If you love succulents and cacti as much as we do, you’ll agree that you can never have too many cacti in your collection. And even when you think you have one of each, you always come across a really cool and unique one and Mammillaria Gracilis is a perfect example!
This buddy right here is a very cute ornamental cactus to have around, deserving all the little time and effort you would put in while caring for it since it is super low-demanding overall.
Although the scientific name of this plant “Mammillaria gracilis” might sound a bit intimidating, its common names are cute and fun and reflect the easy-going nature of this plant. Being a subspecies of the Mammillaria vetula species, this cactus goes by various common names, those being thimble cactus, powder puff cactus, or powder puff pincushion.
Want to know more about the next potential member of your cacti family – Mammillaria vetula subsp. gracilis a.k.a the thimble cactus? Say no more! Keep reading our guide to find out everything there is to know about this cactus!
About Thimble Cactus
- Mammillaria gracilis belongs to the well-known Cactaceae family. It is a cactus that originates from some regions of Eastern Mexico, such as Hidalgo and Queretaro.
- This spiny friend is a highly prized cactus among gardeners and collectors. Many people love it for its desirable traits in cultivation and its eye-catching appearance. Many growers treat this cactus as an ornamental houseplant.
- Mammillaria gracilis is an excellent addition to different landscape decorations including desert gardens, xeriscape gardens, fairy gardens, rockeries, and, of course, adorable pots.
- In terms of companion plants, you can pair the thimble cactus with absolutely any species of cacti or succulents that have similar environmental and growing requirements. Some great examples of companions for this cute cactus include feather cactus, fairy castle cactus, blue candle cactus, claret cup, silver torch, etc.
- Mammillaria gracilis is extremely tolerant to drought for long periods as it only needs a bit of water during the summer months. It does well in lots of sunlight, warm temperatures, and well-draining soils and potting mixes.
- You can even propagate this cactus by offsets super easily. Be careful, though! Thimble cactus has a reputation for being fragile, as pieces of it can easily break off.
- The plant has no toxic effects on either humans or animals. However, your curious kids or pets might get hurt if they get in contact with the sharp spines. Keep this cactus in a place where no child, cat, or dog can reach it.
Thimble Cactus Features: An Overview
- This plant belongs to the Mammillaria genus of flowering cacti. This is one of the largest genera in the Cactaceae family, consisting of 200 recognized species and varieties.
- Mammillaria gracilis is a small, perennial cactus. It grows in large clusters, each part of it reaching about 4 inches (10 cm) in height and up to 2 inches (5 cm) in width.
- The thimble cactus has roundish raised tubercles that can store impressive amounts of water, expanding upon irrigation. The stems are somewhat slender, branching, cylindrical, and come with bright green bodies.
- It has lots of stiff, white spines that radiate in the shape of a star. This particular feature makes the cactus look lace-covered. It has one or more central spines that are long and dark brown.
- The thimble cactus may bloom from spring through late summer. If this happens, it will produce bell-shaped, creamy-white flowers that can measure up to 0.5 inches (12 mm) in diameter.
Growing Thimble Cactus
From the very first day, you will see that Mammillaria gracilis a.k.a. the thimble cactus is a delight to have around. Like most species of cacti, this small ornamental is also super easy to grow and care for.
You can basically find the perfect spot for this cactus and let it take care of its well-being on its own. However, you will still have to pay a little attention to some of its basic needs. Let’s see what is there to know!
There is no surprise that Mammillaria gracilis thrives in as much sunlight as it can get. For optimal growth, place this cactus in a spot where it can receive between 4 and 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Indoors, the best location for this buddy would be near a south or east-facing window.
When it doesn’t get enough sunlight, the thimble cactus can become leggy. If you live in an area with warm summers, you can move your cactus outdoors during the warm summer months. This sun-loving buddy will really appreciate the natural light, but it is important to provide it with shelter from the rain.
Temperature-wise, Mammillaria gracilis is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10. It grows at its best in temperatures that range from 70 to 80 °F (21-27 °C) almost all year round. The temperature is not as important as long it remains on the warmer side.
During the winter, Mammillaria gracilis goes dormant and does not handle cold weather very well. When the temperatures drop to 60 to 65 °F (15-18 °C), this cactus is usually more likely to surprise you with lovely flowers.
Mammillaria gracilis will encounter problems with pests and fungal diseases only in case of excessive watering. We recommend you stick to the recommended watering routine and check your cactus for any signs of rot, which often appears as black spots around its base.
On the other hand, some pests that may bother your cactus include spider mites, scale insects, and fungus gnats. If you notice any of these intruders, you can control their spread by using a diluted rubbing alcohol solution.
Planting Mammillaria Gracilis
As with most cacti, Mammillaria gracilis will perform nicely if you plant it in well-draining soil. Most gardeners prefer to grow their Mammillaria gracilis cacti in pure grit to prevent root rot, especially if they live in regions with wetter climates.
You can also prepare your own ideal substrate by mixing equal parts of potting soil and perlite. In case you cannot do this, a commercial mixture designed for cacti and succulents will also do the job just fine.
