2021 | How to Grow and Care for Mammillaria Cactus Plants

The Mammillaria is a genus of flowering succulent plants, from the Cactaceae family. It is the largest genus in the family and has more than 200 species. All of these species are different desert cactus plants from different regions but most of them are native to Mexico’s desert region. Apart from Mexico, some species are also found in the desert regions of the United States, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Caribbean. Common names for the Mammillaria Cactus plants are “Pincushion Cactus, Nipple Cactus, Fishhook Cactus”.

This genus of flowering cactus plants was first identified and described by Carl Linnaeus. He first identified them as a separate genus of plants in 1753. The name of this genus, Mammillaria is a derivative from the Latin word Mammilla, which means “Nipples”. These nipples refer to the shapes of Tubercles. Tubercles are specialized features that are only present on these plants. These plants are easy to grow, and take care of, apart from this, they are also very beautiful. These are a few reasons why these plants are one of the most popular choices for an indoor ornamental plant. Below is a complete guide to taking care of the Mammillaria Cactus plants.

OVERVIEW

Common Name“Pincushion Cactus, Nipple Cactus, Fishhook Cactus”
Scientific NameMammillaria Cactus,
Genus, FamilyMammillaria Cactaceae,
Size, TypeSmall, succulent
Color of stem, leaves, and flowersDifferent colors of leaves depending on the species (can range from brownish green to dark green). Also, the color and size of the flowers depend on the species that you choose. (flowers mostly have white, pink, and yellow shades.)
Flowering SeasonEarly summer, once a year.
Perennial/Annual.Perennial
HardinessUSDA Hardiness zone 9 to 11
Temperature rangeBetween 70 and 80 °F (21 and 27 °C). If temperatures fall below 45 and 55 °F (7 and 13 °C), it goes dormant
SunlightFull sun to partial shade
Growth RateSlow growing plant.

Lineage

The Mammillaria Cactus plants, as you know, belong to the Mammillaria genus. It is a flowering plant genus from the Cactaceae family. This genus is known for its peculiar shape. Below is a list of the few most known species from this genus.

List of Species:

  • Mammillaria albicoma,
  • Mammillaria aureilanata,
  • Mammillaria beneckei,
  • Mammillaria berkiana,
  • Mammillaria barbata – green fishhook cactus,
  • Mammillaria bocasana
  • Mammillaria bocasana f. multilanata – powder-puff pincushion
  • Mammillaria bocasana ssp. eschauzieri – Eschauzier’s pincushion
  • Mammillaria bombycina – silken pincushion
  • Mammillaria compressa – mother of hundreds
  • Mammillaria crinita – rose pincushion cactus
  • Mammillaria goodridgei
  • Mammillaria goodridgei var. goodridgei
  • Mammillaria goodridgei var. rectispina
  • Mammillaria grahamii – Arizona fishhook cactus
  • Mammillaria grahamii var. oliviae – Pitahayita

Appearance

The Mammillaria Cactus plants are known for their specific appearance. They have a beautiful shape. Usually, they are round and have spikey tubercles on them. These tubercles are green and pointy. They erect directly from the main ball of the stem (base). Leaves and flowers grow on small branches that outgrow these tubercles. These flowers and leaves surround the entire plant. During the dormant season, it can shed its leaves and flowers to conserve its energy. This is how it can survive through the winter in cold regions. The color of its leaves, and size depends on the species that you are choosing. But most of the species have dark green to slightly greenish-brown leaves. This is one of the few plants that have two different sets of flowers. It has a large number of spines on its surface. These spines can vary in size depending on the species and the age of the plant.

Flowering

The flowering season in Mammillaria Cactus starts in early summer. At first, they grow small buds, these buds go dormant until the first rain of summer drops. After that, these buds turn into colorful flowers. Some species might also have more than one set of flowers. Each flower set can last between 7 to 10 days. The color and size of flowers also depend on the species that you are choosing. But in most plants, they have a medium-sized flower. The outer side of the flower consist of a ring of petals that surrounds the internal flower. These flowers have bright colors to attract bees and other insects for pollination. Most of these flowers have red, pink, yellow, and white color shades in them.

Natural Habitat

The Mammillaria Cactus is native to Mexico and the Southern parts of the United States, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras region. These regions have a perfect climate to support their growth as these areas are warm. These plants like to be grown in a warm climate, where the temperature remains high during most of the year. If you are looking forward to growing it outside its natural habitat, you must provide it with similar conditions. Otherwise, the plant either would go dormant or would die soon.

FACTS

  • The Mammillaria is one of the largest genera of flowering cactus plants from the Cactaceae family.
  • These plants are known as the Nipple Cactus because they have Tubercle (nipple-like edges).
  • These plants are native to Mexico, United States, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and the Honduras region.
  • This genus was first identified and described by one of the greatest botanists, Carl Linnaeus in 1753.

