Growing Notocactus: Learn How To Care For Ball Cactus

You’ve probably seen plenty of Notocactus. These small ball or barrel-shaped plants are among the most popular household cacti.

Notocactus scopa pronounced [nee-oh-no-to-KAK-tus sko-puh], is one of the cactus plants typically referred to by the common name – ball cactus.

Ball cacti is also sometimes called the “silver ball cactus” or simply the “silver ball.”

The “Silver Ball” is native to South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Columbia, and Uruguay), and part of the genus notocactus.

The genus includes over 25 different species.

NOTE: In the 1980s the International Organization for Succulent Plant Study moved Notocactus into the Parodia genus. The move is still with controversy today.

Some called Notocatus by the name Parodia cactus. Example: “Notocactus leninghausii” is also known as “Parodia leninghausii.”

These plants are easy to grow, especially when following the simple care tips below.

Yellow flowers of the Notocactus Mammulosus cactus

Notocactus Growing And Care Instructions

Size & Growth

Like many of the hardy succulents native to South America and the Southwest, these plants are best suited for dry, arid environments.

They don’t need a lot of water and recommended for USDA hardiness zones 6 to 7.

These plants can live for many years, but they may not grow very large. They tend to grow in a ball or barrel-shaped and produce brush-like spines.

Most people rarely get their cactus ball to grow bigger than 4″ to 6″ inches.

After several years, plants may achieve a height closer to one foot. There are also some species of this plant that may only reach three inches and never get any taller.

Flowering and Fragrance

It takes about three years before these plants start to produce flowers.

The flowers sprout from the top of the cacti and typically form a cluster. In some cases, the flowers may exceed the size of the cactus plant.

With most ball type cactus species, the flowers are a bright yellow or yellowish-orange. They don’t produce a fragrance.

To help your cacti flower, follow these extra steps in the winter:

  • Water occasionally during the winter
  • Keep the plant in temperatures below 50° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Use an airy potting soil mixture containing sand and pumice

These steps increase the chances of a healthy blooming plant.

Light & Temperature

Notocactus prefers a lot of full sun. It should get plenty of light and heat throughout the day, especially during the spring and summer.

Indoors place plants in a south-facing window without risk of scorching the plant.

In the winter, plants can tolerate colder temperatures. It may survive freezing temperatures when grown outdoors in colder regions.

Watering and Feeding

In the summer, water frequently. Keep an eye on the moisture. Do not allow plants to sit in excessively wet soil. This increases the risk of fungal attacks and rot.

Apply fertilizer during the warmer months and not at all during the winter months. Scale back the watering during the winter, allowing the plant to rest.

Soil & Transplanting

These succulent plants do not have an extensive root structure. Plant in a cactus mix or regular potting soil mixed with pumice, perlite, or sand.

It should offer excellent drainage helping to protect the plant from fungus.

Plants only need transplanting when they outgrow its pot or you want to use a different container.

These plants grow slowly and don’t get very big. They should be fine remaining in the same container for its entire life.

Grooming & Maintenance

No grooming is necessary. However, plants may need a little bit of surgery on occasion. If you detect soft spots or the plant is starting to rot, you can attempt to cut away the rot.

If the rot spreads too far, it will become impossible to treat, throw the plant away.

How to Propagate Notocactus Plants

Depending on the species, you may be able to obtain seeds from the flowers or bare root offsets from around the base.

If rot takes over the plant, these may be your only options for saving it.

Collect seeds from the dried flowers after the flowering season. Allow the flowers to dry, and then shake the seeds free.

Check for offsets. However, offsets do not appear around every ball type cactus.

When growing from seed, use cactus soil and sow in a flat dish. Add only about 1-1/2″ inches of soil poured over a bed or stone or gravel.

Cover the seeds with sand and cover with a plastic sheet.

After the seedlings appear, remove the plastic sheet and give the seeds more sunlight. The following year, transplant the seedlings to individual containers.

REad our article for more on propagating all type of cactus.

Popular Varieties

Notocactus magnificus (Parodia magnifica)– ballon cactus, easy grower, cannot tolerate frost

Notocactus leninghausii (Parodia leninghausii) – Golden ball cactus, golden spines, looks like a miniature barrel cactus

Notocactus scopa – Silver ball, pretty classic cactus, soft, silvery-white, deserves a place in every collection, lemon-yellow flowers

Notocactus schlosseri (Parodia erubescense) – Low growing, sharp white to orange spines, yellow blooms, easy to grow

Notocactus buiningii (Parodia buiningii) – many sharp ribs, bright emerald green body, large yellow flowers

Notocactus concinnus – prolific bloomer, papery yellow flowers

Pests or Diseases Of Notocactus

Spider mites, mealybugs, and rot are the biggest threats. With the critters, use an insecticide or try to wash them away with soapy water.

If you detect rot, remember to try cutting it out before it spreads.

Suggested Ball Cacti Uses

These small cactus works best in a succulent garden surrounded by other cacti.

Consider pairing it with other ball cacti. Mixing and matching a few different species should produce some interesting displays.