How to Grow and Care for Mammillaria elongata (Ladyfinger Cactus)

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Mammillaria elongata, also known as Ladyfinger Cactus, or Golden Star Cactus is a member of the Cactaceae family, native to the states of Hidalgo, Guanajuato, and Querétaro in Mexico.

It is characterized by multiple thin, cylindrical stems that measure between 6 and 15cm in length and 1.5 and 3.5cm in diameter.

Mammillaria elongata, commonly known as Ladyfinger Cactus or Golden Star Cactus, belongs to the Cactaceae family and is native to the Mexican states of Hidalgo, Guanajuato, and Querétaro.

This cactus features multiple slender, cylindrical stems an intense green color with conical tubercles. The soft stems are protected by bright yellow radial spines (14 – 25 in number) surrounding the areolas, as well as 2 central spines. These spines are slender, needle-like, measuring 4 – 9 mm (to 0.4 in) long.

The radial spines can vary in number and can range in color from white to golden yellow to brown, with the degree of brown coloring varying from plant to plant.

Mammillaria elongata boasts more variations than any other Mammillaria species with various color and spine variations. There are numerous hybrids like:

  • M. elongata var. rubra
  • M. elongata var. minima
  • M. elongata var. anguinea
  • M. elongata var. densa
  • M. elongata var. echinata
  • M. elongata var. intertexta
  • M. elongata var. rufrocrocea
  • M. elongata var. stella-aura
  • M. elongata var. straminea
  • M. elongata var. subcrocea
  • M. elongata var. tenuis
  • M. elongata var. viperina

Note: It is essential to ensure the plant’s authenticity as elongata occurs in more variations than any other Mammillaria species.

This small cactus can develop significant clumps with hundreds of offsets when given time and proper care. Its growth pattern can be either upright or creeping, depending on its proximity to the ground.

Being the most commonly found Mammillaria, elongata is a fast-growing and easily cultivated plant suitable for pots given its compact size. However, it can also thrive in rockeries and cactus and succulent gardens.

This cactus thrives outdoors and does not adapt well to indoor conditions. When placed indoors, it tends to etiolate, growing excessively towards available light sources.

Flowers and Bloom Habit

Mammillaria elongata blooms profusely from mid-winter to late spring. Its flowers are small, 10 mm (0.4 in) long and less than 1 inch in diameter, and pale yellow to white in color, sometimes flushed pink or with pink midstripes.

They even tend to appear on young plants that are barely two years old. After blooming, it produces pink fruit which becomes red as it matures.

Basic Information

Scientific NameMammillaria elongata
Common NamesLadyfinger Cactus, Golden Stars, Golden Star
FamilyCactaceae
SubfamilyCactoideae
GenusMammillaria
Country of OriginMexico
Geographic DistributionHidalgo, Guanajuato, and Queretaro, Mexico. Altitude 1,350 to 2,400 m.
BodyPlants forming clusters of many-stemmed plants. Stems elongated cylindrical, finger-like, 1 – 3 cm (0.4 – 1.2 in) in diameter.
TuberculeTubercules slender conical.
AxilNaked or nearly so.
Radial Spine14 – 25, variable in number, white to golden yellow to brown, slender, needle-like, 4 – 9 mm (to 0.4 in) long. The degree of brown coloring varies from plant to plant.
Central SpineUsually absent, sometimes 2, yellow to brownish, with dark tips, 10 – 15 mm (0.4 – 0.6 in) long.
FlowerPale yellow to pinkish, sometimes flushed pink or with pink midstripes, up to 10 mm (0.4 in) long and in diameter.
FruitPink (becomes red when mature)
SeedBrown.
Frost ToleranceTender in Phoenix, keep above 30°F (-1°C).
Minimum Avg. Temperature50°F (10°C).
Sun ExposureLight shade.
Growth HabitsClumping.
Watering NeedsModerate water. Keep dry in winter.
PropagationOffsets, cuttings, seeds.

Ladyfinger Cactus care

Ladyfinger Cactus, scientifically known as Mammillaria elongata, is a beginner-friendly succulent that can be grown as a houseplant. It is native to Mexico and belongs to the Cactaceae family. Here are the care requirements for Ladyfinger Cactus based on the search results:

Light

Ladyfinger Cactus enjoys full sun and requires about six hours of bright sunlight each day to maintain its compact shape and flower. Light requirements include some protection from direct sunlight, but high levels of light will encourage tight growth and flowering.

