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! ?

What is a Zebra Plant— Haworthia Fasciata

If you’re anything like me, you’re tickled pink admiring the awestruck beauty of Zebras in the jungles of Africa.

But you’re also frustrated when you just can’t figure out whether Zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes. Well, thanks to the quirkiest plants on the planet, you can have a green version of the Zebra growing in your garden or living room!

These eye-catching succulents add an ambiance of wildlife to living rooms and offices. Their versatile and tenacious qualities ensure that even the most amateur gardener has an easy time growing them.

Quite a conversation starter, the Zebra plant is one succulent you’ll want to grow.

The Zebra Plant— Haworthia Fasciata

The Zebra plant is a low growing succulent reaching to a height of between 4-8 inches. This heavily suckering plant forms proliferating rosettes arising from the base. Haworthia fasciata is generally a slow growing succulent that can last a lifetime. This dainty succulent is clump forming and thus it can fit well with other succulents in the same container.

This South African succulent stands out for its erect, multifarious leaves having streaks of white tubercles on the green outer surface which gives it the Zebra effect.

When stressed (mainly due to long hours in the hot sun), the tip of the leaves may turn red. Haworthia fasciata has a miniature leafy stem which appears to be almost invisible.

Due to its slow growing nature, the Zebra Haworthia rarely blooms especially when planted indoors. When it does, blooms appear in summer characterized by tiny, tubular pink or white flowers on an inflorescence (a thin tall stem).

Scientific Classification

Botanically referred to as Haworthia Fasciata, this fascinating succulent hails from the family Asphodeloideae, and Haworthia as the Genus. The genus Haworthia is named in honor of Adrian Hardy Haworth, who was an entomologist and a botanist. (How cool is it to have a plant named after you!)

With about 80 species under its belt, Haworthia is one genus that offers a wide variety of succulents for one to explore.

Haworthia fasciata is commonly known as the Zebra cactus though it’s not a cactus but a succulent. Other names include the Zebra Haworthia and the Zebra plant. It’s like the Zebra name is given to anything that has white stripes on it and thus, the name Zebra plant can be quite misleading.

Two other plants (that are not succulents) are also referred to as Zebra plants. These include Aphelandra squarrosa and Calathea zebrine. However, nothing can come close to the glamour exuded by our Zebra Haworthia.

Origin of the Zebra Plant

Haworthia Fasciata or the Zebra plant, is native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. They always get the good ones!

It was introduced to Europe in 1600 by a group of adventurous collectors and is now a popular household beauty around the world.

Related Species

Haworthia attenuata closely resembles the Zebra cactus. In fact, both succulents share the name Zebra plant. The only distinguishing feature between the two is the tubercles on the leaves.

Whereas Haworthia attenuata has both of its leaf surfaces covered by white tubercles, Haworthia fasciata’s leaves have a smooth inner surface devoid of any white marks.

Something else to note is that Haworthia fasciata is considered a rare species.

Hordes of succulent beginners tend to think that the Zebra plants are a stripped version of the Aloe. It’s not. Sure, they are from the same sub-family and are both native to South Africa, but there are marked differences that distinguish the two.

How to Take Care of Haworthia Fasciata

The Zebra plants top the list in the succulents’ starter pack for beginners. They’re easy-care plants that will grow brilliantly even when most neglected. However, giving ideal growing conditions when young will ensure that Zebra plants turn out to be healthy.

Continue reading for an in depth guide on how to grow and take care of your Zebra Haworthia.

What is the ideal temperature for the Zebra plant?

This xerophyte has been long adapted to desert conditions and will therefore thrive even in high heat levels. As an indoor plant, it will do just fine with room temperatures between spring and autumn. During winter, it prefers cool temperatures. However, Haworthia fasciata can’t tolerate freezing or anything below 4°C.

As the case with many succulents, the Zebra plants don’t require any humidity.

Light requirements for haworthia fasciata

Although The Zebra plants are total sun zealot, they can also do well in partial shades. If growing outdoors, find a spot where your Haworthia will receive at least four hours of bright, indirect sunlight. Indoor Zebra plants will receive adequate lighting when placed near a huge, uncovered south-facing window.

