The Rare and Beautiful Balloon Cactus

The Balloon cactus is native to South America. Notocactus magnificus is a desert cactus variety and not tolerant to frost. As a houseplant it is not as common as other indoor cacti making it a sought-after addition for indoor plant collectors.

Notocactus magnificus

Balloon Cactus Appearance

The Balloon cactus, from the Parodia species of cacti,  has a round shape with blue-green stems. Raised ridges spiral down from the top center point to create a beautiful visual effect. Each ridge features wooly spines growing down the length. This Balloon cactus is considered fast growing and reaches a height of 12 inches ( 31 cm) tall when grown in a pot. The cacti’s bright-yellow blooms appear in summer, growing out from the top of the cactus. 

Balloon Cactus Light Requirements

Provide your Balloon Cactus with six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight per day. Morning or evening exposure is best as the heat of mid-day sun may cause scorching. If moved outside, only do so during the warmer months when night temperatures do not stay well below freezing for extended periods. Choose a spot with morning sun only or all-day, dappled sunlight.

Water Needs

Water this Parodia variety deeply once the soil has dried out. Water until the moisture runs through the drainage holes but do not let the soil become soggy. Allow time for excess water to drain into the pot’s drip tray, then dispose of excess water to prevent root rot. Continue this watering schedule from spring to late fall.

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and Humidity
World of Succulents

Provide average household levels of temperature and humidity for your Balloon cactus. As Parodia varieties are not generally frosted tolerant, outdoor plants should be brought inside if temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit ( -6.7 degrees Celsius) as they will not survive. High humidity is not recommended for Notocactus magnificus, so a dehumidifier is needed indoors with humid conditions. Avoid placing this cactus in kitchens or bathrooms where moisture is typically higher.

Soil and Fertilizer

Grow the Ballon cactus is a fast-draining cactus soil or a custom blend of potting soil amended with equal parts perlite and coarse sand. The water should flow through the soil freely and not pool up on the surface when the plant is watered. To encourage ample blooming, feed the cactus a cactus fertilizer diluted to half strength once every two weeks or once per month, depending on the plant’s size. 

Balloon Cactus Propagation

The Balloon cactus is propagated by either seeds or cuttings. While the seed method is considered less successful, seeds are gathered from blooms once they expire. Sow the seeds on top of a cactus oil mix in a small pot or container. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and keep the soil moist until germination occurs. Cover the top of the pot with plastic wrap to keep moisture in. Once germinated, the established seedlings are transplanted into their own pots.

Propagate cuttings by removing an established offset that is a few inches long. Use a sharp and sterile knife and wear gloves for protection. Set the cutting on a paper towel and allow the cutting to dry and form a callus. Once a callus is formed, plant the cutting into a pot filled with a cactus soil mix. Water the cutting every few days to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Provide bright, indirect light until the new cactus becomes established with its own root system. Once established, move the plant to increased sunlight and water normally.

Wintering a Balloon Cactus

Wintering a Balloon Cactus
Cyprus Cactus

Allowed the Parodia Balloon cactus to go dormant for the winter months to encourage blooming in the summer. Reduce waterings to no more than once per month if the cactus becomes shriveled. Provide no more than three to four hours of sunlight per day. Temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 10 degrees Celsius) will help trigger dormancy. Once early spring arrives, return to regular waterings and feed with a liquid cactus fertilizer diluted to half strength. 

The Balloon cactus is easy to grow provided its water, light, and temperature needs are met. The cactus moves easily from indoors to outside as long as frost is avoided. The large, showy blooms that appear on top make this cactus a stunning addition to any home.

Balloon Cactus FAQ

What Growing Zones Does the Balloon Cactus Do Best In?

The Balloon cactus will thrive outdoors in USDA zones 9b to 11b. Avoid all-day full sun and extended periods of frost for optimal growth.

When Should I Repot My Balloon Cactus?

Repot this Parodia Balloon cactus in the spring or summer when temperatures are warm. Allow the soil to dry before repotting and shake excess soil from the roots. Prune stray or damaged roots and repot in cactus soil or an amended mixture. Spread out the roots and withhold water for one week before slowly introducing waterings.

What Pests Affect the Balloon Cactus?

Mealybugs and spider mites are the most common pests to watch for. Remove mealybugs with either a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, or treat the entire plant by spraying a 70 percent rubbing alcohol over the entire plant. Use an insecticidal soap to treat spider mite infestations. 

Why is My Balloon Cactus Turning Yellow?

A variety of reasons could trigger a Balloon cactus to turn yellow. The most common problems are overwatering, too much sun exposure, or a pest infestation. 

What Causes a Balloon Cactus to Turn Brown?

If the plant is mature and the browning is only on the surface with no softening of the stems it is likely a natural occurrence called corking. If the browning is prominent and the stem is soft this is likely due to rot. Remove the affected area with a sharp and sterile knife to rid the plant of rot and stop it from spreading. Reduce waterings as excessive moisture is often the cause.

Cindy McKie
About Cindy McKie
Cindy McKie provides helpful, easy-to-follow care guides for plant lovers of all experience levels. She has written for several online gardening publications and has self-published her own guide to growing herbs under the pen name Sophia Darby. When not writing about plants, she can be found in her gardens or reading a good book.

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