Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria Elongata) Profile

Written by Iris

Dec 07 2021

Ladyfinger Cactus (Mammillaria Elongata) Profile
The Lady Finger Cactus, or Mammillaria elongata goes by several different names. It's also sometimes known as Golden Stars, Gold Lace Cactus, or simply Lady Fingers. It is a petite cactus native to central Mexico. This unique cactus gets its names from its elongated stems and golden yellow or brown spines. The Lady Finger Cactus is a favorite among cactus gardeners because of its showy white, yellow, or pink blooms. It's even earned the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in the United Kingdom.

Lady Finger Cactus Picture

 Mammillaria elongata

Lady Finger Cactus Info

ORIGIN Mexico, Southwest United States, Caribbean, Guatemala, Venezuela
SCIENTIFIC NAME Mammillaria sp.
FAMILY Cactaceae
TYPE Cactus
COMMON NAMES Powder Puff Cactus, Pincushion Cactus, Nipple Cactus, Globe Cactus, Lady Finger Cactus
HEIGHT Up to 5 inches
TOXICITY Non-toxic
LIGHT Bright indirect light

Lady Finger Cactus Ecological Habits

As the name suggests, Lady Finger Cactus is an elongated cactus with a cylindrical stem. The lady finger cactus stems can reach up to 6 inches in length and average just over an inch in diameter. The stems are covered in white or gold recurved spines. The Lady finger cactus is a clumping cactus that grows in tight clusters. In spring, the Lady Finger Cactus produces petite white, yellow, or pink flowers. The flowers are sometimes solid in color, but they may also flush pink or have pink stripes. The blooms emerge from the axils of the cactus' tubercles.

Lady Finger Cactus Distribution 

Mammillaria is one of the largest genus of Cacti in the Cactaceae family. Its native range is Mexico, but also some species are found in parts of Central & SW. U.S.A. and also parts of Colombia, Caribbean and in Venezuela. Depending on the species, Lady Finger Cactus can grow either solitary or in clumps, and form a small globular or elongated shape.
Mammillaria elongata

How to Grow and Care for Lady Finger Cactus

How to Grow Lady Finger Cactus

  • Propagate Lady Finger Cactus With Seeds
Growing Lady Finger Cactus from seeds is possible, but it's an extremely slow process, which is why it's not done as frequently as the other two propagation methods.
However, if you're looking for a project, you can either collect seeds from your existing Lady Finger Cactus or purchase them on the internet.
Some gardeners recommend soaking the seeds prior to planting, but it's a personal choice. Once you're ready to sow the seeds, be sure to do so in moist, well-draining cactus soil. Keep the soil moist until you begin to see tiny cactus sprouts.
After the seedlings have appeared, you can allow the soil to dry out a bit more to prevent rot. It's not recommended to repot the seedlings until they're big enough to handle safely without accidentally damaging the cacti or their root systems.
  • Propagate Lady Finger Cactus With Stem Cuttings
Lady Finger Cactus can be propagated from cuttings. Use care when taking a cutting. Follow the directions in this post to learn how to handle a cactus safely.
To remove a clump for propagation, you will need nitrile dipped gloves, silicone tongs, and a sharp knife.
Using the tongs, gently pull one of the cylindrical stems away from the main cluster. If you are not able to break it off without pulling up the rest of the Lady Finger Cactus plant, use the knife to cut through the stem.
Allow the end of the stem to callous over for several days before placing in well-draining soil.
  • Propagate Lady Finger Cactus With Offsets
The most common method of Lady Finger Cactus propagation is by separating offsets. As a clumping species of cactus, a single stem will quickly be surrounded by smaller offsets. These can then be separated and grown in different containers.
Most offsets can be separated by gently tugging them away from the mother plant. Just be sure to protect your hands from the spines. You can also cut them away using a sharp, clean knife, but be sure to cut the offset away as close to the mother plant as possible.
Once separated, it's recommended to allow the offsets to dry out for a few days to allow any wounds to callous. This will help prevent infection and give your offsets the best chance of survival.
After they've calloused, your new Lady Fingers can be planted in their new container. They can then be treated just as you did the mother plant.
Mammillaria elongata

