
Deserts of South and Central America are also home to these cacti.
Like many other cacti, this plant is also fairly easy to maintain and care for. So, let’s cut to the chase and learn how you can grow and care for these beautiful, nearly extinct plants.
Feather Cactus Growth & Care
Mammillaria Plumosa grows in clusters and is covered in feather-like flowers. Once fully grown, it can grow up to 16 inches wide and 3 inches tall, forming a pile of spherical stems.
The diameter of the stems can measure a maximum of 2.8 inches.
The white covering of feathery spikes on this cactus gives them the appearance of being coated in soft, fluffy “feathers.”
If this wasn’t enough to make this plant appealing, it produces beautiful flowers in the spring season in colors ranging from pink and yellow to white and ivory.
It thrives in container gardens and does well on its own in a handy pot. If you plant a feather cactus in a small bowl, you’ll notice that it quickly fills with clusters, making it the ideal home plant.
Since it is so easy to care for, it is an excellent option for beginners looking for a stunning yet simple way to start their cactus collection.
Caring for a Feather Cactus
The way the Feather Cactus stores water is what distinguishes it from other cacti.
The Feather Cactus features elevated tubercles with spines protruding from them, in contrast to several other cacti who store water in their ribs.
The tubercles enlarge when the plant is watered, increasing the quantity of water that reaches the plant.
It’s crucial to keep this cactus out of damp soil. Overwatering the feather cactus will almost always lead it to its death as it cannot endure wet feet.
The best method to ensure that you are not overwatering your plant is by using the ‘soak and dry method. This method entails only watering the plant once the soil is dried all the way through.
In contrast to several other cacti, the feather cactus loves the sun. It thrives in direct sunlight and can spend an entire day next to a bright sunny window.
The blooming and flowering of the feather cactus necessitate at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. But keep in mind that these needs are for mature plants.
Young feather cacti should be gradually exposed to sunlight. Young feather cacti should be kept in a shaded place where they can have access to bright indirect sunlight and then slowly increase the duration under the direct sun.
You can relocate it to a sunny area and blanket it with several pieces of paper, and every few days, remove one layer of paper to gradually increase the light content.
The type of soil you choose is equally significant and closely connected to the watering schedule. Choosing soil that has been specifically formulated for cacti is often encouraged.
You can easily DIY an excellent soil for cactus by mixing equal parts potting mix with sand.
This soil will ensure maximum drainage and will quickly acclimate to its new surroundings.
Well-drained soil is essential for protecting the root from rot. Ensure your planting pot has one or more drainage holes at the bottom.
You can also add a few stones to your potting mix for an added layer of protection. A well-drained soil ensures that oxygen is retained underneath, protecting the roots from fungi.
A light feeding of a good, complete liquid fertilizer can be given twice, in early spring and later in midsummer.
The feather cactus hates the cold. They cannot tolerate temperatures if they fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Therefore, during the winter months, it is important that you bring your plant inside.
If exposed to frost or colder temperatures, the root system can be harmed, resulting in stunted and slow growth.
Additionally, the plant won’t need as much water during these months since it will be dormant. A little spray once in a while should be enough to keep it healthy.
Moreover, since it is a cactus, it naturally prefers dryer weather and dislikes humidity.
This indicates that it will thrive indoors, particularly during the winter when heaters cause the air to become rather dry.
Propagating a Feather Cactus
The Feather Cactus can be propagated using a variety of techniques using offshoots, cuttings, or seeds, and it is fairly easy to do so.
Moreover, because this beautiful and unique cactus is on the verge of extinction, it is up to us to preserve it, propagate it, and maintain it.
Propagating by Off Shoots
This method is also suitable for propagation using stem cuttings. Offsets from the Feather Cactus grow around the plant’s base, and you can propagate them following these easy steps:
- Using clean, sterile scissors, cut out a stem or use an offshoot
- Let it dry for a few days before planting it.
- Transfer the dried offshoot or stem into a container that contains well-draining soil.
- Water the new plant using the soak and dry method. DO NOT OVERWATER
- Place it in a shaded area with plenty of indirect sunlight.
Propagating by Seeds
Seeds can be bought from any gardening store, or you can even take them out yourself from the feather cactus after its flowering season, usually at the beginning of fall.
- Use a small container and fill it up with a cactus potting mix or make it yourself by adding sand.
- Gently push the seed into the soil.
- In the beginning, you have to maintain slightly moist soil just so the seed can take hold.
- Once your seed starts to sprout, you can reduce the amount of water you give them. As they grow, they should be repotted into a larger container.
The feather cactus requires repotting as needed and knowing when; you will have to check its roots after every winter season. But make sure the weather is warmer before removing the plant from the pot.
Once you remove the plant and notice that the roots have balled up, it indicates the plant needs bigger space for the roots to develop.
If not, it is still wise to add fresh soil to the area and nourish the cactus for the remainder of the year using a slow-release fertilizer.
Feather Cactus Insects, Pests, and Diseases
Apart from the common root rot problem that is the same with almost all cacti, there aren’t many problems that the Feather Cactus could face.
Just make sure not to overwater it, and the soil is well-drained.
Apart from this, Mealybugs are likely to be the main unpleasant pest to occur on your plant. Mealybugs typically propagate illnesses by penetrating the cactus’ structure.
If you don’t get rid of these bothersome bugs soon, your plant will swiftly run into trouble.
At the first indication, move it to another area and keep a tight eye on things. You may need to use a mild insecticide to treat a difficult infestation.
The pink, off-white, and ivory blooms of the feather cacti have a very powerful and appealing aroma. This attracts pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
All the more reason for you to get your hands on this amazing plant.
These white, feathery, easy-to-maintain cacti are a must-have. They are non-toxic and free of diseases apart from the typical root rot and mealy bug infestations.
With the proper care, little water, and good sunshine, you will be able to have an eternal feather cactus for all to admire.
You can’t go wrong if you get your hands on these fluffy guys and bring them home!