How to Grow and Care for Balloon Cactus (Parodia magnifica)

Spread the love

Balloon cactus is a lovely ball-shaped cactus that grows happily in temperate climates. The plant exhibits deep ridges on the bluish-green stems that appear perfectly symmetrical. These ridges are adorned with bristle-like pale yellow spines. These are not as sharp as those found on the barrel cactus.

The top of each “ball” is usually a little sunken but this is where the flowers form. These flowers are bright yellow and very showy. The plant starts out as a solitary column or ball but will spread by producing side offsets.

History

Previously known as Eriocactus magnificus or Notocactus magnificus. The Parodia genus is named after Domingo Parodi. He was one of the early investigators of flora in Paraguay.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameParodia magnifica
Common namesBalloon cactus, Green Ball cactus, Blue Ball cactus, Ball cactus
GenusParodia
FamilyCactaceae
Height8 inches
Width6 inches
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9b to 11b
OriginBrazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina
Flower colorsBright yellow
Blooming seasonSummer
Plant/Flower special featuresIn its natural habitat, this cactus has been designated as “endangered” by the IUCN Red List.

How to Plant and Grow Balloon Cactus

Parodia magnifica is relatively easy to grow as long as it receives the right conditions. It’s perfectly suited to growing in pots but can also be planted in the ground in a rock garden if you live in a temperate climate.

The balloon cactus is quite fast-growing and will form interesting clumps. It also flowers easily when fertilized in summer. This cactus makes an interesting specimen to add to your collection and looks great in a terracotta pot.

When growing in a pot, make sure that the pot is large enough to accommodate the spreading habit of this cactus. If you’re starting out with a smaller pot, you may need to re-pot every couple of years as the cactus continues to grow and spread.

To re-pot your balloon cactus, wait for the soil to dry completely. Remove the plant from the pot and shake off as much soil from the roots as you can. Also, remove any rotten or dead roots and apply a fungicide to any cuts. Then, you can place the plant in its new pot that you’ve filled with a free-draining cactus mix.

How to Propagate Balloon Cactus

Balloon cactus can be propagated using either seeds or cutting the side offsets. Using offsets will usually produce faster results but you have to be careful to ensure that they don’t rot before they produce roots. Here’s what to do:

  • Gently cut the side offsets with a sharp knife.
  • Leave these on a piece of paper towel for a few days until the cut ends start to callus.
  • Using a gritty cactus mix, push the stems into the soil gently and make sure that they’re upright so that the roots can grow down.
  • Keep fairly dry as too much moisture will cause the stems to rot before they have a chance to produce roots.

Care and Maintenance

Parodia magnifica needs to be grown in a deep pot that has many drainage holes. It needs an open mix that contains lots of grit. Never allow this cactus to sit in water as this could cause the roots to rot.

If growing in the ground, it prefers an open, sandy soil that does not hold water. This cactus likes to dry out in between watering. For this reason, this plant is ideal for growing in raised rock gardens that have really good drainage.

Soil

Parodia magnifica needs a very well-draining medium to grow in. If growing in a pot, make sure you use a specialized cactus mix. The mix needs to have a very open structure and contain lots of grit and very little organic matter such as compost. The mix should be slightly acidic in the pH range of 4 to 6.

Water

The roots of the balloon cactus do not tolerate sitting in water. This cactus is quite drought-hardy and should only be watered after the soil has been allowed to dry out completely.

Keep your balloon cactus dry in winter and then start watering again once the weather warms up.

Fertilizer

You should fertilize your balloon cactus in summer to encourage the plant to produce its gorgeous blooms. Use a fertilizer specifically designed for cacti but that is high in potassium. The potassium will encourage flowering.

Sunlight

The balloon cactus can be grown in full sun but it will grow happily if given a moderate amount of shade, especially in the afternoon. If you want to move your plant to a full sun position after it’s been growing in part shade, you’ll have to harden it off gradually to avoid the cactus being burned.

To do this, just move the plant into the sun for an hour at first and then gradually increase the time over a few days. If you plan on planting your balloon cactus in a new position in the garden that receives sun all day, you’ll have to provide your plant with some shade in the afternoon for the first week or so.

Temperature and Humidity

Parodia magnifica is frost-tender and prefers a warm, temperate climate. It likes to be kept dry in the cooler months. Therefore, it will not grow well in areas with high humidity.

If you live in an area that experiences mild winters without frost, you can grow this cactus outdoors. Otherwise, it’s best to grow it in a pot and bring it inside when the temperature starts to dip.

Pruning

This plant does not require pruning.

Pest and diseases

Parodia magnifica is not prone to any diseases or pest infestations.

Uses of Balloon Cactus

Parodia magnifica is mainly used as an ornamental plant and is commonly grown in pots. It has a striking appearance and adds interest to the landscape. It’s also useful as a houseplant when grown on a bright windowsill.

This cactus flowers well in summer, especially if it’s been given some fertilizer containing potassium. Therefore, it’s useful for displaying in a group with other flowering cacti or succulents for a stunning display of blooms.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are around 70 species of Parodia cactus plants in the Parodia genus. Here is a selection of the more outstanding ones.

  • Parodia ampliocostata
  • Parodia andreae
  • Parodia arachnitis
  • Parodia buiningii
  • Parodia chrysacanthion
  • Parodia compressa
  • Parodia culpinensis
  • Parodia erinacea
  • Parodia ferruginea
  • Parodia formosa
  • Parodia fusca
  • Parodia gibbulosoides
  • Parodia grossei 
  • Parodia haselbergii
  • Parodia herteri
  • Parodia laui
  • Parodia leninghausii
  • Parodia maassii
  • Parodia mammulosa
  • Parodia microsperma
  • Parodia mueller-melchersii
  • Parodia nigrispina
  • Parodia nivosa
  • Parodia orthacantha
  • Parodia ottonis
  • Parodia otuyensis
  • Parodia penicillata
  • Parodia polyacantha
  • Parodia roseoalba
  • Parodia rubida
  • Parodia rutilans
  • Parodia schlosseri
  • Parodia schumanniana 
  • Parodia scopa
  • Parodia sellowii
  • Parodia subterranea
  • Parodia suprema
  • Parodia talaensis
  • Parodia tenuicylindrica
  • Parodia warasii
  • Parodia werneri 

Conclusion

Parodia magnifica is a lovely ballooned-shaped cactus that has deep ridges on the stems. These ridges are adorned with pale yellow bristles that are not as sharp as other cactus spines. The plant will produce offsets from the base as it matures and these can be used to propagate new plants.

This is an easy-to-care-for cactus that thrives in temperate climates and only requires watering during the warmer months. It makes an attractive specimen to display in a terracotta pot, either indoors or on a patio or balcony.

Be sure to give your balloon cactus some fertilizer containing potassium in the summer if you want to enjoy its delightful blooms.