Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus

What comes to mind when you think about an old lady? Especially when it has to do with a cactus? You may be trying to make the connection between a prickly plant and a sweet old soul. All it takes is one look at the Old Lady Cactus, especially when it is flowering, for it all to come together.

Keep on reading to find out our tips on taking care of the Old Lady Cactus.

Mammillaria Hahniana

The Old Lady Cactus also goes by the name Mammillaria Hahniana. The Mammillaria family has around 200 species of cacti, most being native to Mexico. The Old Lady Cactus is a part of the Cactaceae family. Being easy to take care of the Old Lady Cactus, it is a much-loved choice to add to any garden, both indoors and outdoors!

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Old lady and her flowers. @dr.rika_jikken.kun

Old Lady Cactus Characteristics

The Mammillaria Hahniana features stunning spherical stems that are covered in sharp white spines and white down. These spheres grow to be around 4 inches tall, and 5 inches wide, though over several years this can evolve to a height of up to 10 inches. 

This is one cactus that does not like being lonely, and often grows in groups, creating a collection of spheres. Then something happens in the spring and summer. What was simply a spiky looking ‘ball’ plant, begins to take on a new look. They flower with reddish purple flowers forming a crown at the top of the plant. These flowers look like a perfect headband, creating a halo effect on the cactus.

Want to add the Old Lady Cactus to your collection of succulents? Here is everything you need to know to ensure they thrive!

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Beautiful old lady cactus plant in pot. @katelovesplants

Does the Old Lady Cactus Need Water?

There is a time for everything, and the same applies to watering your Old Lady Cactus. How do you know the right time though? Well, you need to make sure that the soil is quite dry when determining if you need to water your succulent. If you feel the soil and there is even a touch of moisture, do not put any water on your plant.

Once the soil feels totally dry to the touch, water the cactus. Make sure the water goes all the way through the soil. Your pot needs to have proper drainage holes– check out these little pots we found. The plant should not be left sitting in water as this could lead to root rot and eventually kill it, which is why drainage is a must.

Seasons affect watering as well. The cooler the weather, the less water that your plant will need. Spring and summer are the best time to water your plant. In winter, do not water your Old Lady Cactus. As you keep reading, you will see why.

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Top view of the old lady cactus plant. @plant.accordingly

What Soil is Required for the Old Lady Cactus?

Water retention can really affect the growth of your cacti, so your choice of soil is quite important. You need soil that will drain relatively fast, is porous, and it should be rich in nutrients as well. Look for a commercial cactus mix, like this one we swear by, for the very best results. A mixture that is sandy in texture would be the best option.

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Pink flowers blooming on old lady cactus plant. @that_sunshinelife

Feed Your Old Lady Cactus with Fertilizer

Timing is everything when it comes to feeding your cacti with fertilizer. Cacti goes through growing seasons, with the spring and the summer being the time the cacti grow. In the winter, growth comes to a standstill.

Fertilizer should only be added during the growing season for one simple reason. Blooming flowers!! Too much fertilizer will inhibit the flowers blooming on your cactus. Less is more, and it is better to use a liquid fertilizer with this plant– try this one from Miracle- Gro. Try and make sure you use a fertilizer with a high potassium content as this will help the plant thrive. In the winter when the plant is dormant, save up on your feed – your cacti doesn’t need it.

Sometimes we will use fertilizer if we see that our succulents or cacti need a bit of help in order to get back on their roots.

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Old lady cactus covered with white webbing. @toomanyplants

Propagating Your Old Lady Cactus

The best way to start your journey with an Old Lady Cactus is by propagating it, the right way. The Mammillaria Hahniana will thrive from offsets. These are the smaller spheres which are found at the base of the older plants. To properly propagate, here is what you can do.

  • Put on some thick gardening gloves.
  • Find the smallest of the offsets and gently remove it from the main plant.
  • Keep the offset on some dry tissue in a dry place.
  • Leave it there a few days to allow it to dry out.
  • Where you cut off the offset from the main plant, place some rooting hormone.
  • Take a small pot and add some cactus mix (a special soil that offers the right drainage for the plant)
  • Plant the offset in this pot.
  • Give it a little water each week, for around four weeks.

While you are propagating, remember to keep your cactus away from bright light, especially direct sunlight. You can expose it again once you have noted that it has taken root and continued to grow on its own.

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Old lady cactus in terra-cotta planter. @wild_about_cactus

Achieve Optimal Health by Repotting your Old Lady Cactus

There is so much happening above the soil, with the perfect sphere and bright flowers being what you see. If you want to really tell how well your cacti is doing, you need to peek below the surface as well. Repotting at least once a year can help keep your plant alive and give it the room it needs to grow.

The warm season is the best time to repot. Take the plant gently out of the soil, though keep in mind that the soil needs to be dry first. When the plant is out of the pot, you will be able to identify the roots which have died, or which may be rotting. Cut these off and on these cuts, place a fungicide.

Then gently brush aside as much of the old soil as you can. In a new pot, place the cacti and add some potting soil. Some popular pots you can use are terra cotta planters, find some here for your home. Once done, leave the cacti in the pot, and after around a week, you can water it a little. The reason for not watering right after you repot is to avoid the roots getting rot. They need some time to settle into the fresh soil or cactus mix.

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Old lady cactus with other cacti. @wild_about_cactus

Getting Your Mammillaria to Flower

The bright flowers of this cactus are what really give it character. So, when taking care of your Old Lady Cactus, you will want to do everything possible to get those flowers to emerge. You need to plan around the seasons.

Want to know how these lovely flowers are formed? The Old Lady Cactus features tubercles, and this is where the spines come from. The tubercles can expand and store water, and from the axils in the tubercles, flowers emerge. Remember the tips on watering? Make sure not to expose your cactus to too much water!

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Old lady cactus blooming pink flowers. @cluelessmoose

The Correct Light Exposure for Old Lady Cacti

Like other cacti, this plant thrives when exposed to sunlight. However, too much sunlight, and the old lady cactus starts to look a little sad. Ideally, around four to six hours of direct sunlight each day is all that this plant needs. This means that it will do well if left outdoors. It should have a few taller plants around it to give it a little bit of shade and protection, especially in the hotter months.

Making sure that it is constantly exposed to even light through the day is the ideal solution if you are growing this plant indoors. Find a place that gets constant and consistent light and position the plant next to a window. If you live in a place where getting consistent sunlight is an issue, then it would be best to have a grow light close to your plants.

That grow light we linked above is part of our office that doesn’t have much light, it works wonders for the growth of those corner plants we have!

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
Cactus with white webbing. @yorufujin

Taking care of the Old Lady Cactus is simple, and its unique beauty makes it a favorite for anyone who appreciates succulents! This is one plant that will do well whether indoors or outdoors, and it needs only a little water to keep it going.

Want to take a chance at growing this stunning cactus? Just keep coming back and read over this article as many times as you need to. Also, check out other featured articles we have, like How to Tell if Your Cactus is Dying, and How to Propagate your Succulent Successfully for some extra tips!

Did this article help answer your succulent-care questions? We sure hope so! If not, no worries. Succulent City is devoted to aiding all succulent lovers, and that’s why we created a line of ebook guides! Check out our in-depth tips on The Most Common Issues Amongst Succulent Growers or even Best Lighting Practices for Succulent Growth today!

Thank you so much for checking out this old lady, she’s so wonderful, isn’t she? Anyways, happy planting! 💚

Taking Care of the Old Lady Cactus
>