The Mammillaria Elongata Cactus, known commonly as Ladyfinger Cactus, Gold Lace Cactus, or Golden Stars, is a low-maintenance, small cactus that is easy to grow. It is popular as a houseplant or, in the right climate, an outdoor succulent.
Mammillarias are one of the easiest cacti to grow and are perfect for busy plant owners with little time for plant care.
Mammillaria elongata is native to arid and semi-arid regions of central Mexico. It thrives in dry, desert-like conditions and can tolerate intense sunlight and high temperatures.
In this article, we’ll discuss the appearance, size, ideal growing conditions and care suggestions for healthy Mammillaria elongata cacti. Plus, we’ll give you details on how to easily propagate the Ladyfinger Cactus if you’d like more of these beautiful succulents!
Mammillaria Elongata Appearance
Mammillaria elongata, commonly known as the Ladyfinger cactus, Gold Lace Cactus or Golden Stars, has elongated green cylindrical stems covered in golden spines. The spines are arranged in close formations of beautiful star shapes all along the stem. The stems grow in clusters forming ground cover.
It can produce flowers near the stem tips in spring or summer. The flowers are typically white or pale yellow and tubular in shape. After flowering, the blooms form small red or orange (inedible) fruits.
How Big Do Mammillaria Elongata Get?
Mammillaria elongata is a small to medium-sized cactus that typically grows to a height of 6 inches (15cm) but can grow slightly taller. Given the space to spread, it forms clumps of stems up to 1 foot (30cm) wide.
Mammillaria Elongata Varieties
There are a small number of sub-species of Mammillaria Elongata with similar care requirements. The two most common are:
Mammillaria Elongata Copper King
This variety looks very similar to Gold Lace but has darker, copper-colored spines.
Mammillaria Elongata Cristata
Known as the Brain Cactus, this variety of mammillaria elongata has stems that grow in a twisted form resembling the appearance of a brain.
Is It A Cactus Or A Succulent?
You’ll see us referring to this plant as both a cactus and a succulent. The cactus families are sub-species of the succulent species of plants, and so this plant is both a cactus and a succulent.
How Do You Care For a Mammillaria Elongata Cactus?
Fortunately, the Ladyfinger Cactus is easy to care for as an indoor houseplant. It also grows well outdoors, providing you live in a suitable climate with warm, sunny days. Mammillaria elongata is not cold hardy.
Ladyfinger cactus prefers bright, direct sunlight. It requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive.
As with most cacti, Mammillaria elongata is drought-tolerant and does not need frequent watering. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings and reduce watering during the winter when mammillaria elongata is in its dormancy phase. Allowing the plant to rest during winter increases the chances of it flowering in the following seasons.
It prefers a dry climate with low humidity levels and can struggle in humid environments. High humidity can cause the stems to soften and droop. If kept inside, avoid rooms that may get humid, such as bathrooms, a laundry or a kitchen.
See our guide to watering indoor succulents for more information.
Ladyfinger cactus grows best in warm to hot temperatures. Its ideal temperature range is a balmy 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 32 degrees Celsius). It is not cold-hardy and doesn’t like temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). If you keep your Gold Lace cactus outside in a container, it is best to bring it inside if the temperature is likely to go lower than that.
Like most succulents, the Ladyfinger Cactus needs well-draining cactus soil that is allowed to dry out completely before watering again. Use a cactus-specific or sandy soil mix to ensure adequate drainage and prevent root rot.
Cacti are used to thriving in nutrient-poor soil, and your Ladyfinger Cactus is no different. If you choose to give your plant a boost with some fertilizer, ensure you use a cactus-specific fertilizer. It will have the correct balance of nutrients for this type of succulent. Follow the instructions on the packaging for dilution levels and dilute further if you wish.
Only fertilize during its growing phase in spring and summer. Use fertilizer very sparingly and avoid getting fertilizer on the plant itself.
These plants are slow-growing and should not need pruning unless you wish to remove a stem for propagation (more on that below).
If you need to prune your plant, use sterilized scissors or clippers, and be careful not to damage the roots or bruise the plant tissue. And wear gloves – there are many sharp spines!
Is Mammillaria Elongata Toxic?
The Ladyfinger cactus is not toxic to cats or dogs but it does have sharp spines that are not pet-friendly. We recommend keeping your Ladyfinger cactus out of the reach of your pets.
Pests and Diseases
Mealybugs: The Mammillaria cactus is susceptible to Mealybug infestations which appear as soft fluff on the stems. Because of the spines, it is difficult to remove insects by wiping your plant with rubbing alcohol, but you could try using a cotton swab. Alternatively, use insecticidal soap or spray neem oil to treat the infestation.
Root Rot: Mammillaria elongate can suffer from root rot if left to sit in damp or wet soil. Only water once the soil is completely dry, and ensure your cactus is planted in a well-draining soil. If planted in a pot, one with drainage holes is best.
Mammaillaria elongata is a slow-growing plant and should not need repotting regularly. As with most cacti, it has shallow roots and should be planted in a shallow pot, ideally with drainage holes. You should only need to repot your Ladyfinger Cactus if it has become root-bound and you want the plant to spread with new stems. In this case, repot it in a shallow pot that is an inch or two wider than the old pot.
Alternatively, you may choose to provide fresh soil and simply place the plant back in the same pot.
In both cases, remove all the old soil and check the roots for signs of rot or damage. Gently cut away any damaged roots or blackened, mushy, diseased roots with sharp, sterile scissors.
Mammillaria elongata is best propagated through offsets or stem cuttings. Offsets, also known as pups, are small cacti that form around the base of the parent plant and can be carefully separated and replanted. Essentially, they look like new stems that are starting to grow adjacent to the original, parent stem.
Take care when taking cuttings not to damage the plant or injure yourself with the spines. Wrap newspaper or similar around the plant to protect it, and wear gardening gloves to protect yourself.
To propagate your mammillaria elongata from offsets or cuttings:
- Select a healthy-looking stem or offset and using a sharp, sterile knife, cut the stem at its base.
- Carefully lift the cut stem from the plant. Protect yourself from spines and try not to damage the delicate plant. Using tongs is a good idea.
- Allow the cut end of the stem to dry for a few days until it has calloused over.
- Prepare a small, shallow pot (with drainage holes) with cactus potting mix and create a hole in the center.
- Once your cutting has calloused, plant the calloused end in the soil and backfill around the stem, pressing gently so the soil is firm enough to support the new stem.
- 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, provide water and sunlight as you would for an older plant
The growth of Mammillaria elongata from a cutting can take four to six months so you will need to be patient!
The Mammillaria elongata is low-maintenance cactus that grows well indoors with at least 6 hours of bright light daily. It will also thrive outdoors, given a dry, warm climate and a sunny spot. Its beautiful star-shaped arrangement of golden spines make it a popular cactus that is easy to grow and care for.