Old Lady Cactus care is not complicated. The Old Lady Cactus succulent is native to Mexico. The plant is scientifically known as Mammillaria Hahniana. The Old Lady Cactus belongs to the Cactaceae family. It is a great houseplant and outdoor plant that can be used in different pots and containers. This post looks at watering, fertilizing, propagating, lighting requirements, and more.
Old Lady Cactus Facts
The Mammillaria Hahniana succulent gets its name the “Old Lady Cactus “from its looks. It has gorgeous spherical stems that like to appear in groups. The stems are covered all over with sharp white spines similar to those of the Old Man Cactus. The spines average between four inches long and five inches wide. In older plants, the spines can get as long as ten inches.
The Old Lady Cactus produces blooms in the spring and summer. During the other months, the spheres seem to remain the same and grow closer together. However, during the flowering months, the plant produces reddish-purple blooms.
The flowers form a stunning ring or crown at the top of the sphere which looks like a cute headband. This is one of the succulents that produces beautiful flowers and is also easy to take care of.
Old Lady Cactus Types
Mammillaria species are differentiated using the differences in the seeds, color of the spines, and flowers. There are over 250 species but the common ones are significantly less than these.
So, if you get a succulent that looks like the Old Lady Cactus it might be one of these common species such as Snowball Cactus, Gold Lace Cactus, Bird’s Nest Cactus, Owl’s Eyes, Feather Cactus, and rainbow Pincushion Cactus.
Old Lady Cactus Watering
The watering requirements of the Old Lady Cactus are relatively easy especially for people who are used to dealing with succulents. The requirements are minimal compared to other high maintenance house plants.
Just like all other succulents that like to be watered when they are completely dry, the Old Lady Cactus does love to get completely dry. The plant likes it when the top layers of the soil are dry. The best way to determine if it’s the right time to water the cactus is to touch the soil at the base of the plant. If you feel any form of moisture, leave it for a couple of days.
When the soil feels dry to touch now you can water. The watering should also be thorough and not a misting kind of watering. Water the plant until the water runs out at the bottom drainage holes and then stop.
Please note that your Old Lady Cactus should never be left to sit in water. The plant hates waterlogged soil and will begin to rot and eventually die. If you’re ever in doubt as to whether you should water the plant, it’s best not to water.
The Old Lady Cactus undergoes a dormant period during winter. Avoid watering during these months because the plant is not growing as much. Watering should be frequent during the growing months between spring and summer.
Old Lady Cactus Soil
The Old Lady Cactus can do well in fast-draining soil, that’s porous and is rich in nutrients. Watering through as mentioned above is also important because it will tell you a lot about the soil. If your soil is not porous that means that the water is getting retained in the soil when watering and your plant is probably going to be sitting in water trapped in the soil.
If you find that your Old Lady Cactus is sitting in the water you should think about changing your soil out. You could also add some sand or gravel to avoid too much water being retained near the roots.
If you’re a beginner we suggest you use ready-made cactus soil mix. But, if you’re adventurers you can try out making your soil mix.
DIY Cactus Soil Mix:
DIY soil for a succulent soil mix that’s made from mixing half-and-half cactus and succulent mix. I then put half of perlite and ¼ of gravel. Gravel helps to add a little bit extra air pockets which aerate the roots as well as promote drainage.
As with many other plants add a layer of rocks or gravel at the base of the pot. The layer will protect the plant from sitting in water.
Fertilizing Old Lady Cactus
Fertilizing the Old Lady Cactus should only be done during the growing season. When done properly, fertilizing helps the succulent bloom. The Old Lady Cactus doesn’t love to be fertilized a lot. Over-fertilizing will cause the cactus not to bloom. If you’re in doubt about applying some fertilizer, it’s best to just avoid making a mistake and leave the plant alone.
Liquid fertilizer is the best form of fertilizer for the Old Lady Cactus. Although you can use many types of fertilizers, try to ensure that it has high levels of potassium. Potassium helps the plant do well.
Stop all forms of fertilizer application in the slow-growing season. The cactus is dormant and doesn’t need a lot of food.
Watch your plants for signals, if they are still growing and producing new growth, you need to feed them. Although the Old Lady Cactus and other cacti are hardy plants, they still do require a fertilizer boost from time to time to help them do well.
