Everything You Need to Know About the Brain Cactus

Brains.

This spooky, scary cactus really does look like brains! If you put it in a faux human skull planter, you may be able to fool a few people into thinking your Brain Cactus is a real human brain! Maybe an idea for halloween 2019?

OK, we’re just kidding about the real brains thing! The Brain Cactus is bright green, so you probably won’t be fooling anybody with it anytime soon. But it does have curvy stems that wrap and twist around each other into a round shape, so the whole plant does look a lot like a brain.

This unique cactus has an interesting history and some specific care requirements, so if you want to learn more about it, keep reading!

Also, for our new readers that don’t know. We’ve been collaborating with Amazon to provide our readers amazing deals! Like this one, you can sign up for Amazon Prime for a 30 day FREE trial. How cool is that? Our team is thinking about getting new planters to spice up the office!

Anyways, onwards to the brains…

everything to know about the brain cactus
sunny brain cactus @plant_addiction__

Origins of the Brain Cactus

The Brain Cactus, also known as the Mammillaria ElongataCristata’ cactus, is native to central Mexico. It’s a rare form of the Mammillaria Elongata cactus and has a unique, crested shape. Its growth pattern kind of looks like worms or brains, which is how it got the nickname Brain Cactus.

Mammillaria Elongata cacti are called Ladyfingers and grow nice and straight, but this crested form has stems with lots of kinks in them that grow in one big round clump. How did that happen?

It didn’t happen through cultivation—it actually happened through mutation or damage.

All succulents, including cacti, have a center of growth. This center of growth is called the apical meristem. If the apical meristem gets munched on by an insect or damaged somehow, your cactus may start to grow in a wormlike crested shape. Pretty cool, huh?

That’s not the only way that crested cacti can form, though. Sometimes a mutation happens in the cells of a cactus and causes it to become crested. Mutations happen much more rarely, though.

everything to know about the brain cactus
brain cactus @maijamasena

How to Care for the Brain Cactus Properly

Taking care of a Brain Cactus is easy, but there are a few things you should know, especially when it comes to propagation. Keep reading if you want to learn how to take care of the amazing Mammillaria Elongata ‘Cristata’ plant!

The best soil to use for your Brain Cactus

The best cactus soil is going to be something that drains well, like succulent soil or a homemade soil blend made with potting mix, perlite or pumice, and sand.

We highly recommend this soil mix by Bonsai Jack. It is one of the best soil mixes on the market. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any other soil, it helps fight root rot, perfectly pH Balanced & is pathogen-free (ie: won’t kill your plants). This soil is the go-to for our office plants. Go ahead and get the 7 Gallon Bag if you are plant nerd like us :). Pick up some of our favorite soil by clicking here: Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil.

Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111-7 Gallons -...
  • FAST DRAINING & NURTURING: Our succulent potting...
  • IDEAL FOR ACID-LOVING PLANTS: Bonsai Jack's...
  • MADE WITH EXPERTISE: Our ready-to-use trademarked...
  • MADE IN THE USA: All Bonsai Jack soil products are...
  • SATISFACTION GUARANTEED: Over 150,000 bags sold....

Last update on 2020-03-19 / Amazon

Repotting the Brain Cactus safely

When you get your Brain Cactus home from the nursery or in the mail, you’ll probably want to plant it in a new pot.

When you repot this cactus, you have to be careful! It has spines that can hurt you, so put on a thick pair of gardening gloves before you try to pick it up. Once you have your gloves on, grab your new pot and cactus soil and fill it up, leaving some room for the plant and its roots.

Now you’re ready to take your cactus out of its old pot!. Run a trowel around the edges of the pot to loosen up the soil. Gently pick up the cactus and shake as much of the old soil out of the roots as you can. Plant it in the new pot and add more soil around it so that the soil reaches the top of the pot. Hold off on watering it for a few days to give it a chance to acclimate to its new pot.

You should repot your cactus once every two to four years in the spring. If you see its roots peaking out of the drainage hole, that’s a definite sign that it’s outgrowing its pot and needs to be replanted!

everything to know about the brain cactus
up close and personal @stringofplants

Brain Cactus water requirements for ideal growth

Most cacti don’t require a lot of water, and the Brain Cactus is no exception. Excess water can get in the folds of this crested cactus and rot it quite quickly, so you have to be careful when watering it! Make sure that you don’t get water on the body of your Brain Cactus. We like to use a small watering can and point the spout at the soil, not the plant.