How to Care for Lady Finger Cactus

  • Light
Like most lactobacillus, Lady Finger Cactus grows best in bright light if kept indoors. A south facing window is ideal, but an east or west facing window should also suffice. This is not a plant that does well in low light.
  • Soil
Lady Finger Cacti is like most cactus species in that they require soil that allows a lot of drainage. Keep in mind that too much water can eventually lead to root rot, so you need to make sure you Lady finger cactus plant the cactus in the soil to get the unwanted water out.
  • Water
When watering the Lady Finger Cactus be careful it is a plant that is sensitive to over-watering. It is a plant that needs to be thoroughly drenched in water and dried before watering again. The Lady Finger Cactus plant should be water mostly between Spring to Fall, let the plant dry thoroughly before watering again.
  • Temperature and Humidity
Mammillaria elongata is not a frost-tolerant plant, so if you're keeping it outdoors and expect temperatures to dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it's best to bring your cactus inside. If planted in the ground outdoors, be sure to cover your cacti to prevent freezing.
Though cooler temperatures can be tolerated during periods of dormancy, Lady Finger Cacti will not survive freezing temperatures. If you grow your Lady Fingers indoors, temperatures are likely to be more consistent, but try to protect your cacti from sudden temperature changes or drafts if possible.
  • Fertilizer
Lady Finger Cactus thank a subscriber with a cactus fertilizer in spring and another in summer. Just follow the fertilizer instructions you buy.
  • Pruning
The Lady Finger Cactus does not need to be pruned. Read more: How to grow and care for Mammillaria elongata
Mammillaria elongata

Varieties of Lady Finger Cactus

Though rare, there are a few cultivars of the Mammillaria elongata (Ladyfinger Cactus) that can be found by the determined cactus lover. Though they are not as common as the original variety, they are highly sought after by collectors.
Mammillaria elongata ‘Monstrous Lady Fingers’
The monstrous form of Lady Fingers somewhat resembles the original in shape, but the stems are shorter and nearly spineless. This variety tends to grow more slowly than the original and can be more difficult to bloom. However, when it does bloom, it produces beautiful flesh-colored flowers that are flushed with pink.
Mammillaria elongata ‘Copper King’
The Copper King cultivar is nearly identical to the original variety except for the color of the spines. As the name suggests, they are a deep copper color, rather than the traditional white or gold. 
When Copper King blooms in the spring, it produces petite yellow or pink flowers that may or may not be flushed with pink.
Mammillaria elongata

Lady Finger Cactus Common Pests/Diseases

Mammillaria elongata is not frequently attacked by pests being only its main enemy the excess moisture in the substrate.

Lady Finger Cactus Companion Plants

Woody shrubs, such as Big Sage (Artemisia tridentata) and Fallugia paradoxa (Apache Plume) blend nicely, particularly with the larger growing cacti.
The cold hardy Mediterraneans offer many wonderful companion plants. Among my favorites are the English Lavender (Lavandula) cultivars as they are culturally very compatible with the cacti. As a group, the other hardy ornamental herbs are also excellent. Included here are: Rosmarinus officinalis Alcalde (Alcalde Cold Hardy Rosemary), and Salvia officinalis Minimus (Little-leaf Culinary Sage).
Other favorites include the miniature groundcover Speedwells Veronica bombycina (Woolly Turkish Veronica) and V. oltensis. Other mounding rock garden perennials, such as Achillea ageratifolia (Greek Yarrow), the succulent Sempervivum Commander Hay (Hen and Chicks). Persian Rockcress (Aethionema species), and Atlas Daisy (Anacyclus depressus) fit in nicely as well.
When using either design approach, be sure to choose plants that are not too large. Avoid pairing a large, fast-growing plant with a smaller, slower growing cactus. After a year or two, the more vigorous plant may smother the cactus and kill it.