18 Types of Mammillaria Cactus Plants

What are Mammillaria Cactus Plants?

Mammillaria plants are cactus plants belonging to the largest cactus genus, with over 300 recognized species and varieties.

Although the majority of mammillaria are indigenous to Mexico, some are also found in the southwestern United States (Texas and New Mexico), the Caribbean, Central, and South America.

Genetic analysis has confirmed that the Mammillaria genus contains around 300 different species of wonderful succulents [1].

Interestingly, many species have a similar appearance, which makes them hard to distinguish.

The most famous mammillaria plant is the pincushion cactus or ‘nipple cactus’ plant.

The pincushion cactus is usually confused with other succulent varieties of cactus, including Coryphantha, Epithelantha, and Neolloydia.

Due to this confusion, people often count many of the species as Mammillaria species.

Remember that Mammillaria cactus varieties have nipple-like and spirally arranged tubercles.

When these plants are observed from above, you will notice that they have an organized appearance.

In brief, you have to notice two features of Mammillaria cactus that will help you distinguish these succulents from other varieties.

One is at the apex of their tubercles, and the other one is at the base. The apex has spines, while the base is spineless but bears wool or bristles.

During the flowering period, you will also notice flowers. On the other hand, the apex does not bloom any flowers.


Looking for other types of succulents? Read further about them in our post on different types of succulents.


Types of Mammillaria Cactus

There are over 300 species of Mammillaria cactus, which is a genus of the cactus family. These plants get their names from the mammilla, which are the small bumps on their surface.

The most common type of Mammillaria cactus is the pincushion cactus. These plants have small, round stems that are covered in sharp spines.

There are many more varieties of mammillaria cactus plants. Read on for other types of mammillaria cactus you can grow in your own garden.

Mammillaria Baumii

Mammillaria Baumii

Mammillaria baumii is mainly reputed for its beautiful golden yellow and funnel-like flowers.

These clump-forming varieties are native to Mexico and grow in the rocky or hilly regions. They have stems that are 2-3 inches tall and 3-6 inches wide.

The radial spine is white-colored, thin, and very flexible, while the central spine looks whitish-yellow.

This cactus needs full sunlight to grow at its full potential. Especially during their growing period, you must keep them under bright light as it will enhance their growth rate. A warm temperature is often recommended.

They can go several weeks without receiving water, but you must check the soil moisture condition once every two days. To propagate Mammillaria, you may simply separate the offsets.

Mammillaria Bocasana

Mammillaria Bocasana

Mammillaria bocasana cactus is also known as Powder Puff Cactus or Powder Puff Pincushion and belongs to the Cactoideae subfamily. They are native to the rocky areas of Mexico.

These plats have a hemispherical shape with white spines that cover their hooked central and radial spines.

During the early spring to early summer, these species produce funnel-like cream-colored blooms.

Mammillaria bocasana is an easy-to-grow plant. If you grow it outdoors, then you won’t have to worry about the light.

This plant prefers full and strong sunlight. Even if it receives direct sunlight for a prolonged period, there will be no issues.

The temperatures should be warm and the humidity should be low because high humidity can give rise to some problems.

Water the plant only when the top 2 inches of the surface soil looks dry.

Mammillaria Bombycina

Mammillaria Bombycina

Mammillaria bombycina, also known as the Silken Pincushion Cactus, is native to the west and central Mexico.

These species are on the verge of extinction because of their illegal collection and removal.

Each of these cacti reaches up to 8 inches tall and spreads by producing offsets.

Their bulbous tubercles are surrounded by white hairs and have tiny white-colored spines and long brownish-curved spines. During the spring, you will see pink flowers.

Mammillaria bombycina is an extremely easy-to-grow succulent. It enjoys thriving under direct sunlight.

We strongly recommend you grow them outdoors if you have space in your garden. Otherwise, you’ll need to keep them near a south-facing window.

They prefer hot and warm temperatures and low humidity levels. Don’t overwater because it will cause a fungal infection.

Mammillaria Crinita

Mammillaria Crinita

Mammillaria crinita is a succulent species that belongs to the genus Mammillaria.

