Notocactus magnificus, also known as ‘Balloon Cactus’ or ‘Parodia Magnifica’ is a stunning bluish-green spherical cactus native to the highlands of South America (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina). If you look at it from above, you’ll notice pale yellow or golden spines lined up on 11 to 15 vertical ribs.
As it grows, usually in clusters, the stem can reach up to 8 inches and has a diameter of up to 6 inches. During the spring and summer months, Notocactus magnificus puts out bright yellow flowers about 2.2 inches long. If you want to learn tips on how to successfully grow your Notocactus magnificus, keep reading this informative article.
Featured Image Credit: @gardenpigeon
Popular Varieties Of Notocactus
Recently, the genus Notocactus has undergone nomenclatural changes, and as a result, all Notocacti are now included in the genus Parodia, given the fact that Notocacti and Parodias have enough similar characteristics to be placed in one comprehensive genus. Besides Notocactus magnificus, you can find other popular varieties listed below.
- Notocactus leninghausii (Parodia leninghausii): a very popular houseplant cactus featuring bristly golden spines and silky yellow flowers when blooming.
- Notocactus scopa (Parodia scopa): silvery ball cactus with soft fur-like spines, it produces a large, light yellow flower during the spring months.
- Notocactus schlosseri (Parodia erubescense): a globular slow-growing cactus with sharp white to orange spines and bright lemon flowers appearing during late spring and summer.
- Notocactus buiningii (Parodia buiningii): a rare species of cactus with a unique bright emerald green body, many sharp ribs, and large yellow flowers that open during the day and close at night.
How To Care For Notocactus magnificus
If you are a beginner, then Notocactus magnificus is the perfect plant to grow, because it doesn’t require any special care and can survive in many environmental and growing conditions. It can be grown both indoors and outdoors. In any case, keep in mind that you will need to provide your chubby friend with proper growing conditions to make it thrive well.
Notocactus magnificus is hardy to USDA zone 9 only so, depending on where you live, you will need to grow this plant indoors and move it outside just for summer. This cactus is not cold-hardy and will suffer greatly in freezing climates and won’t be able to tolerate frost for very long. If your region gets mild winters, you may be able to leave the plant outdoors all year long and even plant it directly into the ground.
However, if you live in an area with extreme winter conditions and temperatures below 20°F (-6,7 C°), you should grow your balloon cactus in pots or containers and keep it indoors or in a greenhouse to protect it from freezing temperatures. If you have to leave your plant outdoors during winter, make sure you provide protection from frost by using frost cloths.
Light And Water Requirements
If grown outdoors as part of a cactus or succulent garden, your Notocactus magnificus should be planted in an area that gets at least 6 hours of morning sunlight. However, during extreme heat or heatwaves, it’s a good idea to place a sunshade over the cactus to protect it from sunburn. If grown indoors, make sure you provide your plant with plenty of bright light, by placing the pot in a sunny spot such as near a southern-facing window. If you lack sunlight, you may use grow lights, but natural light is always preferable.
As far as watering requirements, always remember that Notoctus magnificus is drought-resistant, and overwatering it may lead to waterlogging and then root rot.
If you keep your balloon cactus outdoors and you get regular rainfall in the area where you live, you can forget about watering! Otherwise, water every 2-3 weeks during summer and less frequently during the winter months, when the cactus go dormant.
If you grow your cactus in pots or containers, I suggest you follow the ‘soak and dry’ method: water the soil until it is completely soaked and wait until it’s totally dried out before watering again (this may depend on your location and container). It’s also important to keep Notocactus in well-draining soil in a pot with a drainage hole to avoid root rot.
Pot And Soil
If you plan to grow your Notocactus magnificus in a pot, you should choose a terracotta or clay one with drainage holes to reduce the risk of overwatering and consequent roots rot. Terracotta or clay pots provide a healthy environment for most plants.
The porosity of clay allows air and moisture to penetrate the sides of the pot. That being said, terracotta pots release moisture faster when it’s hot outside, which means you’ll need to water plants more frequently to prevent soil from drying out.
For best-growing results, use a rich fast-draining cactus mix for your balloon cactus that allows for stronger root growth. For extra drainage, you can add 70% to 80% mineral grit such as coarse sand, pumice, or perlite.
As far as fertilizing your Notocactus, if you’ve just repotted it in fresh soil, fertilization may not be necessary since the soil still has plenty of nutrients in it. However, if you do need to add some nutrients to the soil, it is best to apply an organic fertilizer at half-strength during the summer season when the plant is actively growing.