We use the “soak and dry” method to water our cacti, so we keep pouring water onto the soil until water runs out of the drainage hole of the pot. Then we wait until the soil is completely dry to the touch before watering again.

I know what you’re thinking. Soaking my cactus with water? Won’t that cause it to rot?

ALSO READ:

everything to know about the brain cactus
brain cactus in yellow pot @omniasucculents

Cacti have a reputation for needing very little water, so I totally understand why you think that! But this watering method actually mimics the weather patterns in their native environment, the desert, so it keeps them nice and healthy.

Deserts get periods of heavy rain followed by long periods of intense drought. Cacti soak up all the water they can during those heavy rains and then dry out during the drought, drawing on their water reserves to keep themselves hydrated.

So soaking them mimics those heavy desert rains and drying them out mimics the drought. They love this watering method, so try it out!

As for frequency, we soak out cacti once every one or two weeks during the summer, and then cut back to once every four to six weeks during the winter.

everything to know about the brain cactus
potted brain cactus @succiexhi

How much sunlight does a Brain Cactus really need?

Like most cacti, this one likes bright, direct sunlight. With that being said, you shouldn’t leave it in the hot summer sunshine for more than four hours. If you do, your cactus could get scorched!

When growing this cactus indoors, you should put it near the brightest window in your home to ensure it gets enough sunlight. Having some sort of window sill planter will make it look pretty too!

The ideal temperature for Brain Cactus growth

Unfortunately, the Brain Cactus isn’t cold hardy, so you’ll have to bring it inside for the winter. It can’t handle even a light frost, so bring it indoors at the start of fall.

If you don’t quite understand the difference between hardy or soft plants, be sure to take a detour here.

everything to know about the brain cactus
pretty in pink @pottheadluver

Does a Brain Cactus need any fertilization?

Sure thing! You should try fertilizing your Brain Cactus about once a month during its growing season in the spring and summer. A water soluble cactus fertilizer like this one is a great choice.

If you want more options be sure to ask some of our green thumbs in the Succulent City Plant Lounge.

Propagating the Brain Cactus the Right Way

Propagating Mammillaria Elongata ‘Cristata’ is a lot different from propagating other cacti and succulents, in case you’ve read our most popular propagation guide. But because it’s crested, you’ll have to get a little creative with your propagating techniques to preserve its unique shape.

This plant does produce offsets that can be divided and replanted, but we’ve heard that these offsets usually have a normal growth pattern that’s more like the Mammillaria Elongata. You may get lucky, though—normal looking offsets can become crested as they grow, so don’t pluck them off your plant and throw them out. Try and replant them and see if they become crested as they mature!

You can also propagate the Brain Cactus from cuttings, but those cuttings should be grafted onto another cactus for best results. Grafting is kind of like creating a Frankenstein cactus. You cut off the head of one cactus, take a cutting from another, and mush them together to create one brand new cactus!

It sounds weird, but it works! If you put a cutting from your Brain Cactus on top, the new cactus will have the same characteristics and crested shape, which can’t be said for other methods of propagation.

Grafting works best if the two plants you use are closely related genetically. So, if you can get your hands on a Mammillaria Elongata, you should graft your Brain Cactus onto that. If you can’t find a cactus that’s the same species as your Brain Cactus, then just try to use a cactus that’s in the same genus.

Let’s begin

To begin, cut the body of your Mammillaria Elongata with a grafting knife. Make sure that the part of the cactus that’s still in the soil is at least a few inches long. Discard or set aside the top part of the cactus that’s no longer attached—you won’t need it.

Then, take a stem cutting from your Brain Cactus that’s at least one inch long and put it on top of the Mammillaria Elongata.

On the cut side of both of your cacti, you’ll see a ring—at least part of those two rings need to overlap in order for this to work. So when you layer your Brain Cactus cutting on top of the Mammillaria Elongata plant, make sure that they line up.

Grab some rubber bands and use them to hold the two pieces in place. You can wrap the rubber bands around the pot as well to better secure them. In about two months, the pieces will be joined and you’ll be able to remove the rubber bands!

In the meantime, continue to care for the plant just like you would any other cactus. There’s a small risk of infection and a chance that your graft will fail, but it’s a pretty reliable way to create a new cactus if you use species that are closely genetically related.

everything to know about the brain cactus
beautiful brain @cactusky9

Well, that’s everything we know about the Brain Cactus! We hope that this post has given you the confidence you need to grow this awesome little succulent. It’s not hard, we promise!