This cultivar is well known for its beautiful rosy-pink colored flowers, and due to these blooms, this species is also known as the Rose Pincushion Cactus.

You will find these plants distributed widely across Mexico and the Southwest United States. It has short stems and may grow up to 3-4 inches tall.

For growing Mammillaria Crinita plants, the grower must ensure that they receive enough light.

If you are growing them indoors, we suggest you keep them near the southern window. This plant enjoys a warmer temperature.

You should grow Mammillaria in low humidity because a highly humid environment can encourage bacterial and fungal infections. Avoid applying excess water to this cactus.

Mammillaria Dioica

Mammillaria Dioica

Mammillaria dioica is also known as “fishhook pincushion” or “strawberry cactus.”

These cacti are widely distributed across the southern region of California. Without this, you will also find it in the California Peninsula of Mexico.

At the end of the white and straight spines, you will see short but firm tubercles. Interestingly, this cactus bears both female and male flowers from spring to summer.

Mammillaria dioica needs bright sunlight for a prolonged period. These plants prefer 4-5 hours of sunlight on a regular basis.

Like the other species, this one needs a warm temperature and a less humid environment. Never allow these cacti to stay in a waterlogged condition for an extended period.

For propagation, you can separate the offsets from the mother plant. For boosting flower production, provide them with a light homemade organic fertilizer.

Mammillaria Elongata

Mammillaria Elongata

Mammillaria elongata has a unique lady’s finger appearance, and that’s why it is also known as the ladyfinger cactus.

This species is a slow grower and can be a perfect plant to grow in a succulent garden.

Central America is considered its natural habitat, but you can also find them in the desert and rocky mountains of Mexico.

During the flowering period, this plant produces pink to light yellow blooms.

These small cacti require sufficient sun to grow well. We suggest you place them in the full or partial sun.

They aren’t cold hardy, and hence, you will have to move them indoors during the winter. If the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, then it can be a real issue for them.

For proper watering, you can follow the soak and dry method. While preparing the potting mix for these cactus, make sure that you use coarse materials and sandy soil.

Mammillaria Elongata Cristata

Mammillaria Elongata Cristata

Mammillaria elongata cristata comes up with a scary look. Anyone can easily identify this cactus because of its spooky human brain-like appearance. This is why this one is also known as the “brain cactus.”

This cactus has a bright green color and curvy stems that twist around one another to form a round structure. Central Mexico is considered its natural habitat.

Like the other plants, these species grow well under the direct sun. If you live in an arid region where the temperature is too high, then you can keep them under direct light for 4 hours.

Since these plants aren’t cold-hardy, you’ll need to bring them indoors during the winter.

To prepare an ideal soil mix, you need to mix different coarse materials together, including perlite, sand, and pumice.

Don’t let them stand in waterlogged conditions for a prolonged period. During their growing season, you can apply houseplant fertilizer to encourage growth.

Mammillaria Grahamii

Mammillaria Grahamii

Mammillaria grahamii is also known as Graham’s nipple cactus or fishhook cactus. It can be found in California, Arizona upland, Texas, Mexico, the Sonoran desert, etc.

The most attractive part of this species is its beautiful lavender or pink flowers that appear during the summer months.

The stems of these plants may reach up to 6 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide. In Spanish, it is called “Cabeza de Viejo.”

These desert shrubs are very easy to grow because of their fewer demands. Make sure that you are supplying sufficient light to them.

A maximum of 4 hours of direct sun is considered the best. Although they can withstand hot temperatures, they aren’t cold-hardy.

Therefore, if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you must move them. Prepare well-drained potting soil.

Mammillaria Gracilis

Mammillaria Gracilis

Mammillaria gracilis is also known as the Thimble Cactus, and this species is so popular mainly because of its appealing appearance.

It is a very small cactus that comes up with wonderful green and cylindrical stems. It produces round-shaped and small offsets, forming a cluster around the mother. You will see stunning white and yellow flowers during the winter period.

It needs bright and full light to grow well. A warmer temperature with a less humid environment is recommended for growing these plants.

Like many species of Mammillaria, these cacti enjoy temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Allow the garden soil to dry before you water it, because excess soil moisture will cause root rot and your succulents may die.

