Mammillaria pringlei (Syn. M. rhodantha subsp. pringlei) (Lemon Ball Cactus)

Mammillaria pringlei on 4-23-17, #321-11.

Lemon Ball Cactus

Mammillaria pringlei

mam-mil-AR-ee-uh PRING-lee-eye


Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei

mam-mil-AR-ee-uh rho-dan-the PRING-lee-eye

Synonyms of Mammillaria pringlei from Plants of the World Online (6)(Updated on 11-9-21 from Plants of the World Online): Cactus pringlei J.M.Coult., Mammillaria parensis R.T.Craig, Mammillaria pringlei var. columnaris F.Schmoll ex R.T.Craig, Mammillaria pringlei var. longicentra Backeb., Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei (J.M.Coult.) D.R.Hunt, Neomammillaria pringlei (J.M.Coult.) Britton & Rose

Mammillaria pringlei (J.M.Coult.) K.Brandegee is the accepted and correct name of this species of Mammillaria. It was named and described as such by Mary Katherine Brandegee in Zoe in 1900. It was first named and described as Cactus pringlei by John Merle Coulter in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium (Smithsonian Institution) in 1894.

Many websites and databases are still using Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei (J.M.Coult.) D.R.Hunt as the accepted name for this cactus. It was named and described as such by David Richard Hunt in Mammillaria Postscripts in 1997.

The genus, Mammillaria Haw., was named and described by Adrian Hardy Haworth in Synopsis Plantarum Succulentarum in 1812.

As of 11-9-21 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 154 accepted species in the Mammillaria genus. It is a member of the plant family Cactaceae with 146 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO. The number of species in the genus and genera in the family fluctuates periodically.


Mammillaria pringlei on 5-31-17, #339-32.

I brought this cactus home from Lowe’s on April 24, 2017. The label says:

“Mammillaria pringlei, native to Mexico, is sometimes considered a subspecies of Mammillaria rhodantha. The stem is covered in dense, golden spines, sometimes curling to lengths of 1” or more. Rings of deep flowers appear in summer. Protect from frost.”

Mammillaria pringlei on 8-7-17, #365-12.

Mammillaria pringlei is native of a very restricted range in Mexico where they grow in pine-oak forests on rocks on steep canyons, valleys, and cliffs. Several other genera and species of cactus also grow in the same area. Some information reports it growing in other areas but they are likely other similar species of the Mammillaria rhodantha complex. Llifle says Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei is one of several yellow or golden/amber-spined variants of Mammillaria rhodantha. Well, they list the species as Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei which is OK. Either they have not updated or maybe they choose not to comply with the name change. Likely, he is VERY busy and it would take FOREVER to change names on his massive website as updates are made, which happens periodically. Sometimes names change but it takes quite a while for the change to become “official”. By then sometimes they change back… 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species list Mammillaria pringlei as vulnerable in its natural habitat. This is due to its restricted range, being present in only three areas. Llifle (Encyclopedia of Living Forms) states it has experienced declines because of the collection of its flowers and even whole plants for Christmas decorations. Apparently, at one point this species was not found in any of the protected areas. 

Mammillaria pringlei on 9-27-17, #379-8.

Mammillaria pringlei can be globe-shaped or short and cylindrical. They grow as a solitary plant that eventually divides dichotomously (where the plant divides and the one becomes two and so on). 

Llifle says, “It is one of the few Mammillaria that is completely covered with yellow spines. The spines on this species seem to radiate light, almost making it appear to glow.” 

Mammillaria pringlei on 10-11-17, #382-50.

Of course, being a Mammillaria, it is covered with a multitude of tubercles that are arranged in a spiral pattern. The areoles on top of the tubercles produce 18-22 stiff white hair-like radial spines, 5-8 mm in length. Well, I measured them on my cactus and they are around 1/4” long. There are also 5-7 much thicker and longer central spines which is what you really notice about this cactus. The radial spines on my cactus are up to almost 1” long. The lower central spines are more or less straight while the upper ones are more or less recurved. The upper part of the plant has a small amount of wool on the areoles as well as a little in the axils (between the tubercles). I thought there was a big spot of wool on the side of the plant, but it turned out to be a spider web. 🙂 

Mammillaria pringlei at 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide on 10-17-17, #384-17.

I measure the cacti periodically to see their rate of growth, usually when I bring them inside for the winter. Some grow so SSSSLLLLOOOOWWWW you need to measure them to make sure they are alive. Well, seriously, if they were dead they would turn brown and shrivel up. When I moved the plants inside for the winter on October 17 in 2017, the Mammillaria pringlei measured 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide and it is in a 3 1/2″  tall and wide pot.

Mammillaria pringlei from the top on 10-17-17, #384-18.

