So Cute—Little Candles Cactus

This little cactus makes a charming windowsill plant anywhere and can also be grown outdoors in warm regions.

Candles cactus has a small, rounded form and produces cute little offsets, eventually forming small colonies up to a foot across. Its offsets are covered with clusters of fine silvery spines that make it look almost petable—but resist the urge!

Little candles cactus blooms in late winter or early spring, producing a ring of pretty pale yellow-to-pink flowers with brown streaks. It gets its common name from its showy red fruits that look like little flames or cranberries.

Common name: Little candles cactus or Texas nipple cactus

Botanical name: Mammillariaprolifera

Plant type: Cactus

Zones: 9 to 11 outdoors, or anywhere as a houseplant

Height: 3 to 6 inches

Family: Cactaceae

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Sandy or gravelly, very well-drained, neutral to alkaline pH
  • Moisture: Light watering in summer; keep fairly dry in winter


  • Mulch: None, or thin layer of crushed rock or grit
  • Pruning: None
  • Fertilizer: Light application of diluted soluble fertilizer in early spring


  • Seeds
  • Offsets

Pests and diseases

  • None

Garden notes

  • Cacti grown indoors prefer a cool, dry, sunny location during the winter; try a south window in the coolest room in your house, or an enclosed multi-season porch that doesn’t drop below 40 degrees.
  • This and similar cacti are often available in the garden and houseplant section of home improvement stores.
  • Where hardy, plant in patio containers so you can get a closer look at the flowers and fruit.

All in the family

  • Little candles cactus is a member of the cactus family (Cactaceae), a large group of succulent, often spiny plants that grow primarily in dry regions.
  • With several hundred species, Mammillariais is one of the biggest groups within the cactus family.

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