Parodia Magnifica (Ball Cactus Plant)

Parodia magnifica

Parodia magnifica, commonly known as the ball cactus or notocactus magnificus, is a slow-growing species of flowering plant in the cactus family native to Argentina and Bolivia, where it grows in sandy soil at high altitudes (1,500–2,200 m). Growing tall by broad, it is one of the largest species of cactus.

Somewhere between the spiky and the succulent, you’ll find ball cactus plants (Parodia magnifica). Despite its intimidating appearance, it’s actually fairly easy to care for and will live longer than most people expect!

Origin and distribution

The origin of Parodia magnifica is unknown, though it probably comes from one of two places: Argentina or Brazil. It’s now fairly popular in American homes, where it’s often sold under its synonym, notocactus magnificus.

Originally considered to be poisonous by some scholars, modern-day analysis shows that Parodia magnifica is actually harmless and may even have some healing properties.

Native Americans used it as a cure for fevers and insect bites. In fact, the name parodia means remedy against poison in Greek. Just like you can use aloe vera as an antidote to sunburn, this plant can counteract venomous plants.

If you find yourself bitten by a snake, don’t reach for your cell phone; instead, grab this cactus!

Parodia magnifica common name

Parodia magnifica is also commonly referred to as cactus parodia, balloon cactus, ball cactus plant, or notocactus magnificus.

Parodia magnifica propagation

Parodia magnifica

The Parodia magnifica is a relatively easy-to-grow cactus that propagates in a variety of ways. Most commonly, propagation occurs when you cut off a section of stem that has grown new shoots. The easiest way to do so is during spring or summer when temperatures are warmer and there’s more plant growth.

Make sure your cutting is healthy, with many full leaves along it, as well as free from disease. Use clean tools and sterilized soil to avoid spreading disease through your greenhouse or garden.

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Remove the dirt from the bottom of the leaf area on your cutting and make a slanted cut into the base. Dip the end of your cutting into rooting hormone, then insert it into potting soil mix until only 1-2 inches remain above ground level.

Keep watered until roots form then transplant outside after the danger of frost has passed. Some varieties need staking, use wire mesh if necessary. Prefers a sunny location but can tolerate some shade.

Parodia magnifica care information

Parodia magnifica

Parodia magnificas thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11 and require bright, filtered sunlight. Water parodias frequently and make sure that they have drainage holes in their pots; allow the soil to dry between waterings, but don’t let it get too dry as parodies will wilt without moisture.

Light requirement

Ball cactus plants are easy to grow indoors, as long as they receive adequate light. They’re tolerant of low light levels and will do just fine in a room that doesn’t get much natural sunlight.

Be sure not to expose them to direct sun for extended periods of time, though. Ball cacti can also grow outdoors in full sunlight year-round, but they’ll benefit from being moved inside if cold weather sets in.

Soil/potting mix

The ball cactus can live for decades, but it requires excellent soil conditions to do so. In order to thrive, it should be planted in a mixture of 80 percent pumice or sand and 20 percent sphagnum peat moss or premium potting soil. Avoid using potting soil that contains fertilizer as these additives can quickly burn your plant if not used properly.

Make sure you have the correct type of container before planting as this species does not grow well out of the ground.

To make sure you are getting the right container size, always measure your containers with a ruler before buying them! Lastly, water the ball cactus sparingly and don’t overwater it because this could lead to root rot.

Watering

It’s important to water your ball cactus plant enough, but not too much. For a proper watering regime, thoroughly soak it once a week—or even once every two weeks if you’re in a dry climate.

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Water until excess water begins to drip out of its pot. It’s normal for its leaves to shed some of their moisture after watering, so don’t be alarmed if they seem extra dry for several days following a good soaking. To reduce the risk of rot, give it at least one day’s worth of time between watering sessions.

Fertilizer

Feed your parodia magnifica once every three months in spring and summer with a general-purpose fertilizer. In fall and winter, use no fertilizer at all. Never give a cactus plant fertilizer in direct sunlight; it can burn your plant’s skin. Mature ball cacti can be heavy feeders, but only during their first year of growth.

If you’re planting a young ball cactus, consider using a small amount of liquid fertilizer once a month while it’s actively growing. If you’re caring for an established plant, use slow-release fertilizer pellets once a year in early spring and autumn.