I really like the top view of cacti. The apex is so much different than the rest of the plant and the spines just seem to emerge and roll out… It is very hard to describe…

Mammillaria pringlei flower on 10-31-17, #387-19.

Mammillaria pringlei produce flowers just about any time of the year but mostly in June or July and in the fall after I bring the plants inside. I put this cactus on the kitchen windowsill for the winter with a few others in 2017. It received morning sun and did very well there.


Mammillaria pringlei on 1-18-18, #401-9.

This species is one of many fast-growing cactus. Many, like this one, freely flower even at a young age which just adds more interest. I am not sure how many there are, but the top is LOADED with buds. It is so funny how long it takes for them to actually flower, though.

Mammillaria pringlei on 5-18-18, #444-18.

When warmer temperatures finally arrived I was able to take the plants back outside. (Ignore the plant to the right).

Mammillaria pringlei on 6-24-18, #463-8.

On June 24, in the late afternoon, I noticed the buds on the Mammillaria pringlei were getting larger…

Mammillaria pringlei on 6-28-18, #465-18.

Then on June 28, I was out earlier and some of the flowers were opened.

Mammillaria pringlei on 6-28-18, #465-19.

It is very interesting how its flowers are arranged in a circle around the top of the plant. The flowers grow from the previous year’s growth.

Mammillaria pringlei on 6-28-18, #465-20.

Later on, in the early evening, the flowers were closed up. They kind of look like tiny tulips.

Mammillaria pringlei on 8-18-18, #498-4.

Some cactus seem to be “leaners” no matter what. I straighten this plant up every time I re-pot it… If you don’t they will fall over.

Mammillaria pringlei at 4 7/8″ tall x 2″ wide on 10-10-18, #519-49.

I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter on October 10 because the forecast was calling for an “F” in a few days and the nighttime temperatures were getting cooler. I usually measure the cactus and succulents when I bring them inside. This time the Mammillaria pringlei was 4 7/8″ tall x 2″ wide (without the spines). Last year I screwed up and included the spines when I took measurements. So, with the spines last year it was 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide.

Mammillaria pringlei with buds on 10-10-18, #519-50.

On October 10 when I re-potted this cactus and measured it, I wrote down that it was 4 7/8 ” tall x 2″ wide (without the spines). As I was writing this on November 9, I was thinking it was bigger so I went to measure it again. This time it is 5 3/4″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide (without the spines). So, did it grow 7/8″ in a month while inside? Last year I screwed up and included the spines in their measurements so out of curiosity I measured it with the spines. Including the spines, it is currently 6 1/8″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide. Last year it was 4 1/2″ tall and 3 1/2″ wide with the spines… GEEZ! That is 1 5/8″ taller and the same width.

Mammillaria pringlei on 11-29-18, #534-25.

November 29 was a nice spring-like day, so I took the cactus to the back porch for a photoshoot. I was working on a post to show the difference between the cactus in my collection.

Mammillaria pringlei close-up on 12-1-18, #535-19.

Mammillaria pringlei is one of only a few species that have glowing golden spines. It has 18-22 radial spines and 5-7 central spines that are somewhat re-curved. Information says it is generally a solitary ball cactus that eventually divides dichotomously.


Mammillaria pringlei on 6-22-19, #593-33.

I moved the plants to the front and back porches in May once temperatures warmed up enough. The above photo is the Mammillaria pringlei happily basking in the sun on the back porch on June 22.

Mammillaria pringlei on 7-4-19, #598-11.

LOOKING GREAT and starting to flower again on July 4. It is a bit wet because we had rain. 🙂

Mammillaria pringlei at 5 1/2″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide on 10-11-19, #639-71.

I had to move the potted plants back inside for the winter on October 10 because an “F” was in the forecast. I always photograph the plants when I bring them inside and take measurements of the cactus and some of the succulents. The Mammillaria pringlei measured 5 1/2″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide (not including the spines). It was 4 7/8″ tall x 2″ wide last year on October 10.

Mammillaria pringlei on 10-11-19, #639-72.

It took a short break and started flowering again…

Mammillaria pringlei on 10-19-19, #643-7.

Even though we had an “F” the temperatures warmed back up again. The cactus were giving me dirty looks so I put them back outside for a few more days.


Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) at 5 3/4″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide on 10-15-20, #747-76.

I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter on October 15 (2020) because an “F” was in the forecast. As always, I took photographs and measurements. The Mammillaria pringlei did very well over the summer and measured 5 3/4″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide when I brought it inside.

Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) from the top on 10-15-20, #747-77.

This cactus is quite a bloomer…

Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) on 11-1-20, #754-3.