Is this plant going on your wishlist? Let us know in the comments below!

Loved learning about this 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 complementary guide. 

Happy planting! ?

Everything You Need to Know About the Snake Plant

Many succulents are short and squat because they’ve adapted to grow in arid climates, but not the snake plant! It’s a tropical plant that’s known for its beautiful tall leaves and color variations. Some varieties have leaves with thick, buttery yellow edges, while others have striking dark green stripes. Interior designers love this plant, and so do we―it compliments pretty much any style of decor and looks great in arrangements!

Succulents are known for being hardy, and snake plants are no exception. They’re one of the easiest types of succulents to care for, so we love to recommend them to new gardeners and people with black thumbs.

Even if you forget to water your snake plant for a month, you probably won’t kill it, so don’t let your lack of gardening prowess stop you from owning this wonderful plant!

Even though snake plants are tough, you’re still going to need our advice to keep your plant looking its best. In this article, we’ll give you lots of helpful care taking tips with some fun snake plant facts thrown in for good measure, so keep reading!

Sansevieria Trifasciata— the Snake Plant

History and Origin

Snake plants are native to tropical West Africa and are an important part of African culture. Nigerians believe that the plant provides spiritual protection. They use it in a ritual to remove the evil eye, a malevolent stare that casts a curse on its victims. This succulent is also associated with several African gods, including the god of war.

The Chinese also think that this plant brings good luck like the jade plant. They believe that the gods will bestow the eight virtues, which include long life and prosperity, onto its caretakers. Even if this succulent didn’t bring us good luck, we’d still keep it around because it’s so pretty!

Sansevieria Trifasciata

Snake plants are a type of Sansevieria, which is a genus made up of seventy different flowering plants. These plants are grouped together because they all have shared characteristics like narrow, upright leaves and short, thick roots.

Because the snake plant belongs to the genus Sansevieria, its full scientific name is Sansevieria Trifasciata. The second word in its name, Trifasciata, comes from Latin. It means “marked with three bands.” Several snake plant varieties are variegated, which is just a fancy way of saying that their leaves have different colored streaks. These colorful markings are why snake plants got the name Trifasciata.

In addition to its scientific name, the snake plant has a few nicknames. It’s often called mother-in-law’s tongue because of its sharp, pointed leaves. If you ever buy this succulent for your mother-in-law, don’t tell her what it’s called!

Snake plants are also known as viper’s bowstring hemp because they have strong fibers that were once used to make bowstrings.

How to Care for Snake Plants

Best Soil for Snake Plants

Snake plants are sensitive to water and prone to root rot, so it’s important to plant them in soil that drains well. Commercial succulent or cactus soil is great for them because it has added sand that helps with drainage. Read our best soil article to understand what the best soil mix is for your succulents.

You can also make your own succulent soil from scratch. You’ll save some money and get to control exactly what goes into it, so try it out if you can. There are lots of homemade soil recipes floating around on the Internet, but we like to use three parts of potting soil, two parts of coarse sand like builder’s sand, and one part of pumice.

We won’t lie, though―as much as we love a good DIY, we usually use commercial succulent soil because it’s more convenient.

We highly recommend this soil mix by Bonsai Jack. It is one of the best soil mixes on the market. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any other soil, it helps fight root rot, perfectly pH Balanced & is pathogen-free (ie: won’t kill your plants). This soil is the go-to for our office plants. Go ahead and get the 7 Gallon Bag if you are plant nerd like us :). Pick up some of our favorite soil by clicking here: Bonsai Jack Succulent Soil.

Bonsai Jack Succulent and Cactus Soil Gritty Mix #111-7 Gallons -...
  • FAST DRAINING & NURTURING: Our succulent potting...
  • IDEAL FOR ACID-LOVING PLANTS: Bonsai Jack's...
  • MADE WITH EXPERTISE: Our ready-to-use trademarked...
  • MADE IN THE USA: All Bonsai Jack soil products are...
  • SATISFACTION GUARANTEED: Over 150,000 bags sold....

