Mammillaria is a multifaceted and infinitely diverse cactus, the genus of which is a separate principality in the cactus kingdom. In the wild, it grows everywhere on both American continents, with the exception of their northernmost and southern territories. This is the most frequent guest of home cactus collections, and sometimes their only representative, since the cultivation of its different species represents a separate area of plant collecting. The popularization of Mammillaria contributes to its ease of care, this cactus requires minimal attention and forgives many gross mistakes when grown at home. And if you take care of it correctly, the reward will be its luxurious, long and amazingly tender flowering.
General description with photo
Mammillaria is a succulent from the extensive Cactus family, diverse not only in shapes and colors but also in preferred growing conditions. Some species of this cactus are found mainly in hot deserts, others prefer cool mountains, sea coasts or dry calcareous mounds. However, this does not create additional difficulties when growing Mammillaria at home, since its requirements for temperature content are reduced to ensuring the difference between daily temperatures characteristic of a dry sharp-continental climate.
A distinctive feature of the genus is the tubercle structure of the body, its stem is strewn with tubercles-papillae (mammillae), called tubercles. Most varieties of Mammillaria are small in size, there are also very miniature representatives. The shape of the fleshy stem is usually spherical, with age stretching upwards to ellipsoid-cylindrical can be observed. Less common are flat-flattened varieties and meek-cylindrical shapes, but they are more in demand in home floriculture. The stem may be solitary or may have numerous branches. Tubercles are modified leaves, at the ends of which there are areolas with a tuft of soft pubescence and/or spines. They can sit very tightly or loosely, in random order. Ribs, like many representatives of cacti, Mammillaria does not have. The root system lies shallow, the roots are fleshy, shortened, tenacious.
Flower buds, like lateral stem shoots, begin to develop from the sinuses of the tubercles. If in their upper part they are almost always equipped with sharp and hard spines, then below is the rim of a short soft fluff or the same soft long hairs that entangle the entire stem. On those of them on which the bud begins to form, this pubescence begins to grow, after which a flower quickly develops from the sinus. Most often, the inflorescences are not single and are arranged in a circle, bordering the apical part with a flowering ring.
The size of the inflorescences ranges from 1-6 cm, while the larger the size of the flower, the smaller they will be on one specimen. The color range is extensive, in addition to the classic yellow, white and pink-red colors, you can find beige, silver, purple and variegated-colored varieties. In shape, the Mammillaria flower can be tubular, bell-shaped or disc-shaped. The flowering of a cactus at home usually begins in early spring and lasts about six months, but can also occur prematurely, in winter.
The buds open completely only in bright light.
After flowering, subject to pollination by insects or wind in nature or artificial insemination at home, an ovary begins to form in the sinus bud. Within 2-3 months, the fruit ripens, which is a rounded or club-shaped growth. The fruits can remain on the body of the cactus for up to 10 months, decorating them with their bright appearance, and then the capsule bursts, scattering numerous seeds that may have a red, green or dark brown color.
Mammillaria can be found both on the plains and at an altitude of up to 2.5 km above sea level.
Types of Mammillaria
Due to a large number of varieties of this succulent (more than 200), it is not possible to describe them, in addition, botanists are constantly reviewing, supplementing and adjusting the classification of the genus. Here are descriptions and photos of the most famous and home-grown Mammillaria.
The origin of the species in the highlands of Mexico. It is a spherical flattened stem of a single type about 6 cm high. Tubercles are oval-elongated, located rarely, not tightly, so they do not touch each other. The stem is devoid of sharp spines but is entangled in thin and long hairs of white or golden color. The inflorescences are bell-shaped, medium-sized, colored in creamy pink tones with a darker stripe in the center of the petals.
It grows well, forming a group of dense shortened-cylindrical stems. It bears long spikes of two types – the first dark, with hook-like endings, the second white, soft, enveloping the cactus with its fluffy pile. The flowers are bicolored, pale pink, with a darker pink stripe in the center of the petals.
It has a dark green stem that produces numerous side shoots that continue to grow on the uterine bush without separating from it on its own. The tubercles are not in contact, elongated, but not long. The central spike is long, with a hook at the end, the frame is thin-threaded, prickly. It blooms often, the buds are white with a yellowish middle, bloom not amicably, alone, the petals have a pointed shape.
The stem at a young age is spherical, gradually lengthening, in diameter usually does not exceed 5 cm. Tubercles of oval shape, with a central hook-shaped spike and abundant silky-white pubescence. The species is prone to growing into large groups. Flowers, depending on the variety, are white or crimson-pink, with a more saturated middle of the petal and a “plastic” shine.
Bright and lush blooming appearance, giving a dense ring of inflorescences framing the stem, like a wreath. The color of the petals is bright pink with a crimson tint, rarely white, the size of the flowers is small, but they open, replacing each other, for six months. The shape of the rich green stem is short-cylindrical.
A miniature species that forms entire colonies due to the rapid growth of side shoots. The stems are shaped like small balls covered with hair-like needles. In the center of the densely seated tubercles, they are painted in golden yellow, along the edges – in white. Due to the absence of the need for cross-pollination, the plant blooms abundantly and bears fruit even at home.