Requirements to Grow Mammillaria Cactus

Soil
Sun
Water
Fertilizer
Temperature

Soil Requirements

This is a succulent plant genus, which means plants from the Mammillaria Cactus genus need soil that is well-draining and nutrients rich. You can buy this type of soil from online stores, or you can create one by yourself. You can create this type of soil by mixing sand in the soil, this would help create a balanced soil that allows the quickly draining of the excess water. Apart from this, you will need pumice and perlite. Spread the pumice and perlite in the bottom of the pot, and spread the sand and soil mixture above this. This would help you prevent the loss of soil from the bottom of the pot. Apart from this, the soil must also be nutrient-rich, you can make a soil nutrient-rich by adding fertilizer, and compost.

Sunlight Requirements

The Mammillaria Cactus plants need full sun to partial shade environments depending on the season. These are desert plants, which means they can handle the sunlight if they grow and live in the desert. But for a plant that was grown indoors, exposure to direct sunlight in the summer in an outdoor environment can be harmful. To prevent this, keep your plant indoors but in a bright place. If you have a window in your home that faces east, it will be the best place to keep your Mammillaria Cactus.

Temperature Requirements

The Mammillaria Cactus plant likes to grow in warm conditions. During the winter season, this plant goes dormant. It can be grown outdoors if you live in a slightly warm area. But if you live in a cold region, you should keep it indoors and protect it from the cold. These plants thrive when the temperature is between 70 and 80 °F (21 and 27 °C). If temperatures fall below 45 and 55 °F (7 and 13 °C), it goes dormant. According to the USDA hardiness zones, it can be grown in 9 to 11 zones.

Water Requirements

The Mammillaria Cactus plants need less frequent watering. This is because they have a mechanism to store water for later use. For that reason, frequent watering is not required. Also, keeping the soil moist for long can lead to different problems such as root rot and plant death. You should water them once the soil in their pot starts to dry. You should check the upper layer in their pot soil with your fingers. If you feel the moisture in there, do not water them. But if you see that the soil has started to dry, then you can water them.

Fertilizers Requirements

The Mammillaria Cactus plants need nutrients to grow. They get their nutrients from the potting soil or ground. But once the soil runs dry of nutrients, you will have to provide these nutrients to your plant otherwise its growth would slow and your plant might die. There are two different methods of fertilizing your plants. You can use the mixture of compost with the potting soil, or you can add fertilizer to the soil. You should create a mixture of soluble fertilizer and water and feed it to your plants. While feeding the fertilizer to these plants, you should be careful, and follow the instructions given in the fertilizer usage manual.

Repotting

The Mammillaria Cactus plants require repotting once a year. You should re-pot it to the new pot during the spring season. Repotting is important because it provides the air to the roots of plants. Apart from this, roots have more space in bigger pots to grow. You can re-pot the plant by preparing a bigger pot with proper soil and fertilizer mixture. After that, you can uproot the plant and transfer it to the new pot. You should be careful during the transfer and try not to damage the roots. After repotting, provide the plant some water and let the roots adjust in new soil.

Pruning

Most of the plants from the Mammillaria Cactus do not require frequent pruning. You can prune them if their thrones grow larger. You can also prune them after the flowering season. To prune this plant, you should start by removing its large spikes. You can also remove the dead leaves, and flowers as well.

Pest and Problems

The Mammillaria Cactus plants are affected by the following Pests and Diseases.

  • Pests: The Mammillaria Cactus can be attacked by a lot of pests including mealybugs and Scales. These pests suck the plant juice and infect it with diseases. This can cause plant death. If you see any signs of attack, you should wash the entire plant with detergent. If this does not help you should use chemical pesticides to kill them. Their attacks can be hard to identify if they attack the roots first. Make sure to use the soil that is not contaminated by the seeds of Mealybugs or Scales.
  • Diseases: Apart from pests, the Mammillaria Cactus plants can also be attacked by multiple diseases. These include cactus fungus. You should inspect your plant for the pink spots on the surface. If you find any, try using the chemical fungicide spray to kill these. The Mammillaria Cactus plants are also infected by root rot, it is usually caused because of the excessive water supply. Regulate your water supply and you will not face this problem with your Mammillaria Cactus plants.

Propagation

There are two possible ways to propagate the Mammillaria cactus plants. You can either use its seeds to grow it or use its offsets.

  • Offsets: offsets are smaller extensions of the base Mammillaria cactus plant. These plants grow multiple offsets at the same time. You can separate the offsets from the mother plant and replant them in a new pot. Provide it water and it will grow into a separate Mammillaria cactus plant.
  • Seeds: Mammillaria Cactus plants grow small seeds from their flowers. You can collect these seeds or buy them from the nurseries. You can sow these seeds in the potting soil and do not cover them. Provide them water and keep them in moist warm conditions for a few days. They will sprout and grow into a plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do the Mammillaria cactus have flowers?

Yes, these plants grow flowers of multiple colors depending on the species that you choose. Their flowering season starts in early summer. They grow buds that turn into flowers during the blossom.

Question: How many species are in the Mammillaria genus?

There are more than 200 species in Mammillaria. It is the largest genus in the Cactaceae family.

Question: How often do you water Mammillaria cactus plants?

You should water your Mammillaria cactus plants less often. You should let the soil dry. In general watering once or twice a month in winter and cold areas would be enough but during the summer, it may need more frequent watering.