Copiapoa cinerea


Here below are the synonyms for the name “Copiapoa cinerea”

Copiapoa cinerea var. cinerea
Copiapoa cinerea var. tenebrosa
Copiapoa tenebrosa
Echinocactus cinereus


Copiapoa cinerea is native to northern Chile, in particular to the regions of Chañaral and Antofagasta. Its habitat are the area of the coast, extremely arid to almost rainless, where these plants take the water they need from the frequent coastal fogs. These fogs appear in early morning, stay until late morning and come back again in late afternoons. Temperatures are moderate, though sunlight is very intense, rich in ultraviolet rays.


Copiapoa cinerea is a rare cacti, very sought after for the waxy, whitish colour of the surface of its stem. It is a very variable species, and has a lot of synonyms and different varieties. The wax is originally an evolutionary device that serves to protect the plant from the intense, ultraviolet sun rays and to minimize the water losses due to evapotranspiration. Also the typical wool at the top of its stem has the same function.
Copiapoa cinerea has a solitary stem, slowly offsetting with age, globose or columnar-shaped. It reaches up to 1.2 meters in height and 10-20 centimeters in diameter. As already mentioned, the stem surface is whitish because of a thick layer of wax, which has the funciton to minimize water losses through evapotranspiration and protect the stem from the ultraviolet rays. The wax is usually absent in the cultivated forms, as it is created only if the plants are exposed to ultraviolet rays. It may form if the plant is grown in a greenhouse. The stem is furrowed with 12 to 30 wide ribs, with lumpy crests, with slightly pronounced tubercles. Spines grow on the tubercles. They are arranged in 1 or 2 central, long, black spines and up to 7 radial ones, though most of the times radial spines are absent. During the summers, blossoming starts. Copiapoa cinerea, though, needs plenty of direct sunlight to be able to bloom. Also, it will take a few years to bloom (6 to 10 years). Flowers are 2-3 centimeters in diameter, yellow, pink or reddish depending on the variety, with a naked ovary, and they sprout crowded at the top of the stem.


Copiapoa cinerea is rather slow-growing, but not difficult to cultivate. Here below are our tips:

Put it in a bright spot or light shade. We advise to place under direct sunlight to enhance blossoming and to make the stem take on a more intense, bronzed colour. In cultivation conditions, C. cinerea usually doesn’t form its typical waxy layer, but it show a brownish, bronzed colour, enhanced by strong light.
If maintained completely dry, it can tolerate short frosts (0ºC). However, we strongly suggest to keep it at temperatures above 10ºC) in Winter.
Water regularly during the growth season, namely in Spring and Summer, always waiting for the soil to dry up completely before every irrigation. In Winter keep it completely dry.
Choose a well-draining substrate. A standard mix for cacti will do good.
Once a year, with a specific product for succulents, high in potassium and phosphorus and poor in Nitrogen.
Repot every year. In ideal conditions, this species will produce clumps of offsets.


The propagation of C. cinerea is usually carried out thorugh seeds or grafting on a stronger species, like a Selenicereus. Grafted species are usually more resistant and grow faster.


The name Copiapoa comes from the city of Copiapó, located in the Chilean region of Atacama where this genre has grown at the center of the development area. The species name cinerea, meaning “similar to ash”, instead, is due to its waxy, whitish layer, that makes it look greyish-white, like ashes.

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