Mammillaria senilis


Cactus senilis
Cochemiea senilis
Mamillopsis senilis


Mammillaria senilis is native to Mexico, in particular to Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sinaloa, at altitudes between 2350 and 2800 metres above the sea level. Its habitat are moss-covered boulders in pine forests.


Mammillaria senilis is an astonishing cacti, with a huge decorative potential. Every cacti lover adores it, either for its big, funnel-shaped, flashy flowers, and for its dense, white spines that make it look like it’s covered in snow. It is a low-growing cactus, not taller than 15 centimeters, forming little clumps of globose to cylindrical stems, 10 centimeters wide. Like every Mammillaria, M. senilis is equipped with numerous tubercles, elongated and nipple-shaped. The name “Mammillaria”, in fact, refers precisely to the tubercles of its stems, that look like nipples. The particular species name, instead, “senilis”, meaning “old”, probably refers to the white overall appearance of the plant, that may look like the white beard of an old man. From each one, 30 to 40 radial spines grow, along with 4 to 6 central ones pointing outwards. The flashy flower are orange-red or, sometimes, yellow. Rarely, they can also be whitish-pink. They reach a length of 0.8 centimeters and a diameter in 5-6 centimeters! Their funnel-shaped form is also beautiful: their floral tubes is very slender and can reach a length of 4 centimeters. The blooming season of M. senilis occurs in February and March. From the flowers, red to greenish white fruits are formed, that hos numerous black seeds.


M. senilis is actually one of the most difficult Mammillarias to grow. By the way, with some special attention it will definetly reward you with its gorgeous blooms. Here below are our cultivation tips:

M. senilis needs plenty of light: if you place it indoors, choose a spot exposed to direct sunlight. If, instead, you choose to place it outside, provide some shade, at least during the hottest hours of summer days. Don’t move it too harshly from shade to full sun: it may remain sunburnt.
Mammillaria senilis is native to a montainous habitat and it enjoys cold. If its substrate is kept completely dry, it resists to temperatures down to -5ºC, some say even to -10ºC. By the way, to stay safe, we advice to put it indoors during the cold season or to shelter it, especially providing protection from Winter rains. Also, it requires strong light and a good airflows; a good idea could be to place it exposed to air drafts.
Water moderately from spring to autumn and regularly in summer. Also during the hottest period of the year, however, wait always for the soil to dry up completely before each watering, as this plant is subsceptible to rot. During the winter, suspend completely any irrigation.
Mammillaria senilis requires an acidic substrate, very well drained and with an abundant mimneral part. It’s important to avoid limestone. Some perlite or pumice could be either added.
During the summer, fertilize once with a product specific for cacti, rich in potassium and poor in nitrogen.
Mammillaria senilis, unlike other Mammillarias, is slow-growing: you can also repot once every two years. Use the smallest diameter pot that can host the plant. 


Propagation is usually done by sowing: the seed must be placed on the surface of a sandy and humid soil at about 20 ° C. Some species produce lateral suckers that can be cut and used as good cuttings. It is the case of M. senilis it will form dense clumps in a very few years and it can be propagated very easily through cuttings. When your M. senilis gets old and you see it’s sufficiently clustered, you can start to take off cuttings in spring and summer by cutting off the stem with a sharp knife. Put the cut branch in a warm place for around a week to let the wound dry up and then plant it in a pot filled with some cactus potting mix. 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. 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 glasss until they germinate.


The name “Mammillaria” refers precisely to the tubercles of its stems, that look like nipples. The particular species name, instead, “senilis”, meaning “old”, probably refers to the white overall appearance of the plant, that may look like the white beard of an old man.

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