Another strongly branched species with a dense elongated-oval stem. The pubescence of the areolas is thick, needle-shaped, cream in color. Flowers are white, quite large, bloom in the apical part chaotically, the core is painted in a pale yellow color.
Miniature short pubescent balls without spines, which have a very high decorativeness.
A classic variety with a stem lengthening as it grows, with tightly seated lateral processes. The central spike is red, with a hook on the tip. It blooms very beautifully in a pink-purple color with petals shining in the sun. Inflorescences are formed not along the ring, but throughout the upper part of the stem, which is why in the midst of flowering the cactus itself is practically not visible. This is an unpretentious variety of Mammillaria, easy to care for and suitable for growing at home by beginners in floriculture.
Plumose or Mammillaria pinnatea
One of the most interesting and highly decorative varieties. It has the appearance of felt, feather-like birds, widely deployed spines. Growing, it forms snow-white felt “pillows” with rare white flowers.
Care at home
The Mammillaria flower is absolutely undemanding in care, endures hardship, is able to maintain vitality for a long time in conditions of moisture deficiency or even its complete absence. But, of course, he also has certain conditions for comfortable keeping, and if you take care of Mammillaria correctly, the result will be more interesting and decorative. First of all, it concerns lighting. This cactus really likes to grow in the sun, but on especially hot days it will not be easy to bear the midday rays. A low level of illumination causes the stem to stretch, flowering in this case may be absent.
This is the easiest point of care, since it is necessary to moisten the soil for Mammillaria, which is not in the scorching sun, 2-3 times a month, and in winter it will be enough and once. But it is better to water not on a schedule, but on the fact of drying out the substrate. The earthen lump should dry not only from above, but almost completely. The abundance of watering also depends on the season. If in summer the earthen lump needs to be moistened completely, then in winter it is enough to moisten it from above. Some varieties do not require winter watering at all.
Planting several species of Mammillaria in one wide container looks very interesting, especially if it is possible to achieve their simultaneous flowering.
The main, but not categorical requirement of temperature content is to ensure the difference between night and day temperatures. If the cactus is on the windowsill, it will feel great if on a hot summer afternoon it is slightly covered from the sun. If it is not possible to ensure the desired temperature difference, nothing terrible will happen, but the conditions will not be so comfortable for the flower, and the flowering will not be so lush.
Period of rest
The plant has an unexpressed period of dormancy, which traditionally falls on winter. How to care for Mammillaria at this time? Best of all, leaving her alone. Rare wetting of the soil surface will help the plant not to die, but it is not mandatory for all varieties. But it is necessary to provide cool maintenance to the cactus. At home, in the presence of central heating, it is sometimes difficult to find such a place, in this case, you can leave the cactus on the windowsill, putting it closer to the glass, but provided that there are no blown cracks. However, not all Mammillaria can easily tolerate drops to + 10C. Pubescent species, as a rule, are more heat-loving, for some of them the lower temperature limit is + 15C. As for the summer heat, the cactus tolerates it without any problems.
A period of rest is necessary for Mammillaria to continue its life and guaranteed flowering.
To dry air, the flower is absolutely calm. No additional measures to increase its humidity need to be applied. If, for some reason, spraying is performed (for example, to knock down dust and refresh the plant), then this should be done in the early morning hours and only with very small water drops.
Care for Mammillaria at home involves the moderate use of fertilizers, a monthly application of mineral compositions for cacti and succulents is enough, and only in the warm season. If there are no specialized compositions, a complex with a predominant content of potassium and phosphorus should be selected. The nitrogen component should be absent or insignificant, because it inhibits the development of this culture and makes the stems of cacti soft and watery.
How to transplant Mammillaria correctly after purchase?
This cactus is tolerant of transplants, so after buying a ready-made copy, you can transplant it from a temporary selling container to a permanent pot in 1-2 weeks. It is better to do this by transshipment with the addition of the necessary amount of specialized substrate for succulents. The presence of a large-fraction drainage layer is mandatory!
It is better to moisten the soil from a spray gun in advance than to water an already transplanted cactus.
Planned Mammillaria transplant
The cactus itself grows slowly but can give an extensive increase in children. If they become cramped in a pot, they are planted in different containers or in one, but wider. Babies during transplantation are separated with a knife with subsequent drying of the cut. It is not necessary to bury them when planting, it is enough to slightly screw them into the ground. To ensure stability, young seedlings are lined with pebbles.
You can plant Mammillaria by seeds, but most often there is no such need, since the culture is perfectly propagated by lateral processes. The vegetative pathway is simpler, faster and guarantees the preservation of parental traits. The separated process should lie for 5-7 days in the air so that the wound tightens after its separation from the donor plant.
But, despite all the simplicity of the vegetative method of reproduction, this process cannot last indefinitely due to the gradual degeneration of the family. To restore the ornamentality of the culture, you will have to resort from time to time to seed cultivation, using the purchased breeding material.
Why doesn’t Mammillaria bloom?
The lack of flowering can be due to several reasons.
- Too hot winter maintenance with active care (watering, fertilizing).
- Too large landing capacity.
- There is little light for the plant.