Feather Cactus- Look Can Be Deceiving

Mammillaria plumosa "Feather Cactus"

When we say “cactus”, we almost always imagine hard, painful spikes on a fat, green body. However, we learned through our cacti journey, there are hundreds of shapes, sizes, and colors in a cacti family. This member may look fluffy and cuddly, but don’t let that full you. Mammillaria plumosa aka Feather Cactus is as spikey and defending as any other cacti relative.

Feather Cactus– Cuddly Happy Bloomer

Feather Cactus Flowers

Feather Cactus grows in clusters. A mature plant will form a mound of globose stems that can get up to 3 inches (8 cm) tall and 16 inches (40.6 cm) wide. The stems themself can grow up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) in diameter. The appearance of the stems is where this cactus name came from. From the outside, they look covered in soft and fluffy “feathers”, but that white layer of downy spines works as a coverage for the sharp ones underneath. Feather Cactus is a spring bloomer. Flowers can vary from white to yellow to pink

Feather Cactus is native to Mexico and the southwest United States. Over the years, the unique look of this cactus has made it nearly threatened species. However, its still a regular guest to garden shows. Feather Cactus is a low-maintenance plant, which makes it a perfect plant for newbies who are seeking a beautiful, yet the easy start of their collection. It works amazingly in container gardens, as well as alone in an effective container. Feather Cactus can be a perfect house plant, planted in a shallow dish that you`ll see filled with clusters pretty quickly.

Grow and Care Tips

What makes Feather Cactus a unique member of the cacti family is a way it storages water. Unlike many other cacti using their ribs as water storage, Feather Cactus has raised tubercles with spines emerging from them. When you water this cactus, the tubercles will expand to increase the amount of water getting to the plant. Your Fether Cactus will also produce flowers from the axils of those tubercles on the previous year`s growth, which will result in an interesting halo effect.

Since we’re already talking about watering, it’s very important not to let this cactus sit in soggy soil. Feather Cactus does not tolerate wet feet, so be careful not to overwater it. The safest way to prevent the root rotting is to use the “soak and dry” method- water your cactus only when the soil is dry and let it really get a good amount of it. Since this cactus is winter dormant, cut the watering down during the cold months.

Your Feather Cactus will be happy in a small, shallow container. For the perfect soil mix, you can combine standard cactus potting soil with some sand to ensure a well-draining environment to the roots. You can also help your cactus stay heathy if you repot it every now and then during the warm seasons, preferably when it fills the container completely.

Feather Cactus In a Pot

Feather Cactus is not cold hardy. If you live in the area with temperatures lower than 20° F (-6.7° C), it’s best to plant it in a container that can be brought indoors. This cactus love being exposed to full sun, with some partial shade in the morning. If you’re growing Feather Cactus as a house plant, place a container near the brightest window and protect it from a frost burns during the winter.


Feather cactus is easily propagated from offsets and cuttings. You can also harvest seeds from the fruits. Fruits will appear after blooming in showy pinkish-purple color.

Feather Cactus produces offsets, sprouting up around the base of the plant. When propagating, you can simply cut them from the stem and allow them to dry for a day or two before replanting in well-draining soil. If you choose to propagate Feather Cactus from the cuttings, use a sharp and sterile knife to remove a stem from the main plant, and allow it to callous for several days before placing on well-draining soil. Continue to water the cuttings whenever the soil has dried out completely.



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