Avoid exposing your Haworthia fasciata to direct sunshine for long hours especially during summer. This leads to sunburn, giving the leaves an undesirable purple, red or brown color. Similarly, placing your Zebra plants in a shade for extended periods will result in weak and lanky plants. Avoid both extremes for robust growth.

Soil & Fertilizing

The ideal soil for Haworthia fasciata is grainy and well-draining to ensure that the plant does not sit on damp soil for long. The best bet is a commercial cacti mix which you can easily buy online.

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

Give your Zebra plant a weak solution of fertilizer occasionally. Twice or thrice a year is probably too much. Do NOT feed it during winter.

Watering your Zebra Plant

The Zebra cactus can go for long periods without water. On that account, they can cope with under watering but easily succumb to root rot due to overwatering. In warm climates, watering it once a week is recommended. Water the Zebra plant once a fortnight in cooler areas.

Use the “soak and dry” method to water your plants. This is giving your succulents a drench and waiting for the soil to dry out before watering again.

Minimize watering during winter as these plants lapse into inactivity.

Pests to look out for

Fortunately, Haworthia fasciata does not suffer from many pest invasions. Spider mites and mealy bugs are the most common insects that occasionally plague it. Nothing too unordinary!

Haworthia Fasciata Care Tips

  1. Leaves turning red: This is due to excess sunlight. Move your zebra plant in a shaded area and the undesirable red tinge will begin to fade back to normal. (Keep in mind if your succulent is sun burnt, it may not be reversed).
  2. Leaf tips are brown and dead: This is quite normal depending on the degree of color on the tips. Browning is typically only confined to the tips of the leaves, don’t worry.
  3. Plant collapse: This is typically caused by overwatering and exposure to very cold temperatures. Warm that baby up and let it drink all of its nutrients first.

ALSO READ:

5 Reasons to Grow a Zebra Plant

  1. It’s one of the most visually appealing succulents.
  2. It requires minimal maintenance, super easy to take care of.
  3. The Zebra Plant is not poisonous, being safe for both humans and pets.
  4. They take up very little space. So much so that little baby shoes and teacups are used as planters. (Check out these cute modern planters we found).
  5. It has a long life span, perfect for gifting to generations.

How to Propagate Haworthia Fasciata

Just like Aloe, propagating Haworthia fasciata is a painless and straight forward process with a high rate of success. Either offsets or leaves can be used as propagates. When propagating using leaves, pluck a healthy leaf from the mother plant.

Allow the wound to heal for a few days. Stick the calloused leaves in a well-draining potting mix. Water only once and wait for signs of growth to water again.

Propagating using offsets is much easier and thought to have a higher success rate. Any healthy Zebra plant will often produce offsets. Use a sharp knife to neatly remove them, cutting as close to the mother plant as possible. This is to ensure that the offset gets some roots.

In some cases, a knife may be completely unnecessary as the offset may be loosely attached to the plant and come off easily with a gentle tug.

Wait a few days for the wound to heal. This is to reduce the risks of rot in the new wound. Set up the dried offset in a cacti potting mix, water slightly and place in a warm, brightly lit area.

The best time to propagate Haworthia fasciata is during summer or at the end of spring. This is because it’s warm and there’s a lot of sunlight – excellent conditions for optimum growth.

Repotting Tips for Haworthia Fasciata

The zebra plant is generally tiny and slow-growing. Therefore, it might take a while for the plant to outgrow its pot. Repotting is done every so often and only when the pot is filled with offsets.

In some cases, the roots may overgrow the pot and hence a repot may be necessary. Use similar potting mix when repotting.

The recommended time to repot is during summer or late spring. Change the soil every two years to get rid of molds, pests and to revamp the nutrition of the soil. Read more about repotting succulents here.

Where can I buy the Zebra Plant Succulent?

Haworthia fasciata is a rare and hard to find succulent. However, during summer or spring, it can easily be sourced from nurseries, conservatories and local garden centers. If not, online stores such as Mountain crest gardens, succulent box and Etsy may be your best bet.


Have you had enough of the Zebra Plant yet? If not be sure to spread the word to your friends about how amazing and easy it is to care for a rare succulent like this. Leave a comment below about how this article has helped you with your zebra plant.

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! ?

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