Mammillarias are members of an exciting family of cacti, originally from the American continent. The Mammillaria family of cacti has about 300 members. Most are easy to grow and are very decorative house plants, prized for their flowers and attractive spine formations.

The surfaces of these cacti have many bumps, known as tubercles, which spiral around the body of the plant in swirling patterns. The bumps are capped by areoles which are spiny or woolly.

Flowers and flowering

These cacti flower in the spring, but they need to be a few years old before they blossom. Flowers are either small and numerous or large and less profuse. They often grow in circles or wreaths a short distance from the growing point of the body of the cactus, since they appear on the previous year’s growth.Mammillaria

  • Flowers may be white, straw-yellow, red or violet and afterwards extremely attractive pink or red fruits will form.
  • These cacti are easy to grow and do well in flat, shallow dishes. The flowers appear in spring, in circles atop the last year’s growth. They have no scent.
  • The plants form clumps at first, then globes and eventually columns. Few grow taller than 15-20cm (6-8in).


Grow in shallow pans and cover surface with a sprinkling of grit.

Through The Year

November—February In winter this plant needs a light, cool position. Water sparingly from the base of the pot only if very dry and do not feed.


Keep out of strong spring sunshine. The plant should be placed in a warm, bright position but not in direct sunlight. Don’t let water get on furry varieties.


Water moderately especially if it is sunny. Water in the mornings and feed 3-4 times during the growing season. Repot cacti in spring.

September—October Decrease amount and frequency of water as autumn approaches. Move the plant to a cool but light place and water if it becomes absolutely dry.


The easiest method of Propagation is to take off some of the offsets from the base of the parent plant. Do this in spring.

1. Cut them off with a sharp knife.

2. Plant them in small shallow pots in a mixture of soil-based potting compost and sharp sand or perlite. Keep the mixture just moist.

3. Transfer to slightly larger pots when well-established.

Pests And Diseases

White or grey blobs near the areoles indicate an attack by mealy bugs. Treatment: Dab the bugs off with a swab dipped in diluted methylated spirits. Check the plant over regularly to make sure that they do not recur.

Daphids sometimes gather on the soft young flower buds.

Treatment: Wash off with a wet swab or use a toothpick to pick them off.


These plants are easy to grow. If any mildew appears on them cut away the affected part.

  • Potting: Use a soil-based potting compost with up to a quarter of sharp sand or perlite added. Plant the cact1 in shallow pans or half-depth pots. Repot after flowering in spring. Take the plant from its container, tease off some of the old mixture and replace with fresh.
  • Water moderately during the active growth period but always allow some drying out between waterings. During the winter rest period water very sparingly—just enough to keep the plant from shrivelling.
  • Feeding: Feed with a high potash (tomato-type) fertilizer once a month during the growing season only.


  • Light: These plants need bright but indirect sunlight throughout the year.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperatures from March—September are ideal but in winter during the rest period it needs to be kept around 10°C (50°F). Otherwise the plant may not flower the following year.

Buying Tips

  • Buy in the spring so that the plants can get used to your home before winter. The cacti are available at most garden centres or from specialist nurseries.
  • Choose small, compact and healthy plants that are free of scars or blemishes.
  • Cacti can live for many years but those under 6 years old will be in their prime.

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