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Growing Mammillaria PDF Print E-mail

Mammillaria Cacti

Mammillaria cacti are native to the Mexico where they grow on desert areas, dry scree slopes and hill sides where the nights are cool and the daytime temperatures are quite high.

Mammillaria zeilmanniana

They tend to be fairly short growing plants with spherical globular stems which may become cylindrical with age. They are upright growing plants but rarely get more than 6 inches high.

This is Mammillaria zeilmanniana

All of the Mammillaria cactus have small to medium sized flowers which are vibrantly coloured and produced profusely and readily in a ring around the top of the plant, they also readily produce seed bearing berries.Growing Requirements


In cultivation the daytime temperature should be kept between 20C - 30C and can be allowed to fall to 12C - 15C at night during the summer and 12C - 18C during the winter day and not less then 5C during the winter night.

The best way to keep during the summer is to grow them outside from May through September and place them in a sunny spot where they get strong sunlight avoiding only the strongest midday sun. From September through May they should be moved to a a cool east or west facing windowsill or a south facing one provided they are protected from the harshest light.

This is Mammillaria fragilis - Snowcap

Mammillaria fragilis - Snowcap

Pot Type

Mammillaria cactus are best grown in a terracotta type pot which should have at least one drainage hole in the base and it should be unglazed. This type of pot allows good drainage and allows the compost (therefor roots) to breath.


Mammillaria prefer an open and very free draining compost which should consist of:

  • 1 part John Innes no. 1 compost
  • 1 part peat or coir based compost
  • 1 part sharp sand or grit
  • 1/2 part broken crock pieces (small)


The plants should be kept almost completely dry during the winter months, only water them to prevent the roots from completely drying out, once a month should be fine.

Mammillaria dixanthocentron From March onwards the plant will begin to grow and watering should be increased gradually until late May when the plant should be in full growth. As the compost is very free draining and the pot used is porous you can safely water this type of cactus at least once a week during the summer so long as the plant pot is allowed to drain and not sit in a tray of water. During hot weather you may need to water the plants once a day so long as the plant is actively growing. From late September watering should be reduced to force the plant to go in to a state of semi dormancy, by November you should be back in to the winter watering regime.


Grow Mammillaria cacti in bright sun during the summer avoiding only strong midday sun to prevent scorching the plant. During the winter you can allow more direct light on to the plant as is is much weaker than the summer sun, keep in a west or east facing window or a south facing one if you have net curtains to protect from the harshest light.


If the compost is fresh then feeding may not be necessary at all, if the plant hasn't been repotted recently then half strength general purpose fertilizer can be used at watering time from May onwards once a month. Do not feed the plants from September onwards as this can cause lush growth which can be fatal during the darker cold months.


Repotting should be done every other year or every three years, annual potting is not necessary. Remove the plant from its put by wrapping newspaper around the stem if it is very spiny. Carefully tap it out of the pot and remove the old compost to examine the roots, if any are damaged or showing signs of rotting they should be removed as close to the plant as possible.Re plant the cactus using the same mix of compost as it was originally in (fresh) and use a pot just slightly wider then the width of the cactus. Do not be tempted to over pot as this will cause the unused compost to go stagnant and you may loose the plant.


See propagation section for seed sowing and cuttings.

 Site by Les Pickin
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