Thimble Cactus 101!

pauline_cNovember 19, 2012


I'm new to GW, growing cactus/succulents, and just got this Thimble cactus a week ago. It looked really cute when all the buds were still attached! I went back yesterday and the rest were all sold out. That made me more determined to make sure this one survives. :) After some research, I have lots of questions which I hope I can get some pointers here. I'm currently in Seattle with no luck on sunny weathers.

1. The soil it came in looks really dry, it doesn't take water when I dropped few droplets on the top.

Is this okay, how can I fix this? Should I somehow rinse out all the soil, let the roots air dry and repot?

2. Watering: I've read that this cactus doesn't need to be watered during the winter. Elsewhere, it said once a month during the winter. How can I tell when I should water? And what does a "thorough watering" mean? Is that something like a tablespoon of water for an 2inch pot?

3. Soil: I bought cactus/succulent soil from the store, it looks like this:

It sounds like from the forum most commercial cactus/succulent soil is too "rich", and I should mix it with other things. But this soil looks pretty dry to me. Should I still mix it with other things?

4. The little buds on it are really fragile and a bunch fell off. Some has roots, while other has barely anything.

Do I need to let the left one grow out more roots before potting it? Can I pot the right one now? Currently all the buds are in a pot like this:

And should/how I be watering these small ones?

5. Are these fit for terrariums? I originally started looking at this because of pretty (open) terrariums. But reading through the forum here, it seems that's not good for the plants. Are there things I can do, e.g. provide good drainage with a lot of rocks at the bottom?

Thanks much for the help in advance!


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greenjay(Zone 6)

Congrats on rescuing this little far as soil goes, check any one of the THOUSAND of threads on this very forum for C&S potting mixes.....Definately , the more light , the better, mine seem to thrive in direct sunlight spring through fall....those little piece WILL come off with very little effort, just stick them in the soil, and more times than not, they will indeed take root on their own...I'm sure there may be some who say "let them root first" but, i believe that the easy breakage and rooting is a " survival thing" for the plant , and no one plants them after they've rooted in the
As far as terrariums go, i cannot answer a I have NO experience, i DO know that they make a great addition to a dish garden.....if there's anything I've missed, or, that someone feels needs amending, stick around...these are great folk here , and they will answer ! Good Luck !

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Thimble cactus. When I was young that referred to Chamaecereus silvestrii. Now it is a name for Mammillaria vetula? If you google Mammillaria vetula 'Arizona Snowcap' you will likely find your plant. Good care starts with a good ID.

To make this plant people proof (so that schmucks like me don't over water), get some mason sand. Put it in a 5-gal. bucket. Wash it. This is done by putting the hose at the bottom and letting the dust, mud, organic stuff wash out the top. When the water runs clear, it is washed.

To this, add some coarser grit. Almost anything mineral will do. Go to a gravel bar in a river, scoop up a bucket. Wash out the fines, pluck out the big stones. Something like that will do. Add a pinch of potting soil for most Mammillarias. Mix well. Now you have cactus soil. There are a hundred recipes out there, find one that works for your conditions.

This species is somewhat susceptible to rot if over watered. Probably because they make a large clump in a hurry and drying in between the plants is slow.

I would erase the peat from the roots. This can be done by soaking the plant and them dunking it repeatedly in water. Shake it when the roots are in the water after the #$%&$ peat has been loosened. This will get most of it off. Peat is so bad for cacti. The only cacti that need peat live in trees. Let the plant dry, re-pot it. Do not water it in like you do for most plants. Just let it get completely dry for a couple of weeks. Then give it a drink if you see growth or bloom. Keep on the dry side. The little ones will root in March or sooner. Mine are kept cool and so don't root much during the winter.

Good light is essential. One inch from a window, if that is all you have, is best. Never allow it to be 2 ft. from a window and think that is anywhere near the light this plant needs. You will be arrested by the plant police and chained to the plastic plants at WalMart for 30 days if you do that.

I went out and took a pic of the one here. There is a 4 inch clay pot underneath that whiteness.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:37AM
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I didn't catch the terrarium question. No. Never. Nein. Non. Absolutely not. Terrariums are still and have no drain.

Almost all desert cacti benefit from a fan. No, not the Jeff Harris kind of fan of desert cacti. He will not go to your home and move the air around. (Although many cacti do benefit from fans like him.) A circulating fan. Anything less than good air circulation and you risk arrest from the same plant police.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:46AM
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greenjay(Zone 6)

hmmmm would have sworn it was "mammilaria gracilis fragilis"

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Mammillaria vetula v. gracilis, said between guffaws.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 1:45PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

It's been a very long day for me and I'm tired and have no idea where Webster ran off so .. :-)

What does guffaws mean? :-)

I have "mammilaria gracilis fragilis". What is the difference between it and "Mammillaria vetula v. gracilis", Is it the longer thorns I see in the pic above?
from the google I did on the two plants, that is about the only difference I can see. Haven't had a chance to read up on the 2.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:38PM
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From the Free Dictionary, JoJo:

n. A hearty, boisterous burst of laughter. intr.v. guf�fawed, guf�faw�ing, guf�faws. To laugh heartily and boisterously.

I don't know the difference between those two.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:56PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Thanks Jeff.. I forget about the free one!


    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:43PM
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grabmebymyhandle(6 Kentucky)

this plants commonly marked as fragilis by all the growers that manage to get there plants over here to the east coast, I for one always thought it to be about the most logical name for a plant, so then its probably not fragilis...what ever, they are nice litle plants but best left in a spot they like and dont need moving.

1 too much peat! it wont take water when its dry, and that plant wants to be dry at times...
2 thouroghly not a measured amount, the dirt needs to be watered until moist, all the way through, usually soaking for an hour in an inch of water will do it
3 that soil has too much dust and tiny particles, not enough large chunks, and it all absorbent, it needs sand, gravel pumice,pebbles, fired clay, something that will not soak up water, it helps it all dry out fats and even after a good thorough watering : D
4 those are now cuttings, dont water tem until they have roots, you will need to anchor them to the dirt, they will float away if you water from about, or even roll in the wind, or when moved.
5 sure why not, it wont be ideal, and the is a big diffence between thriving and surviving but they can certainly survive a dry open artificially encloser. Realisticly, it doesnt sound like you know enough to really make a great cactus terrarium but you can certainly try.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:53AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Jeff, on the guffaw aside question, the difference is one is a verb and one is a noun.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:11AM
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