When your Notocactus has outgrown a small pot, transplanting is necessary and beneficial to the well-being of the whole plant, preferably during the warm season. Start by gently remove the whole plant from the pot. Then remove the old soil from the roots and look for any signs of pests or decay.
Don’t be afraid to prune roots too – it’s helpful and encourages new growth. Place the plant in a larger pot and fill it up with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the soil to dry for a week or more, then start to water lightly to reduce the risk of overwatering with consequent root rot.
Pests And Diseases Affecting Notocactus
Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites can be very damaging to your Notocactus. These particular arachnids are tiny, about 1/8th of an inch, and you might need a magnifying glass to actually spot them. They act by forming a web around your plant and sucking the juice from the stem. Unfortunately, they reproduce very quickly and you need to act fast to save your plant from dying.
If your cactus has been attacked, you will notice a dramatic change in its appearance: it will rapidly start drying out and present yellow or brown discoloration. To treat your infected cactus you can use Neem Oil: it has a strong smell that repels most of the pests. Neem oil is also safe to use as it does not have any effect on humans, birds, or other animals.
When your cactus starts turning yellow and then brown and mushy at the top it means that is rotting, unfortunately. Cactus rot is caused by either fungus, disease, or overwatering. If you keep the soil too wet you can see a yellow shade developing on your cactus. This is a sign of stress, and the plant can’t live in such moist conditions.
But just because your cactus is rotting doesn’t mean you can’t save it. What you want to do is stop watering and prune your cactus with a sharp knife or pruning shears to remove the rotted part.
Mealybugs are common pests that attack the roots, body, and spines of your cactus. Getting rid of them can be quite challenging since these pests have a wooly protective cover making them resistant to common pesticides.
They have an amazing ability to hide in the unexpected and narrowest places like between stem and leaves, nested in dried-up leaves, under pots, and tables.
They can even hide in debris around the plant and lay their eggs (up to 600) out of sight but close to the plants so when the little nymphs hatch, they don’t have far to crawl.
This is why detecting them early and isolating them is the best practice. It’s also important to keep clean not only the pots but also the whole area around them.
Solution: if you happen to find a few bugs, it’s easy to squash them with a toothpick. Next, pull out the infected leaves and thoroughly check around the plant to see if there are any bugs left.
Once you have detected and isolated the infected plant, it’s crucial to keep an eye on it for several weeks, just to make sure there aren’t any other outbreaks.
Another possible scenario occurs with a large mealybugs infestation: in this case, it’s necessary to spray the plants with a 70% rubbing alcohol or isopropyl solution with multiple applications. To completely get rid of these tiny pests it’s necessary to kill and wash off every single one.
How To Propagate Notocactus magnificus
The Notocactus magnificus can be easily propagated from offsets (they look like small balls), commonly called pups, which develop rapidly around the mother’s plant base. Following a few easy steps, you can successfully propagate your cactus.
- Wearing a pair of rubber gloves, carefully remove the offsets from the mature plant using a twisting motion. You may also use a clean sharp knife to cut the connection point.
- Place the offsets onto a piece of paper towel and allow them to dry out for a few days until the ‘callus’ ( a soft tissue that forms the cut leading to healing) is formed over the cut surface.
- When the offsets are nice and dry, dip the ends into the rooting hormone (optional) and stick them cut-side down into a well-draining cactus potting mix.
- Keep the container in a bright spot but away from direct sunlight then slowly transfer it to a sunnier spot.
- To avoid any risk of root rot or other infections, do no water your offsets right away. Wait for a few days and then water sparingly, only when the soil feels dry to the touch.
How Do You Get Your Notocactus magnificus To Flower?
The Notocactus magnificus produces bright, yellow-lemon silky flowers during the spring and summer months. Keep in mind that not all cactus species bloom and some do not bloom at all! If you wish to see that gorgeous silky yellow flower sprout on top of your Notocactus, there are few things you can do to encourage it to bloom.
First of all, during the winter months, when the plant goes dormant, cut back on watering (water sparingly only when the soil is completely dry to the touch). Then, to boost flowering, increase the amount of watering and feed your Notocactus with a liquid fertilizer during spring and summer.
Is Notocactus Magnificus Toxic Or Poisonous to Pets?
The Notocactus magnificus is not mentioned on the list of ASPCA toxic plants for pets. Your four-legged friend is unlikely to get too close to your Notocacus anyway, due to the presence of its sharp spines. However, if he does get stung, my advice is to call your veterinarian right away to avoid complications.
Hope you enjoyed reading this article on Notocactus magnificus (Balloon cactus, Parodia magnifica) and found it comprehensive and enlightening! If you like, feel free to leave a comment or share your knowledge on this topic in the section below.