Mammillaria elongata is native to central Mexico, in particular from the states of Hidalgo, Guanajato ans Queretaro, where it thrives at an altitude between 1200 and 1400 meters, growing on the so-called “matorral”, which is a spanish word to define a typical kind of shrubland of that area. It is rather widespread, growing on limestone-based soils in groups of numerous individuals, altough its habitat is threatened by human exploitation for mining, agricultural activity.
M. elongata is a ground-covering cacti, with its finger-shaped stems (that have earned it its name “elongata”) that don’t exceed 10 centimeters in height. The finger shape is due to their reduced diameter of 1-3 centimeters. As in all Mammillarias, its stem are furrowed with numerous tubercls that, in this species, are conical and arranged in spirals. Unlike in other Mammillarias, the axiles of the tubercles are bare and not equipped with hair of any sort. At the top of the tubercles, there are the areoles. Areoles are the typical buds of cacti and they are the responsible of the thorns development. Spines are arranged in 15 to 25 radial ones, golden yellow to brown and arranged in a star-like pattern and more or less curved outwards, 5 to 10 millimeters in length. Central spines, instead, are often absent. When present, they are 2 in number, yellow or brown with black tips, 1 centimeter and a half long.
Blooming season occurs in Spring and flowers are funnel-shaped, usually white but also pink or creamy yellow, and they grow in a crown-shaped arrangement at the upper part of the stems. After blossoming, this cacti produces pink to red fruits that host black seeds.
M. elongata is a very easy to grow species, not requiring any special treatment, and might be the perfect cacti for beginners, also because it soon forms fluffy clumps of rounded stems which are very decorative either indoors or outdoors in a balcony or a rocky garden. Here below are our cultivation tips:
M. elongata needs filtered light if grown outdoors as, in its natural habitat, it grows under other bushes, and plenty of light if grown indoors. Sunburnts may occur if it’s exposed to sunlight for too long. however, intense sunlights enhances flowering and cause a bronzing of the plant.
Mammillaria elongata can resist to extremely cold temperatures if its substrate stays completely dry (down to -12ºC!). However, to stay safe, we suggest to keep it at temperatures above at least 5ºC, and to keep it away from Winter rains.
Provide this plant with a good ventilation: place it exposed to air drafts. During the rest period it shouldn’t be exposed to atmospheric humidity.
Water moderately during the growth season and be extremely careful, as this plant is very sensitive to root rot. To reduce the risk of rotting, wait always for the soil to dry up completely before every irrigation. In Winter, keep its substrate completely dry.
Mammillaria elongata requires a very well-draining substrate, but with an organic part more abundant than usual. A standard mix for cacti will do good, with some peat or humus.
During the summer, fertilize once with a product specific for cacti, rich in potassium and phosphorus and poor in nitrogen. Nitrogen makes the stem of these plants too watery and fragile and enhances the risk of rotting.
Use a clay pot to enhance drainage: pots shouldn’t be too wide, to control the attitude of this cacti to expand horizontally. Repot every two-three years.
Propagation can be carried out either through sowing and cuttings. Seeds must be placed on the surface of a sandy and humid soil at about 20 ° C. If you choose sowing as a method of propagation, remember that seeds usually germinate in 8-13 days at temperatures of 21-27ºC. They should be placed in a light substrate and maintained slightly moist and covered with a glass until they germinate. Don’t expose young plants to too intense sunlight.
M. elongata will soon form dense clumps and thus can be propagated very easily through cuttings. When it gets sufficiently clustered and the offsets reach a size of at least 1/3 of the mother stem, you can start to take off them with a sharp knife. Let the cutting dry up for a week or two, until you see that the wound has formed a callous. it in a pot filled with some cactus potting mix. Cuttings will take 42 to 6 weeks to root. It’s important to create a superficial layer of coarse grit and to lie the cutting on it: it prevents the wound to become too wet and, when roots are formed, it allows them to penetrate the compost under it.
Mammillaria owes its name to its tubercles, that look like nipples. The species name “elongata”, instead, refers to the slende stems of this species. In Mexico the spines of M. elongata, like the ones of other Mammillarias, were traditionally used as fish hooks.
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