22 Mammillaria – Pincushion Cactus Growing Tips and Tricks!

The Mammillaria is an interesting genus of cacti that is loved by all who care for it. Small and easy to be grown, these cacti are wonderful for starter gardeners or people who just love cacti.

You would think that with all the people growing this popular cacti that it would have tons of information on it online. No, it doesn’t, a little, but not much.

So, we have gathered a detailed list of all the best tips and tricks you need to know to be able to grow your small prickly friend.

What Is The Mammillaria?

The Mammillaria is a genus of cacti from the Cactaceae family. This genus has over 200 known species of its kind, most of which originated from Mexico while others are from the Southwestern United States, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The common appearance of these cacti is generally plump and can range from elongated to round, with areoles spitting out needles in every direction. The cacti bloom funnel-shaped flowers that range from 7mm to 40mm in length with varying diameters that come in a large variety of amazing and vibrant colors.

Some species of this cactus also grow berry-like fruit that are usually cube-shaped or elongated, which are normally found in red but also come in white, green, magenta, or yellow.

Pincushion Cactus

What Are The Common Names Of The Mammillaria?        

The common name of the Mammillaria genus is “pincushion cactus”, referring to the cacti’ plump and needle filled appearance.

The first species of the cacti, which later garnered the official name of the genus, was named “Cactus mammillari” by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. Derived from the Latin meaning of “nipple”, refers to the plant’s warty outgrowths, being the genus’ most notable characteristic.

While there are many common names for the different Mammillaria types, we will only go over the taxonomy and the common names of the selected cacti species listed in the article below.

The Mammillaria Albilanata, with no known or recorded common name, has the species name “Albilanata” derives from “albino”, referring to the cactus’ white fluffy exterior.

The Mammillaria Hahniana, or commonly known as the “Old Lady Cactus”, has the species name “Hahniana” meaning “For Hahn”, who this Hahn is we don’t know. The cactus’ common name, “Old Lady Cactus”, refers to the plant’s white fuzzy appearance of old age, hence the name.

The Mammillaria Bocasana, or commonly known as “Powder Puff”, has the species name “Bocasana” coming from the Sierra de Bocas Mountain range in Mexico, which the species originated from. The common name “Powder Puff” refers to the cactus’ fluffy white appearance of a facial powder puff, but this is one that you should never apply to your face!

The Mammillaria Elongata, or commonly known as “Ladyfinger Cactus”, has the species name “Elongata” meaning “Elongated”. The common name “Ladyfinger Cactus” also refers to the cactus’ long body, resembling a finger.

The Mammillaria Polythele, with no common name, has the species name “Polythele”, broke into two pieces “poly” meaning “many, and “thele” is basically meaning nipple or many nipples, referring to the outgrowths on the cactus’ exterior.

The Mammillaria Herrerae, with no known common name, has the species name “Herrerae”, with no recorded meaning but is commonly used in taxonomic name for organisms.

History Of The Mammillaria

We’re going to get a little bit technical in this next section, but it will be worth it as you’ll understand how this cacti came to have as many as 500 names and now only just over 200 names and more interesting facts that most people will never know.

Proposed by Adrian Hardy Haworth in 1812, the Mammillaria genus was officially recognized and recorded by the International Botanical Congress of 1930.

Since there were so many different species of the genus, scientists considered splitting them into subdivisions of the species, but it created confusion and disarray for recorders and was subsequently abandoned.

In 1923, cactologists Nathaniel Lord Britton and Joseph Nelson Rose fixed a classification system called the Britton and Rose system that arranged the different species into characteristics with separating factors that made classifying the different species in subdivisions much easier.

The more in-depth classifications done by specialists Hunt, Reppenhagen and Luthy, helped research the meanings and values of the different species and combined them with modern taxonomy, crucially contributing to the Mammillaria taxa overall.

Ongoing research is still discovering new classifications of different species of the genus. At one point, there was over 500 new different species that were named in the genus but had little to no difference to the other species, this absurd naming frenzy was later changed and was brought down to 200. Some genera have also been merged back with the Mammillaria genus and others.