During the growing season, you may fertilize them using organic fertilizers.

Mammillaria Hahniana

Mammillaria Hahniana

Mammillaria hahniana, also known as Old Lady Cactus, is considered a sun-loving species. These small cacti produce funnel-shaped flowers with red or purple hues.

The stem may reach approximately 8 inches wide and 4–5 inches tall. This variety is native to the rocky and desert areas of Central Mexico.

You can easily identify this species by its long and flexible white hairs. The central spines are white and have a reddish tip.

Like the other species of the genus Mammillaria, you can grow old lady cactus both indoors and outdoors, but their light demand will differ.

While growing indoors, you must ensure that these plants receive a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun. A south-facing window seems like a good spot for placing them.

Water them only when the top 2 inches of the surface soil look dry. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can make a well-draining potting soil by combining perlite, pumice, gravel, and sandy soil, or you can make a mix of these things.

Mammillaria Longimamma

Mammillaria Longimamma

Mammillaria longimamma is another beautiful cactus that belongs to this genus name. It has a unique appearance, which makes this plant very easy to identify.

Due to its finger-like leaves and white spines, this variety is also called finger cactus and is native to Texas and Mexico.

From May to June, these cacti produce very large yellow flowers. The tubercles of these Mammillaria are quite soft.

Mammillaria longimamma looks like a healthy plant when grown under full sunlight. Partial shade will not be a problem if they are grown outdoors.

Although they are a little frost hardy, you need to move them inside once the temperature starts falling below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember that these succulents enjoy a warm environment. The drainage system of the potting mix should be good, because it can’t stand water for long.

Mammillaria Matudae

Mammillaria Matudae

Mammillaria matudae is commonly known by several names, including Giant Snake, Crawling Log, or Thumb Cactus.

This cactus can be identified by its several long, cylindrical stems. This plant grows faster than most other Mammillaria plants.

They have one central and 20 radial spines. The purple-red flowers can be noticed during the early summer when the plant is growing actively.

These plants thrive well in bright and full sunlight, although light shade seems alright. You will observe their attractive colors when kept under bright light.

They can tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit but enjoy warmer temperatures.

For propagating, you need to separate the offsets. During their growing period, you may provide them with balanced houseplant organic fertilizer.

Mammillaria Nejapensis

Mammillaria Nejapensis

Mammillaria nejapensis, or silver arrow cactus, originates from Oaxaca, Mexico.

This cultivar has a globular stem that contains silver-white colored spines that are around 2 inches long. You will also notice white-colored woolly bristles on the areoles.

During the spring to summer season, it produces funnel like diurnal flowers, which have a reddish mid-stripe.

There are a few hybrids of this species, and you can recognize all of them by their long white spines.

For growing Mammillaria nejapensis, you need to choose the brightest spot in your house or indoor garden.

Although an east-facing window is a good choice, a south-facing window is considered the best spot.

They cannot survive frost conditions, and during the winter months, you should try to keep them dry. Never overwater them, as it can kill these cacti.

Mammillaria Nivosa (Woolly Nipple Cactus)

Mammillaria Nivosa

Mammillaria nivosa, or woolly nipple cactus, is one of the most beautiful plants on this list because of its catchy flower color. It can be found mainly across the Caribbean regions.

It is symmetrical radially and may reach up to 9-10 inches tall. The spines may grow to around 1.5 inches. These club shaped cacti produce eye-catching yellow flowers and deep red fruits.

This cactus thrives best in full to partial sun if grown outdoors. Like the other Mammillaria plants, it isn’t frost tolerant.

If the temperature in your region falls below 23 degrees Fahrenheit, you must move them to a warmer location.

The surface soil should be dry before you water these plants. The best method of watering is the soak and dry method.

For fertilizing, you can mix vermicompost or other homemade fertilizer with the potting soil.

Mammillaria Plumosa

Mammillaria Plumosa

Mammillaria plumosa is also known as the “Feather Cactus” because of its feather-like appearance with dense white spines. This flowering cactus can be found mainly across northeastern Mexico.

