Botanical Name — Copiapoa humilis
Plant Family — Cactaceae
Copiapoa humilis is a cactus from the small Copiapoa genus, which is native to coastal deserts of northern Chile, particularly the Atacama Desert. A cluster of warty pups, long spines, white fuzz, maroon body, and the occasional delicate yellow flower, this plant is a natural wonder of evolutionary dichotomies. Highly sought by collectors, the Copiapoa genus is regularly the victim of international smuggling. When acquiring a cactus from this genus, confirm the seller's certification status to ensure the plant was bred responsibly in a greenhouse, not taken from its natural habitat.
- These cacti prefer lots of sun, at least five hours of direct sun daily. They can tolerate a little shade, but the more sun the better.
- The deep maroon color of this plant is retained by providing a lot of direct sunlight.
- Indoors, a south facing window is ideal. Outdoors, give them a place where they will get plenty of sun exposure.
- Copiapoa like it hot! Above 70 ºF in the summer is preferred.
- If grown outdoors, move them to a sunny windowsill inside in regions where temperatures regularly drop below 50 ºF.
- In their native Atacama Desert, Copiapoa receive little to no rainwater. Instead, they pull moisture from the air when coastal fog rolls through. To mimic this at home, cease watering during the summer months and mist the plant in the morning before temperatures rise. Mist enough so that water gathers in heavy droplets on the fuzz and spikes of the plant.
- During the winter, water very infrequently. Maybe even once a month or month and a half. It’s safe to cut back on watering entirely.
- Copiapoa are native to rocky, desolate nutrient climates with little organic nutrients. They prefer a gritty, well-draining soil mix. Plant primarily in a mineral substrate (granite pebbles, for example) and amend it with about 25% cactus mix.
- Copiapoa flower reliably from a young age, typically producing vibrant yellow flowers about 1/2 inch wide. You can expect them sporadically between spring and fall.
- Copiapoa do not require fertilization. The nutrients in cactus soil will suffice.
- Copiapoa are easily propagated by separating pups and offsets from the mother plant. Snip the pups away using sterilized clips of a knife, or, when repotting the plant, remove the roots and separate the pups with some roots attached. For pups removed by cutting, allow to callous before planting directly in the soil mixture mentioned above.
- Copiapoa are not especially susceptible to pests or diseases. Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, and scale.
- Root rot can be a common issue in the instance of overwatering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Copiapoa plants are very low maintenance. They prefer to be pot bound. Repot them once every three to four years. Early spring is the best time to repot, when they are just waking from their dormancy.
- Copiapoa are not known to be toxic to humans or pets.