I took a few more photos of several Mammillaria species in my collection for the post Fall 2020 Update: The Mammillaria Group. This one is always great when it flowers.


Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) on 6-24-21, #803-19.

The Mammillaria pringlei flowers periodically during the summer and was getting a good start when the above photo was taken on 6-24-21.

Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) at 6 1/2′ tall x 2 5/8″ wide on 10-28-21, #853-21.

I didn’t have to move the potted plants inside for the winter until October 28 in 2021. There wasn’t a chance of “F” in the forecast until then which was quite unusual. The Mammillaria pringlei did very well again over the summer and grew to 6 1/2″ tall x 2 5/8″ wide. It has leaned over the summer so I need to re-pot it and straighten it up.

Mammillaria pringlei (Lemon Ball Cactus) on 10-28-21, #853-22.

Blooming again and it appears there is a fruit… Hmmm…

Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Mexico
Zones: USDA Zones 9b-11 (25 to 40° F)
Size: 6-12”
*Light: Sun to part shade
**Soil: Fast-draining. Potting soil amended with pumice or perlite and grit.
***Water: Average during the growing period, barely to none during the winter.

*During the summer, I keep most of my cactus on the back deck where they receive full sun. During the winter most cactus aren’t picky about the light because they are basically dormant. For several winters, mine were in front of the east-facing sliding door in the dining room so they didn’t get much light but they did great. I built a new shelf for the bedroom so now they are in front of a west-facing window. Most of the succulents are on a shelf in a south-facing window in a cool bedroom but a few are in my bedroom.

**When it comes to potting soil, finding the “sweet spot” is not exactly that easy when materials are limited. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts (and experts) do not recommend using peat-based commercial mixes but what choice is there for most of us. They say to use a loam-based mix… Hmmm… Our soil is loam, so do I just use dirt? Well, no because “dirt” is heavy and you need a “light” material. There is A LOT of cactus and succulent recipes online and some get pretty elaborate. Many say to use sand as an ingredient, but if you do that, it needs to be very coarse, like builders sand, because “ordinary” sand, like for sandboxes, is too fine and it clogs up the air space between the coarser ingredients. For MANY years I used 2 parts Miracle Grow or Schultz Potting amended with an additional 1 part of perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Schultz doesn’t seem to have as many large pieces of bark. Cactus and succulent enthusiasts recommended using pumice instead of perlite and grit so I checked it out… The “guy” at General Pumice (online) recommended using a 50/50 mix of potting soil and pumice. General Pumice has 3 different sizes to choose from depending on the size of the pot. SO, in 2018 I bought a bag of 1/8″ and mixed it 50/50 with Miracle Grow Potting Soil. I liked it pretty well. Then in 2020, since most of the cactus were in larger pots, I ordered the 1/4″ size. Pumice has a lot of benefits over perlite and has nutrients that are added to the soil when watering. Pumice is also heavier so it stays mixed in the soil instead of “floating” to the top. Still, there is the issue of the mix getting very hard once you stop watering the plants during the winter when you stop watering. I think this is because of the peat in the potting soil… SO, instead of re-potting the cactus and succulents in the spring, I started doing it during the fall and winter so their soil would be loose. Since you don’t water as frequently during the winter if at all, the timed-release fertilizer does not activate. I have not tried coir, but I am looking into it… 

I think a lot of growing tips online are written by people who never grew succulents and cactus. They just copy from one website and paste it to theirs. You have to sort of mimic the soil where species grow in their native habitat. For that, you almost have to go see for yourself… Typically, they grow in fairly rocky soil.

***I water my cactus and succulents on a regular basis during the summer but barely ever in the winter (maybe a little in January) until close to time to take them back outside. 

You can read my Cactus Talk & Update and Cactus & Succulent Tips to get my opinion about growing cactus and succulents.

When you bring your new plants home from the store, you need to check their roots and the soil to see if they are wet. If so, you may want to re-pot it right away. It is advisable to re-pot them in a better potting soil more suitable for cactus and succulents.

The Mammillaria pringlei is a great cactus and I highly recommend it as a companion.

I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by. Be sure to check out the links below for additional information about the genus, species, and growing information. The links take you directly to information about the genus and species. There are many online sources for this species as it is very popular.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated.  🙂 Some information online lists this plant as Mammillaria rhodantha subsp. pringlei, but it is the same plant.


2 comments on “Mammillaria pringlei (Syn. M. rhodantha subsp. pringlei) (Lemon Ball Cactus)

  1. I get so excited when the cactus flower! I love the spines on this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Diane! I am with you! The flowers always amaze me even though they are tiny. Mammillaria pringlei is definitely a nice cactus with a golden glow. Its cousin, M. rhodantha, has a nice reddish glow which I find very interesting as well. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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