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The Delicate Beauty of the Lady Finger Cactus

The Lady Finger Cactus, Mammillaria elongata, is native to Mexico. Also known as the Gold Lace Ladyfinger and mammillaria cactus, this plant is considered low maintenance. The easy care makes it a great cactus for beginner growers.

Mammillaria elongata

Lady Finger Cactus Appearance

The Lady Finger Cactus features stems resembling fingers, hence its name. Each stem reaches a length of 8 inches (20 cm) and a diameter of 1.2 inches ( 3 cm). The bright-green tubes produce yellow or golden-colored spines. Blooming occurs in early spring with flowers of white, pale yellow, or bright pink growing from the upper portion of the stems. 

Lady Finger Cactus Light Requirements

The Mammillaria cactus requires up to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for mature plants. Young plants are less sun tolerant and thrive with indirect light from a sunny window. Partial shade is also acceptable for young plants but increase its light exposure as the plant matures.

Water Needs

The Lady Finger cactus’ stems store water making it drought tolerant. Allow the soil to dry between watering and water enough to evenly moisten the soil without making it soggy. Taper off waterings in the fall and withhold water during the dormant winter months. The dormancy period allows the Gold Lace cactus to rest, which increases growth and blooming in the spring and summer.

Soil and Fertilizer

Soil and Fertilizer
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Provide a fast-draining soil for your Lady Finger cactus. Use either a soil designed for cacti or create a mix of potting soil amended with sand or perlite. Add a layer of fine gravel to the bottom of the plant’s pot, before adding the soil, to improve drainage. Ensure the pot has drainage holes for excess water to escape. An unglazed clay or terra cotta pot is recommended as they allow wicking of excess soil moisture. Fertilize the Golden Lace cactus with a diluted houseplant fertilizer once in early spring and again two months later. 

Temperature and Humidity

Average household temperatures and humidity are suitable for the Lady Finger Cactus. Do not keep the plant in rooms with high humidity, such as bathrooms or the kitchen. The cactus is not frost tolerant so, if placing the plant outside, bring it in before temperatures dip to below 20 degrees Fahrenheit ( -4 degrees Celsuis). The mammillaria cactus will benefit from cooler temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) during the winter to encourage blooming in the spring.

Lady Finger Cactus Propagation

The Lady Finger cactus is best propagated by cuttings from a mature plant. Use a sharp and sterile knife to cut a stem at its base. Let the cutting dry until the cut end forms a callus. Fill a pot with a well-draining soil and plant the cut end into the soil.  Place the cutting in indirect sunlight with warm temperatures. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, until the cutting forms roots. Once new growth begins, water the new plant as directed for young plants.

Lady Finger Cactus Pests and Diseases

The Mammillaria cactus is susceptible to Mealybug infestations. Remove individual insects by wiping the plant with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat plants with more serious infestations. 

Overwatering your Lady Finger cactus often leads to root rot. To rid the cactus of the bacteria harming the plants, remove the plant and snip away any dark or mushy roots. If caught early, this should be sufficient as long as all remaining roots look white and healthy. Advanced rot can be treated by spraying the roots with a mixture of one part 3 percent hydrogen peroxide mixed with two parts water. 

The Lady Finger cactus, much like the Peanut cactus, features several stems which produce stunning flowers at their tops. The cacti’s care needs are simple, making it a great choice for busy houseplant lovers. 

Lady Finger Cactus FAQ
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Lady Finger Cactus FAQ

Can I Grow a Lady Finger Cactus Outdoors?

Yes, the mammillaria cactus will grow outdoors in USDA zones 9b and 11b. Ensure young plants receive only filtered sunlight. Bring the plant indoors once temperatures dip near freezing.

When Should I Repot My Fairy Castle Cactus?

Repot in the spring when the cactus becomes rootbound. Ensure the soil is dry before starting and choose a new pot one size up from its current container. If the plant does not need repotting you can choose to refresh the soil in its current pot to provide fresh nutrients. 

How Big Will My Lady Finger Cactus Grow?

The Golden Lace cactus will grow up to 3 feet ( 1 meter) wide and 8 inches ( 20 cm) tall. 

Why is My Lady Finger Cactus Soft and Droopy?

High humidity will often cause a cactus to droop or the texture to become soft. Move the plant to a room with less humidity or install a dehumidifier in its current location. 

Is the Lady Finger Cactus Considered Toxic?

No, the mammillaria cactus is not considered toxic to pets or humans.