Last update on 2020-03-19 / Amazon

Repotting Snake Plants

Unlike other succulents, snake plants prefer to be a little squished in their pots. You don’t have to repot these guys until they’re busting out. Wait until you see obvious signs of overgrowth, like excessive top heaviness that makes your plant topple over or roots that stick out of the drainage hole. You can expect to repot your snake plants every three to six years.

Here’s some nifty geometric planters in case you want to get fancy.

Repotting a snake plant is pretty easy, but there are still a few things you need to know. Snake plants like to be root bound, so each time you repot yours, choose a pot that’s only a few inches larger than the old one. The pot you pick should definitely have a drainage hole because snake plants can rot if they sit in any water.

When you’re ready to repot, get your succulent soil and fill the new pot about a third of the way full. Support your succulent by placing your hand on top of the soil and gently turn the pot over. Your plant should pop right out, but if it doesn’t, try tapping on the sides of the pot a little. If it just doesn’t want to come out no matter what you do (we’ve all been there), try watering it. Soaking the soil will loosen the roots and make it easier for you to get your plant out. 

Now, place your plant in the new pot and see where it sits. If your plant sits one to two inches below the pot’s rim, you’re good to go! If not, add or remove soil until it’s positioned properly. Allow your succulent some time to adjust to its new pot before you water it―a few days is usually enough.

Hold off on fertilizing it for a few weeks, too, so that you don’t damage its unestablished roots.

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How Much Water Does a Snake Plant Need?

Succulents need a lot less water than other kinds of plants, and they also need a different watering schedule. Succulents do best when you let their soil dry out completely between waterings, which usually takes about a week.

Snake plants require a bit less water than other succulents, so you may want to water yours every week and a half to two weeks instead of every week.

How to Water a Snake Plant

To water your snake plant, fill up a watering can and pour water onto the soil until it starts to run out of the drainage hole of the pot. Make sure that your succulent doesn’t sit in any water―if you keep your pot on a saucer, lift up the pot once or twice a day and drain any excess water. Make sure that the soil is dry to the touch before you water your succulent again.

Considering that succulents need less water than other plants, it sounds a little strange to flood your snake plant with water every other week. But trust us―this watering schedule works!

If you’re still unsure how much water you’ll need, read our complete watering guide for succulents here. (It’s helped over 2000 succulent lovers to date!)

Snake Plant Light Requirements

Snake plants love indirect sunlight, but they’re pretty adaptable and can survive in full sun and low light conditions. Because they only need indirect sunlight to thrive, they make great houseplants like these.

To keep your snake plant healthy and happy, try placing it near an east facing window. These windows provide a few hours of direct sunlight in the morning and indirect sunlight for the rest of the day, which is perfect for this plant. If you want to keep it close to a brighter south or west facing window, just make sure that you shield it from the sun’s rays by closing the blinds a little. Too much direct sunlight will burn the leaves of your snake plant.

Outside, the best place to put your snake plants is in the shade. While they can be planted in areas that get full sun, we don’t really recommend it. In full sun they’re much more likely to develop symptoms of sun damage, like dark brown spots on their leaves. You’ll also have to water them more often because the heat from the sun causes the soil to dry out faster. If you’re not always great at remembering to water your plants, keep them in the shade!

If you’re dying to plant this gorgeous succulent in a sunny spot in your garden, we get it! We think it would look fab out there too. Just make sure you keep a close eye on it and have shade cloth on hand in case it starts to burn.

Snake Plant Temperature Requirements

Just like real snakes, snake plants don’t like the cold! They can’t tolerate temperatures below 40°F. If you leave them outside in freezing temperatures, the water inside their cells can freeze, expand, and burst their cell walls.

This will cause tissue damage and make the leaves look brown and mushy in certain spots. Your plant can even die if it’s left outside in the cold for too long! If temperatures in your area drop to forty degrees, make sure you bring your outdoor snake plant inside or put some frost cloth over it to keep it as warm as possible.

If you keep your plant inside, that’s ideal. Snake plants do best in temperatures between seventy and ninety degrees, so indoor environments are perfect for them. They’ll reward you for keeping them indoors by purifying the air you breathe. They remove toxins like formaldehyde from the air and release lots of oxygen, improving the air circulation in your home.

Best Fertilizer for Snake Plants

Fertilizer can encourage your snake plants to flower and help them grow faster. You can fertilize them as often as once per month during the spring and summer months.

