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


Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade


Unknown - Tell us

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


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)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual


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

Bloom Color:



White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring

Mid Spring

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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


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

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


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?


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


On Apr 10, 2005, Xenomorf from Phoenix, 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.