Through a lot of DNA research, scientists have come up with a supporting factor that the genus is not monophyletic and can be split into two genera, with one that can include possible different species being part of relating generas like Coryphantha, Ortegocactus and Neolloydia.

Pincushion Cactus

How To Take Care Of A Pincushion Cactus?

Although the requirements listed below refers to the taking care of a Mammillaria, it may not be referring to certain species.

However, as a whole they respond about the same to care throughout the many species and so, by following these principles you should do well regardless of which one you have.

The Mammillaria genus require a suitable soil that provides good drainage and aeration. You can use store bought soil or you can make a homemade mix of 70% to 80% mineral textured mix like sand or perlite, with the remaining being well composted compost or potting soil.

You can use fertilizer during its growing season in spring and don’t give it any during the winter in its dormancy period. Use a water-soluble fertilizer or a fertilizer that high in phosphorus, such as 1-5-1 or a dilution of a fish-based product.

Water your Mammillaria deeply and let the water dry completely before watering it again, use the ‘dry and soak’ method to help you keep on track.

This method calls for soaking the soil around the cactus but not pouring the water on it directly and then letting it become bone dry before watering it again.

In the winter, reduce how often you water it because the plant is in its dormancy period. Over watering can result in standing water and rot at the base of the plant.

The ideal temperature range for your cactus is between 70 – 80F (21and 27 C), and in winter time, they prefer temperatures between 45 and 55F (7 and 13 C). These cacti can survive in cold temperatures for a short period of time.

If they are to be exposed to cold for more than just a few hours bring them indoors to keep them from having any potential issues.

Mammillaria prefer full sunlight, but different species of the genus don’t like direct light. If grown outdoors, plant your cactus in your garden where it can get 4 hours of full sunlight. If grown indoors, place them on a windowsill or somewhere that gets plenty of sunlight.

If you see the succulent shriveling up, it’s either getting too much sun or not enough water. So, reduce the sun, water it, then monitor it and make adjustments as needed.

What Soil Is The Best For A Mammillaria?

The best soil for a Mammillaria is one that provides good drainage and aeration, preferable one that is mineral based like perlite, sand mixed with potting soil with a ratio of 70% to 80% sand and the remaining potting soil. However, store-bought cactus soil mix works just as well.

How Often Should I Water My Pincushion Cactus?

You should water your Mammillaria deeply and as often as it dries. Using the ‘dry and soak’ method we discussed above, will help you remain in check with how often you water your plant, if the soil feels bone dry, it will be time to water it. Reduce watering in the winter to prevent standing water and rotting while the plant is in its dormant phase.

How Much Sunlight Should My Pincushion Cactus Get?

They differ among species, but prefer direct sunlight. If grown outdoors, plant your cactus in an area in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight for 4 hours a day. If grown indoors, put your Mammillaria on a windowsill or somewhere that gets lots of direct sunlight for 4 hours per day as well.


What Fertilizer Should I Use For My Mammillaria?

In its growing periods, give your Mammillaria water-soluble fertilizer or a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus, such as 1-5-1 or diluted fish fertilizer. Do not give your cactus any fertilizer in the winter during its dormancy period.

What Temperature Should I Keep My Mammillaria At?

The ideal temperatures to keep your Mammillaria are between 70 – 80F (21 and 27 C) in the spring through fall. In the winter, your cactus prefers cooler temperatures between 45 and 55F (7 and 13 C).

These cacti aren’t cold and frost tolerant, so if temperatures tend to get down below 30F (-1.1C) where you live, bring your cactus in.

Are Pincushion Cactus Indoor Or Outdoor Plants?

Mammillarias are both indoor and outdoor plants. Relatively, not much changes for how you take care of them other than temperatures. If temperatures where you live often go below 30F (-1.1C), plant your cactus in a container that can be brought indoors for when it gets cold.

How To Propagate This Succulent

You can propagate this succulent from its seeds or offsets.

Sow the seeds of your cactus in a pot of well-drained soil. Leave the pot in a sunny area until the seeds germinate. It takes about two to three weeks for your seeds to germinate in temperatures between 70 – 80F (21 – 27C).