It can grow up to 5 inches tall and 16 inches wide. The spherical stems are totally covered with downy and white spines. You will notice the whitish yellow bloom from May to July.

It thrives well under bright, direct sunlight. Like many species of Mammillaria, you need to keep them near a south-facing window when grown indoors.

The temperature won’t be a problem as long as it falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

To grow Mammillaria, you have to make sure that the potting mix is well-draining and doesn’t contain heavy clay that creates soggy conditions.

Plants belonging to this genus cannot tolerate overwatering.

Mammillaria Polythele

Mammillaria Polythele

Mammillaria polythele is another cactus variety that can grow to be around 24 inches tall and 4 inches wide.

So, you may understand that this isn’t a small cactus. It has a dark to bluish green stem.

This single-stemmed plant produces pink-purple to rose flowers from May to June.

The cylindrical and elongated stem of this cactus is covered with tubercles that bear 2 or 4 spines.

This slow growing plant requires bright sunlight to thrive well, especially if you grow it indoors.

Also, if you live in a hot and arid region, the temperature and humidity will not cause any issues.

Always plant this species in a well-draining potting mix because it cannot withstand soggy conditions.

For watering, you should follow the well-known soak and dry method. Overwatering will cause root rot.

Mammillaria Rhodantha

Mammillaria Rhodantha

Mammillaria rhodantha is more popular by its other name, Rainbow Pincushion Cactus.

You can easily distinguish it from others by the long spines and nipple-like tubercles that cover the entire plant.

The short and dark green stem can reach a maximum of 12 inches tall and 6 inches in diameter.

During the blooming period (from spring to autumn), you will notice pink flowers and deep red fruits.

This pincushion cactus requires partial to full light to grow. It is not cold-hardy and will die if exposed to severe frost.

It is a better choice to move it indoors when the temperature starts falling below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like many species of pincushion cactus, it is susceptible to overwatering. To avoid fungal infections or root rotting, try the soak and dry method.

Mammillaria Spinosissima

Mammillaria Spinosissima

This plant is also called the spiny pincushion cactus. Like other flowering cacti, these varieties bloom with pink flowers.

They are native to the central Mexican areas where the elevation is too high. The elongated stem of this Pincushion cactus may grow up to 12 inches tall.

These slow growers reach this height after 7 to 10 years. The spines of this plant are relatively weak.

This pincushion cactus plant needs full or filtered light to grow. If you grow it indoors, you need to maintain the light intensity carefully. A warm temperature with a low environment is preferred.

Before watering, always check the soil moisture status because too much water can kill this plant. The 2 inches of surface soil should look dry before watering.

Mammillaria Plant Care Guide

Growing Mammillaria plants indoors isn’t so easy because of their needs, but you can easily grow them outdoors.

They require full sunlight, a warm temperature, and well-draining soil. Still, if you think that you can provide them with the ideal growing conditions, we suggest you keep them indoors.

In this section, we will take a look at the basic requirements of Mammillaria plants.

Light

Light for Mammillaria Plants

Sunlight is the most important factor for these plants. These succulents need full sun to grow, and this is why you should try growing them outdoors.

If you plant these succulents indoors, then you may place them near the south-facing window to make sure that they receive at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight.

Temperature and Humidity

Mammillaria succulents need warm temperatures. The ideal temperature ranges between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the species cannot tolerate frost, while others can survive the freezing conditions.

During the winter season, a cool temperature is required to spur the plants to bloom in the growing season.

These cacti don’t need high humidity to thrive, but a lower humidity level is good.

Watering

Watering Mammillaria Plants

Water Mammillaria plants when the surface soil looks dry.

Mammillaria cactus grows actively from the spring to early fall. During this period, these plants produce blooms as well as offsets.

Hence, watering is crucial at this time. When the winter arrives, the plant becomes dormant, and during this period, you don’t have to water it.

Fertilizer

During their growing season, feed Mammillaria plants with a balanced cactus fertilizer mix.

[ELLIOT ADD FERTILIZER BOX]

Soil

Soil For Mammillaria Plants

Mammillaria succulents need a well-draining potting mix like any typical cactus plant.