Once your plant has bloomed and produced seed pods, withhold fertilizing until new growth emerges in spring.

Temperature

Parodia magnifica thrives in hot and dry environments, so they need to be kept at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you’re growing your ball cactus plant indoors, it should also be placed where it can receive plenty of sunlight.

However, you should take steps to ensure that too much heat doesn’t accumulate around your cactus. In some cases, you may need to keep your plant in a separate room from other plants or appliances that could overheat it.

Humidity

The notocactus magnificus, or as it is more commonly known, Parodia magnifica (ball cactus plant), thrives best in humid conditions. The perfect relative humidity is 75 to 80 percent.

That doesn’t mean you should be misting your plant on a daily basis; in fact, that can make matters worse. Leave your ball cactus alone during the winter and spring months if your indoor air lacks humidity. Then, increase humidity during late spring to summer.

Pruning

When growing cacti, it’s important to know when and how to prune. Parodia magnificas aren’t really plants that require pruning, but they do benefit from pruning.

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One of its few requirements is space; they like a lot of room between them and other plants in their vicinity. The best time to prune this plant is during the winter or early spring months before new growth begins in the summer.

It can be done any time after new growth has been fully established for the season, but make sure not to cut too far back into old woody tissue as this will cause irreversible damage. It’s also best not to remove more than 1/3 of its total length per year as removal will leave it vulnerable to sunburn and drying out.

When to repot

Repotting ball cacti should be done only when needed. When repotting is necessary, it’s best to do so during spring or summer. Most species of ball cacti bloom in fall and winter, so repotting before their blooming season will help protect their root system while they start growing again after flowering. The soil should not dry out at any time during the year as this could cause the plant to shrivel and die.

When looking for a new pot, look for one that has adequate drainage holes and is deep enough for the ball cactus’s roots to grow. Be sure the pot has a broad base that won’t topple over easily, such as a saucer-shaped pot with a flat bottom.

Dormancy/Winter rest

Parodia magnificas will enter a rest period as days begin to shorten and temperatures fall. During dormancy, it will lose its spines and most of its leaves, leaving just a few green ones behind to gather what sunlight is left before winter sets in.

This does not mean that your plant has died; instead, it is entering a state of hibernation wherein its body uses less energy in order to prepare for springtime growth when light levels increase once again. Give the plant enough water so that the soil remains moist but not soaking wet during this time.

In early spring, your plant will show signs of awakening with new green leaves appearing on the tips of the stems.

Parodia magnifica flower & fragrance

Parodia magnifica

The flower is purple-pink with a white margin, which opens in the early evening and closes at midday. The plant produces a strong fragrance that smells like orange blossoms. This strong sweet-scented perfume has been described as honey-like and vanilla-like, with a hint of jasmine or other florals. It’s not overpowering by any means but still very noticeable.

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Growth rate

The Parodia magnifica is a fairly slow-growing cactus. In fact, it can take more than ten years to reach maturity! With age and the right care, however, they’ll grow up to five feet high. When planted in a flower pot with proper drainage and given adequate sunlight, they also grow well indoors.

Toxicity

Parodia magnificas are non-toxic to humans. The flesh of their fruit may be mildly toxic if ingested. Overall, Parodia magnificas are non-toxic and can be handled with bare hands without skin irritation. As a precaution, wash your hands after handling any plant from within its genus.

USDA hardiness zones

Parodia magnifica thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11. It does not need to be watered very often, and it is an excellent choice for xeriscaping.

Pests and diseases

It’s important to avoid over-watering ball cactus plants. If you overwater, you may get mold or fungus on your plant that could harm it. They are also susceptible to Aphids, gnats, scale insects, and mealybugs.

Because they are succulents, make sure to handle them with care—they can lose water easily, especially when moved around a lot. The roots and leaves should be handled carefully and any dead parts should be removed with a sharp knife.

The ball cactus is also sensitive to cold temperatures, so if you live in an area where the temperature drops below freezing, this plant is not for you!

Conclusion

The parodia magnifica plant, native to Brazil and Paraguay, is a unique addition to any collection of succulents. Not only is it easy to grow but it has a good drought tolerance.

However, it’s very important that you place your plants where they are exposed to indirect sunlight because direct sunlight can cause damage. Finally, do not let them dry out for long periods of time or their leaves will start to drop off and eventually die.