The thimble cactus will appreciate fertilizing a lot during its active growing period, this being from mid-spring through late summer. During these seasons, you can feed your plant with a cactus fertilizer mix once every month. Avoid fertilizing this cactus during the dormant winter period, because it can kill it.
There comes a time when Mammillaria gracilis becomes overcrowded in its container. When this happens, it would be wise to repot yours in a pot that is slightly larger than the current one. Since you will get the cactus out of its growing medium, make sure you also remove all rotted or dead roots if they are around.
Wondering what is the best type of container for the thimble cactus? This forgiving companion will thrive if you plant it in an unglazed terracotta pot that has drainage holes. Drainage holes are very important and you should always ensure your containers have them when it comes to planting succulents and cacti.
The holes allow the excess water to drain without affecting the sensitive roots of the cactus, while the terracotta will allow the soil to breathe and prevent the soil from staying damp for prolonged periods.
Watering Mammillaria Gracilis
Keep in mind that lower temperatures and decreased watering will typically trigger blooming on your Mammillaria gracilis. The cactus already needs just a bit of water every now and then, but who knows? You might want to avoid o over-watering even more now that you know your cactus might surprise you with its delicate blooms if you provide it with drought and cool temperatures.
Not watering your plants might seem like a challenging task but you will get the hang of it once your start growing succulents and cacti. In general, the ideal frequency of watering will depend directly on the environmental conditions, such as lighting, temperatures, and weather overall.
As a rule, though, it is better to under-water this cactus. It has roots that can store generous amounts of water, making it drought-tolerant for prolonged periods.
If you keep your Mammillaria gracilis outdoors where it gets full sunlight, you can water it only once or twice a week. In indoor settings, on the other hand, you can water it even less. During the winter months, your cactus will do just fine if you spoil it with water once a month or less frequently.
- Thimble Cactus, a beautiful, small cactus that can produce short, spiny stems, each one can grow a cluster of thimble-sized offshoots. It blooms creamy yellow flowers every spring or late summer. Each package contains one beautiful healthy 2/4-inches Thimble Cactus that will be meticulously bubble-wrapped and shipped in a sturdy box to guarantee its safe arrival.
- Light | Full Sun
- Soil | A well-drained succulent mix.
- Water | Water moderately in the summer but keep the cactus completely dry in the winter when temperatures are from 40 to 60 degrees.
- This slow and easy to grow cactus is an excellent choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens. It also looks absolutely stunning in a container, making it an amazing indoor plant.
- We guarantee plant's safe arrival otherwise we will refund or send you a replacement plant
- In late winter it features creamy yellow flowers. Requires gritty succulent or cactus potting soil. Prefers bright light and good airflow. Water when soil is completely dry to the touch. When one of the little bodies breaks off, it can be propagated into a new plant.
- Use in a fairy garden or in a alpine trough garden. Have fun creating your own container garden, refresh a garden, bouquets, wedding favors, party favors, centerpieces and much more. The selection may vary due to seasonal availability.
- You will receive similar like plants from photographs but there might be slight changes due to the season we are in. Succulent plants are among the hardiest, most drought-tolerant in the world and very easy to maintain, as long as they are planted in a porous cactus/succulent soil, given proper drainage, daily bright light, and not over watered.
Propagating Mammillaria Gracilis
Since Mammillaria gracilis tends to spread a lot in clumps, it might become a little overcrowded in its container. And this is where propagation comes in handy! You can always propagate your cactus through offsets to make more room for it to grow properly.
This is a great way to obtain more cute, independent Mammillaria gracilis specimens for your collection. And a great moment to surprise your cacti-loving friends or family members with a special gift!
The best time to propagate Mammillaria gracilis would be in either spring or summer, as these are the seasons in which the cactus is more vigorous. We suggest you handle this cactus with much care, as it is a good approach for both you and the plant.
Firstly, you will protect yourself from spines that can hurt your skin. Secondly, the cactus is a bit fragile when moved from its growing medium, so be gentle with it and everything will go perfectly.
Before you start the propagation process, make sure you find a good pair of garden gloves for protection. Once you have your gloves on, remove the Thimble cactus offsets carefully from the mother plant.
When you have as many offsets as you want, you must let them dry for a couple of days on a paper towel until callus forms over the cut end.
Once the cut section of the offsets seems healed, you can plant each offset in a new pot filled with a slightly moist cactus potting mixture. Finally, place the pots in a warm location and wait for the magic to happen. With time, if the soil seems too dry to the touch, you can provide the offsets with a bit of water to give them a fresh start.
Now that you know all the key details about growing and caring for Mammillaria gracilis a.k.a. the thimble cactus, you are more than ready to add it to your home or garden. A perfect addition to tiny desk space, a college dorm room, a window sill or a shelf, the thimble cactus is a friendly companion that will thrive on neglect.
Once you start growing this cactus, you will see that this it is a gracious, easy-going companion to have around, even if you do not have that much experience in the gardening world.
Do you already have a Mammillaria gracilis in your cacti collection? Do not hesitate to share your experience and thoughts in the comments!