To get the best results, use a balanced fertilizer. You can tell that a fertilizer is balanced if it has three identical numbers on the package, like 8-8-8. These numbers indicate that the fertilizer contains equal proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the three main nutrients in fertilizer. We recommend that you pick up an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 formula and dilute it to half strength before applying it to your succulent.

Pests

Succulents can sometimes get infested with pests like mealybugs. Plants that are kept outdoors and ones that are overwatered are more susceptible to infestations, but any plant can become infected.

The two main pests you need to watch out for are mealybugs and spider mites. They stymie your plant’s growth and suck the sap from its leaves, wounding them in the process. If they’re left on your plant long enough, they can even kill it. That’s why it’s so important to get rid of these nasty little critters as soon as you spot them!

Mealybugs are often mistaken for mold because they’re white and fuzzy. If you see lots of white, fuzzy spots on your plant, grab some isopropyl alcohol and put it in a spray bottle or on a q-tip. Spray or wipe the affected areas with the alcohol. Do this as many times as it takes to get rid of all the mealybugs.

Because they’re so small, you probably won’t be able to see the spider mites on your plant, but you will be able to see the damage. Spider mite damage appears as small yellow and brown spots on your plant’s leaves. These mites are related to spiders, so they’ll also leave webbing on your plant that looks similar to a spider web. If you see any of these warning signs, start spraying your succulent’s leaves, especially the undersides, with water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Propagating Snake Plants

One of the reasons why we love succulents is because you can get baby plants from them for free through a process called propagation.

Division is one of the most popular ways to propagate snake plants because it preserves the variegation patterns of the mother plant. If you want your new snake plant’s leaves to have the same thick yellow borders as your old plant, then don’t propagate it with leaf cuttings or rhizomes―divide your plant instead.

Propagating Leaf Cuttings

To take a leaf cutting, grab a sharp knife or a pair of shears and cut a leaf off of your plant. You want to make the cut pretty close to the bottom of the plant.

Now, take that leaf and cut it up again into a few different sections. As you’re cutting, make sure that you note which end of each section is the bottom. The “bottom” of each cutting is the side that was closest to the roots of the main plant when it was still attached.

If you plant the top sides of the cuttings in soil, they won’t root, so that’s why this step is so important. We like to take a non-toxic sharpie or pen and mark which sides we need to plant so that we don’t get confused.

Leave these cuttings to dry out for a few days. Then, fill a planting tray or pot with succulent soil and plant the cuttings bottom side down in the soil. You should keep them in bright, indirect sunlight and mist them with a spray bottle once a day to keep them moist.

Propagating succulents from leaves isn’t an exact science, and not every leaf will take, but you should see some roots and buds after a few weeks. Once your baby succulent grows a bit larger, you can water it the same way you water your mature snake plants.

Propagating Rhizome Cuttings

Propagating rhizome cuttings is pretty much the same process as propagating leaves. If you’re not familiar with rhizomes, they’re kind of like roots, except they grow horizontally. Plants that have them use them to store nutrients. Rhizomes sometimes sprout up through the soil near your main plant and grow new leaves. They can be cut and used to grow new succulents.

It’s important to wait until a rhizome sprouts a leaf before you cut it. Once that happens, take a sharp garden knife and cut the rhizome as close to the bottom as you can. Allow the cutting to dry out for a few days, and then plant it in soil, cut side down. Water this cutting the same way you watered the leaves.

Dividing Snake Plants

You can also cut your snake plant in half with a sharp knife to gain a brand new plant. Like we mentioned earlier, division is the best way to ensure that your new plant will have the same variegation as your main plant.

Cut your plant and its root structure in half right down the middle. Plant each half in its own pot with some succulent soil. Allow these plants to take root for a few days before you water them, and then water them as normal.


By now you’re probably dying to run to your local garden center and pick up one of these plants. We don’t blame you! Snake plants are beautiful, low maintenance houseplants that anyone can grow and enjoy regardless of their gardening skill level.

We love their gorgeous tall leaves, color variations, and greenish white flowers. We hope that this guide has helped you figure out how to take care of a snake plant once you get it home from the nursery, whether or not you have a green thumb!

Last update on 2020-03-19 / Amazon

Leave a comment below about what you enjoyed learning about in this article, we’re curious! And if you have a new snake plant after this, let us know the progress of your succulent baby, happy planting!

Enjoyed learning about Snake Plants? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about The Right Way to Propagating Succulents Successfully. With this ebook you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

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