Mammillaria— The Pincushion Cactus, All About It

The pincushion cactus is just one of the huge collection of cacti available in beautiful homes and apartments. And in the wild for that matter.

It is already a sure thing that you’re interested in knowing more about this particular cactus. We know you want it to be part of your houseplants collection, plus it’s one of the most popular cacti out there.

If the pincushion cactus plant is already in your home, then you want to ensure it doesn’t just survive but thrives to change your home for the better. In other words, we always love when someone compliments our plants indoors, we appreciate them so much and i’m sure you do too!

And that’s exactly what you’ll walk away with at the end of this post. No holds barred; everything you need to know about the pincushion cactus plant.

Ready. Set. Go!

The Pincushion Cactus

Scientific classification

The pincushion cactus is a common name for the variety of cacti in the genus Mammillaria of the family Cactaceae. With over 200 known species, Mammillaria is the largest genus in the family.

The first species was named back in the 16th century by Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. Cactus mammillaris was the name given with the second part of it being an alteration of the Latin word for nipple (mammila). It had all to do with the shape of this particular plant as you’ll see later.

Apart from pincushion cactus, other common names include:

  • Nipple cactus
  • Globe cactus
  • Fishhook cactus

Interesting names, right?

Well, here are some more of different species from this genus: Woolly Nipple, Old Lady, Cushion Fox tail and Owl’s eyes. Talk about a weird variety of cacti names!

Origin

Being such a huge collection of species, Mammillaria is native to several countries. But a good deal of plants have their roots in Mexico. The remaining minority have been traced to have originated from

  • Venezuela
  • The Caribbean
  • The United States
  • Honduras
  • Colombia
  • Guatemala

Description

The pincushion cactus has a small size perfect for these cute owl planters we have in the office and other varied shapes as per the particular species. On average, it can grow to a height of up to 40 cm and a diameter of up to 20 cm. Most plants are cylindrical, conical, round and pyramidal in shape.

Some species of the pincushion cactus plant grow as loners while others throw up as much as 100 little ones around them. 

This spiny hardy pincushion cactus plant bears funnel-shaped flowers with a wide variety of colors – red, yellow, pink, white and greenish. The flowers later develop into fruits of a host of shapes and colors. These fruits can bear resemblance to a berry, be elongated or club-shaped. They’re usually red, but other common colors include white, green, magenta and yellow.

How to take care of Mammillaria

Nurturing the pincushion cactus plant is a breeze especially if you’re just getting started with houseplants. It is by nature, adapted to fight through harsh conditions.

So that goes to say that a little too much pampering on your side could prove to be fatal. But that doesn’t mean you completely forget about your plant. Here are a few care regimens to follow for the pincushion cactus plant.

Watering Mammillaria Plants

The general rule for succulents applies – not too much water.

That means you water over prolonged periods of time. But how long should you wait before watering your pincushion cactus again?

Depends with what the condition is of the topsoil that’s in your favorite pot. (This is one of our favorites in the office in case you’re wondering).

Allow enough time for this top part to completely dry out before you water your pincushion cactus again. And when you do water, do it well, here’s a full in depth article for watering succulents that can be applied to cacti as well.

If you already have a plethora of knowledge in watering cacti or succulents, just remember to let the water run off before you stop, drainage holes are very important to both succulents and cacti.

Tip: During winter, cease watering for the whole season.

If you are unsure of how much water to give your pincushion cactus or other succulents be sure to join Succulent City Plant Lounge to have an exclusive member answer your questions for you. The community is rapidly growing, don’t miss out on the succulent fun!

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Ideal Temperature for Mammillaria Plants

Cold temperatures are a deal-breaker for the pincushion cacti, it’s not like they have cute “plants are friends” sweaters laying around the office. So winter can be a rough season for them if you’ve set them up outdoors. Consider bringing them inside as the cold catches on.

For best growth, these plants need temperatures of between 10°C to 24°C.

In short, warm is the way to go.

Soil Mix that Works well with Mammillaria Cacti

The soil mix is of ultimate importance for the pincushion cactus.

Because, even if you’re keeping your watering far apart, the soil should drain faster to provide the ideal growth for your pincushion cactus plant. Remember it doesn’t need that much water just like other cacti plants.

So your potting mix should be ideal for cactus growth. Either buy the commercial cactus and succulent mix or prepare your own at home by mixing regular potting soil, pumice and coarse sand in measured quantities.

