If you’re a cactus enthusiast or just starting out in the world of succulent care, Mammillaria bombycina, commonly known as the ‘Silken Pincushion’, is an eye-catching and easy-to-care-for addition to your collection. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to grow and care for this unique cactus.
Natural Habitat and Common Names
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus is native to the arid and semi-arid regions of western Mexico, specifically the states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes. Apart from the ‘Silken Pincushion’, it is also known as the ‘Silken Pincushion Cactus.’
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus is well-adapted to survive in its dry, native environment. Its thick, tubular stems store water, while its spines provide shade and protection from herbivores. The densely-packed, silky spines also help trap moisture from the air, reducing water loss through transpiration.
Differentiating Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus from Other Cacti
Mammillaria bombycina, also known as the ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus, is an easily identifiable species due to its distinctive hairy stems and hooked spines.
The plant forms compact clusters of cylindrical green stems that are densely covered in long, silky white hairs. These hairs give the stems a soft, fuzzy appearance, unlike the bare tubercles of many other Mammillaria species.
Adorning the tubercles (fleshy bumps) on the stems are Mammillaria bombycina’s signature radial (outer) and central (inner) spines. The radial spines are straight and white, while the central spines are reddish-brown and sharply curved. The combination of these hooked reddish spines and white hairs make for an unmistakable display. Its soft, silken appearance and hooked spines set it apart from other, sharper Mammillaria species that lack such distinctive fuzzy stems.
Physical Appearance and Growth
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus grows up to 6 inches (15 cm) tall and 4 inches (10 cm) wide. Its stems are covered in tubercles, which are arranged in a spiral pattern. Each tubercle is topped with areoles that produce silky, white, and hooked spines.
In spring, Mammillaria bombycina produces bright rose-pink funnel-shaped flowers along the upper part of the stems. These are followed by small pinkish-green fruits. The profuse flowering and multiple rings of blossoms each year are also distinguishing factors.
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus typically blooms in late winter or early spring, with flowers lasting for several weeks.
Triggers for Blooming
The blooming process is triggered by a combination of cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and a period of reduced watering.
Growth Rate and Season
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus has a moderate growth rate and actively grows during the spring and summer months.
Light Requirements and Cold Hardiness
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus thrives in bright, indirect light and can tolerate direct sunlight for a few hours each day. It’s cold hardy down to 25°F (-4°C) and should be protected from frost.
As with most cacti, Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus prefers a well-draining soil mix and should be watered thoroughly when the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s essential to let the soil dry between waterings.
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus can tolerate temperatures as low as 25°F (-4°C) but will thrive in warmer conditions (65-90°F or 18-32°C). Protect your plant from frost and extreme temperature fluctuations.
Outdoor Placement and Rain
If you live in an area with a mild climate, Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus can be grown outdoors. However, ensure it is placed in a sheltered area to avoid prolonged exposure to rain, as excess water can cause root rot.
When you’re rooting or transplanting your succulents and cacti, use SUPERthrive to help reduce the chance of transplant shock and grow a strong root system.
Feed your Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.
Succulent fertilizer available to purchase on Etsy.
Propagation and Pruning
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus can be propagated through offsets (pups) that grow at the base of the mother plant. Gently remove the pups and allow them to callus before planting in a well-draining soil mix. Pruning is not typically required for this cactus, but you can remove dead or damaged parts as needed.
Consider amending your soil with Bonsai Jack’s gritty mix to ensure your succulent soil drains quickly to prevent it from staying moist for too long. Source: Etsy
Common Problems and Pests
Overwatering is the most common issue faced by Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus owners, leading to root rot. Ensure proper watering techniques and well-draining soil to avoid this problem.
Pests that may affect the Silken Pincushion include mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of infestation and treat with insecticidal soap or neem oil as needed.
Indoor Growing and Toxicity
Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus can be grown indoors as long as it receives enough light. Place it near a south or west-facing window for the best results. This cactus is not known to be toxic to cats, dogs, or people, but it’s always better to keep spiky plants out of reach of curious pets and children.
During the winter months, Mammillaria bombycina ‘Silken Pincushion’ Cactus enters a dormant phase. Its growth slows down, and it requires less water. Reduce watering frequency during this time and avoid fertilizing until the active growing season resumes. As with most of my cacti, I don’t water them at all between the months of November to about
The genus name “Mammillaria” is derived from the Latin word “mammilla,” which means “nipple” or “teat,” referring to the tubercles on the cactus’ stem. The species name “bombycina” comes from the Greek word “bombyx,” meaning “silk,” alluding to the silky appearance of the plant’s spines.
Mammillaria bombycina, the ‘Silken Pincushion,’ is a beautiful and easy-to-grow cactus that will make a fantastic addition to your succulent collection. By following the care tips outlined in this guide, you can ensure your Silken Pincushion thrives and rewards you with its stunning flowers year after year.