How to Grow Ball Cactus

Miss Chen
The Parodia magnifica genus includes a multitude of showy and easy-to-grow small ball cacti. Native to central South America, they are easy to care for, making them excellent beginner cacti. Their round appearance is to credit for their shapely name, and they can grow in clusters up to over a foot wide. While they prefer a warm and dry climate, they are more adaptable than some of their cacti cousins, able to withstand temperatures that hover around freezing as long as they're kept dry.
Ball cacti are moderate growers, adding about 4 inches to their height each year. Older plants will frequently produce flowers in beautiful shades of yellow, red, orange, or pink, and all varietals feature ridges of spikes that start out white and grow to a yellow-brown with age.

Botanical Name Parodia magnifica
Common Name Ball cactus, balloon cactus, silver ball cactus, blue ball cactus

Common Name Ball cactus, balloon cactus, silver ball cactus, blue ball cactus
Plant Type Cactus
Mature Size 3–12 in. tall, 3–18 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow, pink, red, orange
Hardiness Zones 9–12 (USDA)
Native Area South America

Ball Cactus Care
If you can grow cacti and succulents successfully, you can likely grow the popular ball cactus without too much trouble. It's important to remember that the ball cactus doesn't like direct sunlight and is accustomed to more water than many other cacti species. Additionally, it's imperative that the cactus is not exposed to prolonged dampness or sitting water. Never let your cactus sit in a dish of water, and take care to ensure its soil is very well-draining.

To encourage better flowering, allow the plants to enjoy a cooling period in the winter and dramatically cut back on watering cadence. Lastly, make sure to fertilize during the growing season for the best results.

Ball cacti like lots of light—just not too much of it. Don't let that confuse you, though—it's actually simpler than it seems. Essentially they can take direct sunlight in the softer hours of the mornings and afternoons but should be kept in partial shade throughout the hottest hours of the day. If your yard or garden can't account for both, consider planting your cactus in a pot that you can move into a shadier spot during high noon. If you're planting your cactus indoors and are sitting it at a window sill for sunlight, be sure to rotate it periodically to ensure even (not skewed or crooked) growth.

Like many cacti, the ball cactus prefers an airy, dry soil mixture. Drainage is especially important as well, so if you're opting for a store-bought blend (cacti or succulent-specific mix is your best bet), consider adding coarse sand, perlite, or pumice to the mixture to help aerate the soil. Overall, the pH level of the soil isn't terribly important to the ball cactus, but it does thrive best in a slightly acidic mixture with a pH between 6.1 and 6.5.

Ball cacti are drought tolerant but do like water during their growing season. Provide regular water during the spring and summer months, but only when the soil is dry to the touch, thoroughly soaking the soil through when you do water. In the winter the cactus will go dormant and need very little water, so you can cease complete cut back watering and let the soil almost dry between waterings, but do not let it completely dry out. If planted in a container, make sure there are several holes in the bottom of the pot to aid in drainage.

Temperature and Humidity
True to their nature, ball cacti prefer warm, desert-like conditions. That being said, they can survive in below-freezing temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, though it's not recommended that they're kept that cold for very long at all.

Dry heat is the key to keeping any cactus, and ball cacti will not do well if exposed to too much moisture—either from watering or in the form of humidity. Therefore, it is unnecessary to spritz them or increase the humidity in their environment.

Though not necessary, the ball cactus will respond well to fertilizer. During the growing season, fertilize with a cacti fertilizer mix, and suspend feeding during the dormant winter period.

Propagating Ball Cactus
Ball cacti can be propagated easily from offsets, which readily form in clusters around the base of the mother plant. To propagate, carefully remove an offset and allow the cut section to dry on a paper towel for a few days–depending on the size of the cut area, a callous will form over the cut surface. Once the callous has formed, place the new plant in a pot with a cactus or succulent soil mixture and keep it in a warm place until new roots emerge. Once the cactus is established, repot it into a regular-sized container.

Potting and Repotting Ball Cactus
Repot your ball cactus as needed, preferably during the warm season. Make sure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently remove the cactus and surrounding soil from the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.
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