Gold Lady Finger Cactus (Mammillaria elongata) is native to central New Mexico. it consists of densely packed clusters of elongated oval stems, covered in harmless yellow or brown spines, and in spring producing white or yellow flowers.
Perhaps called the Lady Finger Cactus because it resembles somebody flipping a bird? Which is not lady like!
Because their root systems are weak, they are especially prone to root rot, which will eventually kill your plant. Otherwise, they thrive on a program of strong, bright light; slight water; and a steady diet of light fertilizer.
Gold Lady Finger Blooms
Mammillaria flowers form a ring on new tissue that’s grown during the previous growing season. To get flowers, it is necessary to watch watering and fertilizing schedules during the growing season to assure flowers for the next year. This plant has pale yellow to white blooms.
Water and fertilize your cactus regularly throughout the summer, like any other container plant, as this is its growing season.
However, when autumn begins, it’s time to place the plant in a spot protected from rain, perhaps under the overhang of the roof or behind a window frame leaning against a wall.
That’s because a period of drought is one factor that stimulates bloom in many small cacti. You can, of course, water when the soil is thoroughly dry, but otherwise, it’s best to keep the rain off it throughout the fall.
Keep your cactus outside as long as possible in the fall and don’t bring it back indoors until there is a real threat of frost, as cool or even cold nights are the second factor that stimulates cacti to bloom.
When the plant has had a few months of cold nights and drought, bring it indoors and place it in front of a window, preferably in a cool spot. Through the winter, continue watering only when the soil is really dry.
Flowering should occur somewhere between mid-winter and late spring, depending on the species and the growing conditions. If it still hasn’t bloomed by spring, put it outdoors again for the summer where it will likely bloom for a short time.
Propagating Gold Lady Finger Cactus
It is among the commonest and most variable of its genus in nature and is a popular subject for cultivation. Mammillaria propagation is similar to that of almost any other plant. Usually seedling takes a quite long time to form plants, so many people consider pruning a great way of plant division.
They can be easily pulled away and placed in a dry and warm location to form calluses. An offset (or a cutting) from cacti readily forms in clusters around the base. Remove an offset, allowing the cut to dry on a paper towel for a couple of days up to a week.
After the formation, place the callous in a pot with a soil mixture and keep it in a warm location until the new roots appear. Planting the cactus into a regular container is essential right after the plant is established. You can also use mammillaria seeds, but the growing period will take much more time.
In cultivation, the temperature must be kept between 20°C and 30°C. It is allowed to fall to 15°C at night when it is summer time, and to 18°C during the winter months. One of the optimal ways of keeping the plant during the summer is growing it outside starting from May and through September.
Simply place the plant it in a sunny spot, as there it can get strong sunlight. Make sure it avoids the strongest midday sun. Starting from September and up to May cacti must be moved to the cool west or east windowsills.
Outdoor Gold Lady Finger Cacti…
Ladyfinger Cactus does well in cooler temperatures, some can say even thrives on it. However it is not as cold hardy as you might think, so if you live in a zone that gets colder than 20° F (-6.7° C), it’s best to plant this succulent in a container that can be brought indoors. It does well in full to partial sun.
Plant in an area of your garden that gets 4 hours of sunlight a day. If planting indoors, place in a room that gets a lot of sunlight, such as near a southern-facing window (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere).
Watering Gold Lady Finger Cacti
Water the cactus once per week during summer months. Add as much water as the pot of the plant is allowed to drain. When the temperature is extremely high, you must water the plant once per day.
Starting from late September the watering process must be reduced in order to force the plant going into a condition of semi-dormancy. Before November comes, you are to get back to the winter-type watering regime.
During winter months you should better keep the plant almost completely dry. Water it only to prevent the drying of roots (normally, once per month is enough). Starting in March, the growing process is going to start. This is when watering must be increased until late May, as the plant is in its full growth.
Fertilizing Gold Lady Finger Cactus…
A rich and fast-draining soil mix is another tip for proper care for mammillaria. During the entire growing season, it is highly important to fertilize the soil with a proper mix, whereas feeding during the dormant period should be suspended.
When the compost is fresh, it is not necessary to use the fertilizer.
However, if the plant has not been repotted recently, use a half-strength general purpose fertilizer at the watering time from May and during one month. This is a basic rule for those, who’d like to know how to care properly.
Never feed the plant from September and onwards. This may lead to lush growth that is fatal during the dark and cold autumn and winter months.
Gold Lady Finger Pests… They really BUG you!
Mammillaria is vulnerable to mealybugs and aphids. The problems require special attention and consideration. The pests are numerous but can be effectively prevented.
- mealy bugs
- cochineal insect
- red spider mite
When mealy bug eggs appear on the spines’ tips or these ants appear on the plant themselves, it means they are sucking the plant’s sap and life. The case requires immediate treatment thorough washing or spraying with an effective insecticide. The pests must be removed even in case the plant is dormant.
Mealybugs don’t go dormant and keep eating the plant even during winter time. A much less toxic solution to use is soaking the plant into soapy water overnight (dish detergent works really great for this purpose).
If you do not do anything with mealy bugs, these insects start spreading throughout a collection of plants pretty fast and there is nothing you can do to cope with them.
Other Issues With Gold Lady Finger Cacti…
Cacti are rather susceptible to rot due to their water-filled fleshy tissue. When the conditions are proper, the disease never occurs as the moisture level is low. Rot usually starts from the bottom and goes up. Roots don’t rot off first. In rare cases parts of the cactus that are placed higher up may rot first. It happens with over-watered plants.
Rot varies in appearance from black to red. The affected parts are slimy, mushy and have a very bad odor. The disease can be visible on spiny plants. By the time the condition is noticed, there is nothing you can do to help the plant. When the cactus is in dry environments, it can get rot if it has been damaged. From the top the plant may look pretty fine, however underneath it is completely rotted and cannot be saved.
Fungal attacks are also pretty common. They are recognized due to a black or rust-colored spot that is surrounded by dried brown sections on the cactus’ stem. Such attacks don’t occur on all cacti, but mainly on epiphytic cacti. The disease eats up the plant’s tissue. When the attack is serious a fungus starts growing inside the tissue of the plant and kills it as it goes.
- Basal rot or Sclerotium cacticola
- Bacterial wilt or Pseudomonas
- Fungal wilt or Verticillium
- Bacterial diseases
- Fire Blight or Erwinia
- Yellow fungus or Fusarium oxysporum