Remember that these plants are prone to root rot because of their little shape.

Therefore, it is better to buy an a potting mix that is specifically designed for succulents or cactus plants.

Alternatively, you can also prepare a medium by yourself. All you need is to mix 1/3 coarse materials (such as perlite, pumice, or gravel), 1/3 with garden soil, and the rest with organic materials (such as peat moss or coconut coir).

Repotting

Repotting Mammillaria Plants

Pincushion cactus needs to be repotted when it produces offsets. Repotting is important because the pups can fill the entire container.

In addition, sometimes, roots are seen coming out of the drainage holes.

For repotting, you have to make sure that the soil is dry and that the new container is bigger than the previous one.

Propagation

For propagating, you can follow two methods. Either you can separate the offsets or you can spread the seeds.

Many people prefer separating the offsets because this is an easy method. For separating, you need to gently detach the babies with a sterile knife.

Pests and Disease

Mammillaria, or pincushion cactus, has a lot of problems that are caused by fungal infections or bacterial diseases.

These infections and diseases are the results of excess water. This is why you should make a schedule for watering these succulents.

The most common problems are the presence of black spots and mushy flesh stems.

If you notice these symptoms, then you have to remove excess water from the containers. To facilitate doing this, you can add drainage holes to the pots.

Without these issues, there are a few pests that may cause trouble:

  • Fungus gnats
  • Root mealybugs
  • Mealybugs
  • Spider mites, and
  • Scale insects

Some of these pests are too hard to control. Therefore, you have to be cautious if you notice any of them in your succulent garden.

FAQ

How often should I water my indoor Mammillaria plants?

Water once a week or as soon as the top portion of the soil feels dry. Add water only about once a month, and then only sparingly if the soil is still wet. You’ll want to give the plant just enough water to keep it from shriveling. Position the container in a bright location but out of direct sunlight. Allow a few weeks for the plant to establish itself before putting it in the bright sun or planting it in the outdoor garden.

How much fertilizer does Mammillaria cactus need?

Mammillaria succulents need fertilizer during the spring season when they grow actively. You need to use a formulated fertilizer for the cactus or can prepare a weak fertilizer solution for houseplants.

What type of soil should I use for planting Mammillaria?

Whether mammillaria plants are grown outdoors or indoors, they require a soil mix that provides good drainage and is loose enough to allow root aeration. You can make your own cactus potting mix by combining coarse materials such as coarse sand, pumice, or perlite with 70 to 80 percent coarse materials.

When do Mammillaria plants bloom?

Mammillaria plants bloom during the late growing season in the summer. Then they go dormant for the rest of the year, from winter through late spring. For example, the pincushion cactus blooms after the first summer rain, and the flowers bloom for approximately seven days before dying.

How many hours do Mammillaria plants require direct sunlight?

If planted outdoors, Mammillaria plants require approximately 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day in order to have healthy plants. However, if you grow them indoors, Mammillaria plants require about 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight. If you can’t get enough sunlight for your plant, no matter how close you put it near a window, you should think about getting a grow light.

Conclusion

Mammillaria plants can be a great addition to your succulent garden. A beginner can easily grow the Mammillaria plant in the garden, but do be aware of the temperature and humidity conditions.

Mammillaria is a wonderful genus that contains so many attractive cactus varieties.

Apart from the above-mentioned cacti, there are other species, including the Royal Cross and the Red-Headed Irishman.

References

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  • [1] Villaseñor J. L. 2016. Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, 87: 559–902. URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1870345316300707
  • North Carolina State Cooperative Extension. (n.d.). Mammillaria. NC State University Extension, Gardener Plant Toolbox. URL: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/mammillaria/
  • Perry, L. (n.d.). Mammillaria. Perry’s Perennial Pages. University of Vermont Extension, Department of Plant and Soil Science. URL: https://pss.uvm.edu/pss123/cacmam.html
  • Russ, K. & Pertuit, A. (Revised 2015 by Smith, B.). Indoor Cacti. HGIC 1502. Clemson University, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. URL: https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/indoor-cacti/
  • About/mentions: Mammillaria, cactus, succulents

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