Offsets are another way to propagate your Mammillaria, this propagation is best during the spring and summer. Remove the offset carefully using a long tool like tongs, or a sharp sterilized tool like a knife of exacto blade. Let the offset callous over the next several days and then place it into a pot of well-drained soil.

Are Pincushion Cactus Poisonous?

Most cacti of the Mammillaria genus are not poisonous, but different species may vary, so it is important to look up specifically about your cactus species to make sure.


Are Mammillaria Edible?

The fruits of Mammillaria genus are edible. Known as “chilitos”, Spanish for “red peppers”, these sweet berry-like fruits come cube-shaped or elongated, depending on species, and are usually red but also vary in color from white, green, magenta, or yellow.

How Tall Does A Pincushion Cactus Grow?

Species of Mammillaria genus tend to grow up to 12 inches tall and 3.9 inches wide. In five to ten years, depending on conditions, they may reach their full height.

What Are The Most Common Mammillaria Pests And Diseases?

The most common Mammillaria pests and diseases are root mealybugs, fungus gnats, spider mites, mealybugs, scale insects, and rotting.

Rotting is the most common killer disease for the Mammillaria genus, and it’s usually caused from over watering.

Use the ‘dry and soak’ method and water deeply around the cacti and avoid watering directly on top of the plant, water will be caught, and it will have a tough time being absorbed or dried, leading to rot.

Root mealybugs can be detected by white markings with a touch of blue to the hue to the soil and pot. To get rid of these pests, you will need to use a hot water treatment, it is slow but very effective.

You will need to submerge your plant in in 120F (49C) water until the internal root reaches a temperature of 115F (46C).

The mealy bugs can’t take the heat and die, while your cactus just thinks it was caught in a hot day.

Fungus gnats can be detected if you leave a potato wedge pressed in the soil for a few days and you will see them feasting on it. There are many ways to get rid of these pests, you can spray a soap and water mix on your cactus, watering from the bottom of the pot, or dispose the top layer of soil if outdoor grown.

Spider mites can be detected if you shake your plant over a sheet of white paper and you see little moving spots, you can also check for webbing around the base of your plant.

You can get rid of them by washing the cactus first with water and once again with insecticide, like neem oil, and let the plant dry out.

Mealybugs leave behind a fuzzy white substance on the plant, and their larvae are orangish pink. To get rid of these pests, you will need to spray the plant in a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. Repeat this process once or twice a week until the mealybugs are gone.

Scale insects can be easily detected by their bumpy appearances lodged on the plant. To get rid of them, you will have to start cleaning your plant with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip wherever you see them. After that, you will use insecticide, such as neem oil, and spray it on your plant until they are gone.

What Is An Albilanata Cactus?

The Mammillaria Albilanata is a species of Mammillaria native to Mexico. This cactus is white and fuzzy and comes with a pink flower crown blooming at the top of the plant.

What Is A Hahniana “Old Lady Cactus”?

TheHahniana, or c ommonly known as the “Old Lady Cactus” is a species of Mammillaria native to central Mexico. This pincushion-like cactus has a fuzzy white appearance that comes with a pink flower crown on top when in bloom.


What Is A Powder Puff Cactus?

The Bocasana, or commonly known as “Powder Puff”, is a species of Mammillaria in the Cactoideae subfamily native to Mexico. This cactus has a dirty whitish-yellow appearance that blooms yellow and dusty pink flowers on top.

What Is An Elongata “Ladyfinger Cactus”?

The Mammillaria Elongata, or commonly known as the “Ladyfinger Cactus”, is a species of Mammillaria native to central Mexico. This cactus has an elongated yellow body.

What Is A Polythele Cactus?

The Mammillaria Polythele is a species of Mammillaria native to Mexico. It has a green prickly body with pink flowers adorning the top of it when in bloom.

What Is A Herrerae Cactus?

The Mammillaria Herrerae is a critically endangered species of Mammillaria native to Querétaro, Mexico. This cactus is white in appearance with large and small light pink flowers that bloom on top.