This funny-looking plant is a brilliant cactus for beginners to grow. Mammillaria elongata is native to Mexico, where it thrives in the wild at an altitude of approximately 1300 to 2300 meters above sea level. If given the opportunity, it will grow to about 20 centimeters tall and can spread 30 centimeters wide.
We rather like its street name, so we will refer to it as ladyfinger cactus for the purpose of this article. You will learn about its appearance and how to identify it, whether or not it has any known benefits to wildlife in your area, and if this cactus is toxic to houseplants.
Growing ladyfinger succulents is very easy. They don’t need very much tender loving care as they are used to growing in very harsh conditions. These plants have evolved to become very heat tolerant plants and, therefore, need little water to survive – but we will get to that shortly.
Follow the instructions and advice in this care guide to ensure your ladyfinger cactus survives and grows to its full potential:
Plant this succulent in well-drained sandy soil. One of the biggest mistakes people make when growing succulents and cacti is that they pot their plant in store-bought potting soil that is inappropriate for cacti.
To avoid making this mistake, purchase cacti potting soil that does not contain fertilizers and pot your ladyfinger cactus using in that soil. If you bought your cactus from a garden center, we recommend re-potting it in an appropriate soil of your choice as often the soil that is already in the cactus pot isn’t ideal for it.
You should also put your plant in a pot with extremely good drainage. This is to ensure that excess water drains out of the pot and does not suffocate your plant. Ladyfinger cacti are prone to root rot as a result of being planted in a pot without sufficient drainage.
Top Tip: if the pot you bought does not have enough drainage holes, you can drill some yourself!
Ideal Weather Conditions
Ladyfinger cacti are not cold hardy. If their water reserves freeze over, they can burst or split open, leaving permanent scars on your plant. These cacti need at least four to six hours of sunlight to thrive and to grow in an area that isn’t overly windy, and the temperature doesn’t drop below -6 degrees Celsius.
Winter dormant plants such as ladyfinger cacti do not grow over the cold winter months. You might be thinking, why is this important? Well, this all comes down to how much you need to water the plant. It will need little to no water during its dormant months as you will find out in the section below.
You should follow the typical watering methods for all succulent and cacti plants. The ‘soak and dry’ method works the best as this ensures you never overwater them.
Do not follow a daily watering routine as you would for other garden and house plants, as ladyfingers certainly won’t need watering on a daily basis. Instead, touch and check the soil every morning; if the soil is damp, you must not water the plant, if the soil is completely dry, you can water it.
You could find yourself watering your plant weekly in the summer and then not watering it for a month or so over the winter. This is completely normal! Ladyfinger cacti are dormant over the winter months and need less water, attention, and care during their dormant phase.