Old Lady Cactus Temperature
The Old Lady Cactus can tolerate low temperatures and frost. However, if the conditions drop to below 230F or -50C you should consider bringing the plants indoor. You can also protect the plant with frost cloth during winter to ensure that they remain dry.
Although the cactus is hardy, it can be negatively affected by intense heat. Heatwaves can cause sun damage and sunburn. If the temperatures get higher than 1000F or 380C you can provide your cactus with shade.
Old Lady Cactus Humidity
The Old Lady Cactus is not sensitive to dry air. They tolerate it more than other plants. This is one of the plants that you’re never concerned about the level of humidity. Other plants may force you to buy a humidifier but not the succulents and especially not the Old Lady Cactus.
Old Lady Cactus Pests
The plants can be attacked by most common houseplant pests including mealybugs and scales. If you notice any changes in your plant you should take a closer look and inspect the stems. The cactus can also get stem spots and soft rot. The pests can be removed manually or with a pesticide depending on the level of infestation.
Light Requirements for Old Lady Cactus
The light requirements for Old Lady Cactus are bright indirect light. The brighter the indirect light you can give them, the better they’re going to grow. They will become healthier, bushier and have higher chances of blooming.
The plants don’t like direct sunlight because it scorches and damages their stems. The cacti do well when provided with between four to six hours of sunlight. This means that the plant can do well outdoor as well as indoor.
However, if you establish the plant outdoor, make sure to position it near some taller plants that will provide some shade especially during hot months. If you’re growing the succulent indoor, ensure it gets sufficient light. You can place it near a window or provide additional light with a grow light.
Old Lady Cactus Propagation
Propagating the Old Lady Cactus can be done using seeds as well as offsets. The majority of people use offsets because establishing cactus from seeds is not easy. The rate of germination is often low unless you’re able to provide the seeds with the optimum conditions. Each offset or small sphere at the base of the older larger spheres has the potential to become a fully mature plant.
When propagating Mammillaria Hahniana it’s advisable to wear some thick gloves to avoid getting pricked by the spines. Begin by locating the offsets that are easiest to remove from the base of the plant. Gently separate the offsets from the parent plant.
The next step involves placing the offsets on a dry tray or tissue to callus over. Place the tray in a dry warm place away from direct sunlight. The drying process takes just a few days.
The next step is applying the rooting hormone on the cutting at the end that was connected to the mother plant. Fill a small pot or the size that will fit your cactus with a cactus mix. Establish the offset in the pot and water the soil.
For best results water the set up each week for a couple of weeks and just watch it and let those roots grow. Give it a lot of light and also give it a lot of warmth which helps when propagating. However, avoid direct sunlight exposure as it can kill the baby cactus.
Old Lady Cactus Re-potting
Old Lady Cactus care also includes re-potting. Although the plant is a slow-grower, re-potting is necessary when it becomes root-bound to give the cactus space to grow and bloom. You can use a cactus mix when re-potting.
Re-potting should be done during warm months, especially in Spring. Remove the plant from its current container by wiggling it around. Remember to wear your gloves to avoid getting pricked by the spines. In case the plant is stuck in the container, you can lay it on the side and hit it gently to loosen it.
Just as a word of caution you shouldn’t re-pot freshly watered cactus. After getting the plant out, check the roots for pests or rotting. Any unhealthy and dead roots should be cut off. If necessary, use a fungicide.
Remove as much soil from the roots as possible. If your cactus is root bound, separate the roots as gently as possible.
Fill your pot with potting soil about a ¾ full. Create a hole in the middle and place your Old Lady cactus. Push the soil around it and make sure it’s firmly positioned. Leave the setup for several days.
It’s advisable not to water immediately to give the roots some time to heal. Watering immediately can cause you to run the risk of getting root rot. After the cactus has become established, you can top-dress it in your preferred way. Check this post on the benefits of top-dressing succulents.
Old Lady Cactus Cats and Dogs
The Old Lady Cactus is not poisonous to cats and dogs. The plants don’t contain any toxins that can affect dogs, cats, and humans. It is a great choice for a houseplant for people who are concerned about the safety of their pets.
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