Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Snowball Cactus
Mammilloydia candida

Family: Cactaceae (kak-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Mammilloydia
Species: candida (KAN-did-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Mammillaria candida
Synonym:Mammillaria estanzuelensis
Synonym:Mammilloydia ortizrubiana
Synonym:Mammillaria ortizrubiana
Synonym:Mammilloydia candida subsp. ortizrubiana

One member has or wants this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)
9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring

Unknown - Tell us

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds

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By palmbob
Thumbnail #1 of Mammilloydia candida by palmbob

By cactus_lover
Thumbnail #2 of Mammilloydia candida by cactus_lover

By Xenomorf
Thumbnail #3 of Mammilloydia candida by Xenomorf

By franj
Thumbnail #4 of Mammilloydia candida by franj

By franj
Thumbnail #5 of Mammilloydia candida by franj

By kactuskerm
Thumbnail #6 of Mammilloydia candida by kactuskerm

By palmbob
Thumbnail #7 of Mammilloydia candida by palmbob

There are a total of 12 photos.
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4 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Fires_in_motion On Oct 1, 2013, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Awesome little indestructible snowball of a plant. Highly recommended for cactus beginners and longtime pros alike. Looks particularly great next to bluish columnar species or rosette-type succulents (e.g. echeverias). I'm not sure how long its takes for them to form additional heads like in the pic submitted by palmbob. Is it really hardy down to 20F?

Neutral idahocactus2 On Jan 7, 2013, idahocactus2 from Boise, ID wrote:

This is a very nice small plant and in a unique genus. It has characteristics of the neolloydia and mammillaria types and hence the name.

In southwest Idaho we grow another similiar but cold hardy plant, Escobaria sneedii ssp. leei, that can take temps down below zero with no damage, and thrive in our desert climate of the Boise Valley. You might try this plant if you are in the more northerly desert areas of the West. A very tiny and clustering species.

Positive Plantnutoo On Jan 7, 2013, Plantnutoo from Manteo, NC wrote:

I also knew this plant as a mammilaria I like M plumosa more.I have no photos of that anymore. Plumosa needed to be grafted to do well My favorite for that was Lemairocereus pruinosis Iwhatsitsnamenow .It is sturdy,does not shrink ,will provide offsets without affecting the scion

Positive rinomanfroni On Mar 3, 2012, rinomanfroni from Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

This one is definitely hardier than 20F! It survived at 17F in my cactus garden in February and now in March it is blooming like nothing happened! Very nice plant, although it is better to have it in a place where you can see it up close since the flowers are quite pale and they are not very noticeable from a distance.

Neutral kactuskerm On Jun 6, 2009, kactuskerm from Escanaba, MI wrote:

Grown in both our indoor and outdoor green houses by Bev and Kerm Bender.
A very old plant that blooms every year.

Positive palmbob On Apr 11, 2005, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

There are two synonyms for Mammillaria candida, and this is one of them... the other is Mammillaria humboldtii, which I have to say looks very similar to this plant... no clue why this is in a separate genus... sure looks like a Mammillaria. Has a great weave of radial spines that cover the cactus body giving it a nearly pure white appearance... hence snowball cactus... however, M humboldtii has the exact same weave.. just pinker flowers. Hmmm. Taxonomy is a mystery.

Neutral Xenomorf On Apr 10, 2005, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is currently the only species in the Mammilloydia Genus.

Other synonyms of this plant are: Mammillaria sphaerotricha, Mammillaria candida var. sphaerotricha, Cactus sphaerotrichus, Chilita estanzuelensis, Chilita candida

The International Cactaceae Systematics Group (ICSG) accepted the Mammilloydia as a separate and distinct genus just recently prior to the year 2001. The difference is the seeds are not pitted and lack perisperm. The Mammilloydia genus is believed to be a result of convergent evolution between the Mammillaria and Neolloydia genera.

Also, just prior to the year 2001, the ICSG decided that Mammillaria humboldtii is a separate and different species of Mammilloydia candida, it is not a synonym as of at least 2001.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Green Valley, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona
Hesperia, California
Orange, California
Manteo, North Carolina

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