For it to grow well, it must be placed outside, in full sunlight (it does not grow well in semi-shade). When planted indoors, it does not adapt, it tends to stretch towards the light source. If you bet on a specimen that was protected from the sun, do not expose it directly to sunlight, as you will burn it.

Water

Mammillaria elongata is very resistant to drought should be be watered very moderately, waiting for the soil to dry completely. In the summer, you can water these plants once every week.

It is recommended to use the soak and dry method, which means allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings. If the soil feels dry to the touch, there is no need to add water.

In the rainy season it is better to protect them to avoid excess humidity, although some species tolerate tropical rains well. If it rains, wait until the substrate is dry before watering.

During its winter dormancy period, watering once a month works great. Caution should be taken with water stagnation, it requires a pot with holes with good drainage to avoid rotting since they are very sensitive to excess watering. They are very resistant to drought. They are very sensitive to excess watering , which can cause serious fungal diseases .

Temperature and Humidity

Mammillaria elongata likes warm, dry climates but can withstand some sporadic frost if their soil is dry. The ideal temperature range is between 65 to 85°F. Exposing the cactus to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) as it can cause damage and stress to the plant.

During heatwaves, it is important to provide shade during peak sunlight hours to prevent heat stress and sunburn. If you live in areas with a minimum temperature of 20°F, consider planting this species indoors.

Ladyfinger Cacti are desert dwellers adapted to dry conditions and and prefer low humidity environments. Avoid overwatering the cactus, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues.

Soil and Fertilizer

Mammillaria elongata needs a loose, well-draining substrate, usually a rich cacti and succulents potting mix. These cacti are prone to root rot and prefer moisture-free soil, so you should use a pot with drainage holes.

You can fertilize your Ladyfinger Cactus during its active growing season in the spring.

Repotting

You can repot your Ladyfinger Cactus during the warm season. Take out the plant when the soil is completely dried out. Remove rotted roots and excess soil around them.

Place the succulent in a new planter with a fast-draining soil mix, spreading the roots out. Let your plant dry out and recover for a couple of days before gradually watering it and placing it in a sunny spot.

Propagation

Ladyfinger Cactus can be propagated through stem cuttings, offsets, and seeds. Stem cuttings should be allowed to callous over for a couple of days before planting them in well-drained soil.

Offsets can be separated from the mother plant and replanted in another container. Seeds can be sown in a well-draining cactus potting mix

FAQs

How often do you water a ladyfinger cactus?

Watering frequency for a ladyfinger cactus, or Mammillaria elongata, depends on factors like climate, season, and pot size. However, a general guideline is to water approximately every 2 to 3 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer).

In autumn and winter, reduce watering to prevent issues like root rot. Always allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions to avoid overwatering.

How big can ladyfinger cactus get?

Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata) typically grows to a height between 6 and 15 cm (2.4 to 5.9 inches) and has a diameter ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 cm (0.6 to 1.4 inches).

However, given the right conditions and care, it can form large clumps with numerous offsets, creating a substantial cluster of cacti. The growth can vary based on factors such as age, environment, and care practices.

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2 responses to “How to Grow and Care for Mammillaria elongata (Ladyfinger Cactus)”

  1. J Avatar
    J

    My friend gave me a tiny ladyfinger cactus for my 8th birthday. That was in 1971! It’s very large and healthy. I just repotted it for the first time in many, many years. It didn’t have much of a root ball at all, and the “fingers” seemed not to hold together very securely. I hope it survives.

    1. Botany Heaven Avatar

      Hey J.

      It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve had it for such a long time! Mammillaria elongata (Ladyfinger Cactus) are known for their resilience and ability to thrive in various conditions. However, repotting can be a bit stressful for them, especially after many years in the same pot.

      To increase chances of survival, give your cactus in bright, indirect sunlight. Give it some time to adjust to its new surroundings, which will allow the roots to settle in properly. Additionally,water sparingly, waiting until the soil is completely dry before watering to avoid the risk of root rot.

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