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Mammillaria spinosissima cristata

Botanical Name — Mammillaria spinosissima cristata

Common Name — brain cactus

Plant Family — Cactaceae


Native to the arid deserts of central Mexico, Mammillaria spinosissima cristata is a mutated variety of cactus. Its flattened, folded form is the result of a mitotic mutation in meristem cells that is sustained through subsequent cell divisions. Because of this randomness, crested varieties of plants are uncommon and unpredictable. Plants can exhibit both mutated and regular growth on different parts of the plant at the same time. Offspring, sexual or asexual, are not guaranteed to be identical to the parent plant. Each specimen is truly one of a kind making this plant a fun and exciting one to have in any gardeners collection. 

Growth Requirements


  • These cacti prefer lots of sun, at least five hours of direct sun daily. 
  • Indoors a south facing window is ideal. Outdoors, place them in  a spot where they will get plenty of sun exposure. If you are growing this plant outdoors be sure to provide it with light shade to protect it from intense, peak afternoon sun.

Temperature/ Humidity 

  • Mammillaria spinosissima do best in high temperatures and low humidity. Ideal temperatures are above 70 ºF. These plants should be brought indoors when nighttime temperatures fall below 50 ºF.


  • Mammillaria spinosissima prefer to stay on the dry side. In the summer water them only when the soil has dried out entirely. Always err on the side of under watering. They are built to withstand drought, and overwatering is one of the quickest ways to kill them.
  • During the winter it’s safe to cut back on watering entirely. This will encourage flowering during the spring!


  • These plants require a gritty, sharply draining soil mix. Amend regular potting soil with sand or fine pumice up to 50% to improve drainage and soil texture. 


  • These plants will typically flower in mid-spring, producing a “crown” of pink flowers around the growing tip of the plant.
  • To encourage flowering, regularly water your Mammillaria spinosissima crested during the spring and summer, cutting back on water during the fall and suspending water entirely during the winter. Be sure to give your cactus plenty of sun, as this is necessary for flowering. 


  • Fertilization of this plant is generally not necessary. If you want to refresh your soil or give your plant a boost during the growing season, you can feed it monthly with a fertilizer for cacti and succulents. Fertilize only during the spring and summer, when the  plant is actively growing.  


  • Crested plants can be unpredictable and produce normal and mutated growth on different parts of the same plant. Offspring, sexual or asexual, will not necessarily be true to the parent plant. For the best luck with propagating a crested cactus, take a cutting of abnormal growth. Graft it onto a normal cactus for optimal results. 



  • These plants are not especially susceptible to pests or diseases. Keep an eye out for pests that commonly affect houseplants, such as scale and mealybugs. Also look out for any unusual spotting that may be a sign of an infection. 
  • Treat infested plants with diluted neem oil. If plants are infected with a bacterial or fungal disease, prune away any affected parts of the plant. 

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)

  • Little maintenance is required to keep these plants happy. The should only need to be repotted once every two to three years. When transplanting, select a pot that is at least two to three inches wider in diameter to give the plant plenty of room to grow. 


  • This plant has no toxic effects reported. 
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