Fertilizing Your Mammillaria Cactus

This isn’t much of a bother but it definitely goes a long way in improving the general development of your plant.

You can incorporate a slow-release fertilizer in the potting mix above and you’ll be set for life. Or, for even better results, use a specially-formulated feed for cacti every other two weeks during the growth period – any other season except winter.

Giving Enough Sunlight for Your Mammillaria Cactus

The pincushion cacti love light. Lots of it. Be sure to give your pincushion cactus plenty of light, for this particular plant, a normal grow light might not be sufficient enough in case you were wondering.

Therefore, it’s only sensible that you give your pincushion cactus the sunlight love it deserves as much as possible. They will appreciate you with all the colors they can get (recall them from above).

As if we can’t say it enough, basically, they thrive on full day sunlight all year round.

How to Propagate Pincushion Cactus

The pincushion cactus can be propagated through two simple ways; offsets and seeds.

For offsets, all you need to do is to pluck them from the mother plant. Careful, don’t hurt the plant or your hands use gardening gloves if you can. Now, allow the cut part to dry up for a few days and pot the pups in a well-draining soil mix.

Side note: Speaking of the PinCushion Cacti, we have succulent pins of all kinds, pinning it on your book bag or tote like us in the office is the way to go, they’re just super cute!

For seeds, the process should start off in spring. Use a cacti-mix-filled flat. Sow the seeds on top of the mix and lightly cover them with sand. Keep the top moist and store this set up in a warm place. Ideal temperature should not be less than 21°C. Remember to be watering the mix so that the seeds don’t dry out.

Pot the plants when they’ve grown to a considerable size.

Repotting the Pincushion Cactus

Repotting cacti is an essential step for most succulents, if not all. Especially for the pincushion cactus that bares offsets.

As a rule, repot when the roots start showing through the drainage holes in the post. Also, when pups have filled up the container.

Before embarking on this process, be sure to loosen up the soil using something like a blunt knife or your normal gardening tool. And the soil here should be dry. Once again, dry, that’s a very important detail to keep in mind when repotting.

Use a pot just large enough for the plant. Not something major. Again, beware of the spikes. You can use a rolled up once of cloth or thick gloves to stay in the safe.

If you’re having trouble finding pots to plant these beautiful and colorful cacti check out these planters that have provide a great contrast to your cacti. Or be bold and get this groot inspired planter.

The Pincushion Cactus Pests and Diseases Problems

The most common types of pests affecting the Mammillaria plants are mealybugs and scale bugs.

Obviously, they are going to negatively interfere with your plant’s growth. So, it’s important to wipe them away as soon as you spot them. Control their spreading by separating affected plants from the rest of the pack. Spray the affected plants with an effective pesticide or a mixture of rubbing alcohol and water.

The pincushion cactus isn’t prone to disease. But watch out for any signs of rot – majorly due to overwatering habits.

Uses of the Pincushion Cactus

How many colors have you read so far in connection to the pincushion cactus? A lot! Almost as many colors that these Mammillaria yoga pants has.

From the tubercles themselves to the flowers and fruits. They’re quite a number.

To have such colors in your home can be a nice feeling. For this reason, these cacti are grown for their colors. They are valuable collections for anyone who fancies themselves as gardeners. Grab one for yourself here, they’re actually quite inexpensive!

Where Can I Buy the Pincushion Cactus?

Just about everywhere with a succulents’ section. For online, you can check out Amazon, Mountain Crest Gardens, Leaf and Clay and Succulent Gardens.

For offline purchases be sure to browse around in your local nurseries.

Here’s a full article on where you can buy succulents and cacti both online and offline.


Thinking of getting a pincushion cactus for yourself now? Comment below if you’re going to get one soon!

If you’d like, share it with us in the Succulent City Plant Lounge, I’m sure the exclusive members would love to hear how you take care of your pincushion cactus.

Loved learning about this pincushion cactus succulent and now inspired to add more to your collection?! (We don’t blame you) Check out Succulent City’s new line of ebooks covering topics from, “All the Types of Succulents for Indoor and Outdoor,” “Different Types of Planters,” and many more helpful in-depth ebooks. Head to this link to view our full line of ebooks and get started with our complimentary guide. 

Mammillaria— The Pincushion Cactus, All About It
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