Commonly called ball cactus due to its shape, Parodia [par-ROH-dee-uh] is a large genus of flowering cactus plants and belong to the family Cactaceae.
While most commonly appearing in a globular shape, these cacti also come in barrel shapes.
The genus Parodia consists of around 50 species of showy bluish-green columnar cacti.
Many of these Parodia cactus species include ones transferred from Notocactus, Wigginsia, and Eriocactus.
These easy-to-grow flowering cacti are native to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Uruguay, and Brazil.
The name of the genus is homage to the 20th-century Argentinean botanist, Lorenzo Raimundo Parodia.
He was one of the early investigators of the Paraguayan flora.
Parodia Cactus Care
Size & Growth
The size of the plants depends on the Parodia species.
Some species like the Parodia magnifica grow in the form of small globose cacti, while other species are barrel-shaped or columnar.
For example, the species Parodia leninghausii is a common houseplant commonly called Golden Ball cactus or Yellow Tower cactus.
The young plants of this species are globular but become columnar up to 36″ inches tall.
Like some cactus and succulent plants, the Parodia genus is also slow growing.
In optimal conditions, it can take a few years to mature.
All species are deeply ribbed and spiny, with a flower at or near the top of the crown.
Flowering and Fragrance
Parodia flower depends on the genus.
Older and mature Parodia cactus will regularly produce blooms.
Depending on the species, the flowers can vary in colors, such as red, pink, orange or yellow.
Most species bloom beautiful, satiny flowers ranging from 2″-3″ inches in diameter. This can vary depending on the species.
Most plants in the Parodia genus flower in the summer or springtime, popping up bright single flowers on the crown of the cactus. Some species also produce fruit.
An example includes the species Parodia arnostiana, which produces green fruit between 1/2″ and 3/4″ inches in size.
Light and Temperature
Like all other cacti genera, Parodia cacti needs plenty of sunlight in the day to do well.
Indoors keep the cactus in a south or west facing window for optimal light exposure.
Parodia cactus needs shelter for the exposure to full sun during the hot afternoon sun.
Direct morning sun is optimal for Parodia. As for hardiness, they do best in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Parodia’s native habitat can become quite cold and dry during the winter time.
The temperatures can drop as low as 35° degrees Fahrenheit without harming the plant.
However, they are best grown indoors when the temperature drops below 50° degrees Fahrenheit.
If the plant is exposed to frost, it can inhibit or stop its growth.
Watering and Feeding
Parodia cactus love moist, well-drained and hydrated soil, especially during the growing season.
During spring and summer time, regulate the watering and make sure you water intermittently to keep the soil moist.
When the temperature drops in the winter months, cut back the watering frequency.
Let the soil almost dry out between watering.
As for feeding, the Parodia enjoy a rich fertilizer during the growing season.
During the summer and springtime, use a balanced cactus fertilizer mix once a month to feed the plants.
In winter, stop feeding the plant.
Soil and Transplanting
A nurturing soil is the base of a healthy Parodia cactus.
Plants need a mix of rich, fast-draining soil to allow it to thrive. Use a combination of sand, chalk, and loam to provide the cactus with all the necessary nutrients.
Indoors Parodia cactus needs transplanting periodically.
If you let the cactus stay in a smaller pot for too long, it can become root bound and retards the growth.
Choose a new pot 1″ inch bigger in diameter than the previous one.
Start by watering the plant well and gently lift the plant root ball out.
Use fresh soil in the new pot and transplant the cactus.
Fill the hole gently, and do not pack the soil too tightly, allowing air to reach the roots.
Also, do not fertilize right away to allow the roots to acclimate. Water a week after transplanting to prevent root rot.
Grooming and Maintenance
The Parodia cacti are fairly self-sufficient and don’t require a lot of grooming or maintenance.
Avoid overwatering to reduce the possibility of root rot. Also, ensure the winter temperatures don’t drop below 40° degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Propagate Parodia
Propagate Parodia from offsets and seeds.
If you’re starting from seeds, keep the seedlings moist for the first few months.
Next it’s a waiting game as it can take a long time for Parodia cacti to grow.
Using offsets is the faster propagation route.
You’ll find offsets on the base of older Parodia plants.
Carefully remove the offset and let it dry for a couple of days.
During this time, the cut piece will develop a callous. Once the callous forms, plant the offset in soil.
Keep the cactus in a warm place until it develops new roots.
Once roots develop replant the cactus in a regular pot and maintain the growth.
Parodia Pest or Disease Problem
Parodia cacti are relatively disease resistant. The most common problem, which is root rot, arising from overwatering.
To avoid this, make sure the soil is almost dry before watering.
As for pests, the common succulent pests include mealybugs and aphids, which may appear once the cactus starts flowering.
Consult your local nursery or garden center to help reduce their population.
Suggested Parodia Uses
The radiant flowers of the Parodia make the genus a perfect addition to the garden landscape and as an indoor plant sitting in a cactus window garden.