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growing a silver ball cactus

Growing A Silver Ball Cactus

You’ll have more success growing a silver ball cactus if you don’t place it in direct sunlight and you water it more frequently than some of your other cactus plants.  Now take care that it doesn’t sit in standing water.

It’s shape is typically in the form of a small ball or barrel shape with brush-like spines.  Of course this could very well account for part of its name scopa. Because in Latin scopa means broom. 

Silver ball cactus are sensitive to oxygen deficiency so it’s important that you have soil that is air and water permeable to avoid root rot.  When watering the water should pass through the soil quickly rather than slowly seeping down.  

The white and yellow blooms from the silver ball cactus are edible but make sure to check that your specific species is safe to consume.

Yet, the silver ball cactus is considered vulnerable.  The IUCN placed it on the Red list in 2017.  If risks from grazing, illegal collection and rappel sports aren’t addressed, its survival and reproduction won’t improve.  Thereby making it likely to become endangered.

Silver Ball Cactus: aka silver ball, snowball cactus, and notocactus

Botanical Name & Family: Parodia Scopa 

Other Silver Ball Cactus Species: Notocactus scopa, Malacocarpus scopa, Cactus scopa, Cereus scopa, Echinopsis scopa, Perononcactus scopa

Photo: Andie Cumber

How To Grow A Silver Ball Cactus

  • Light: Full indirect sun in the morning or afternoon because it likes a bit of shade for cooling off as well.
  • Benefits: Improved air quality, edible flowers 
  • Soil: A fertile soil consisting of 60% lightweight vermiculite, 20% coco coir or peat moss and 20% sandy soil.  This mixture will give you a rich fertile soil that is water and air permeable. If you need to increase soil fertility add some eggshell powder.  Keep the soil at a 6-7 pH value.
  • Watering: Water regularly when the soil is completely dry during the growing season.   Cut back on watering during the winter season to once a month which will allow for a cooling period to encourage blooming come growing season.
  • Fertilizer: Before and after blooming use a low concentration slow release phosphate-potassium liquid fertilizer in the spring, summer and fall.  No fertilizer is necessary in the winter.
  • Repotting: Repot during the warm season and make sure the soil is dry.  Knock off excessive soil and add fresh soil with
  • Toxicity: Not toxic but their prickly spines or barbed glochids can cause mouth and skin irritations.
  • How big will it grow: It can grow up to 20 inches tall in the wild but rarely grow more than 6 inches tall and 4 inches in diameter.
  • Propagating: Use the seeding or the division and grafting method.  If you have offsets growing you can cut them off with a sharp knife.  Let sit on a paper towel for a few days to form a callus over the cut surface.  Once the callus has formed, place the cut side down into the appropriate cactus potting soil.  Wait a few days then give it a good watering.
  • Temperature: Does well in hardiness zones 9b to 11b with temperatures ranging from 25°F (-3.9°C) to 50°F (+10°C)
  • Handling: The spines on the snow ball cactus can prick and injure the skin so wear gloves or use tongs when handling this plant. 
  • Lifespan: Perennial

Finally, if you’re looking for another cactus that’s easy to grow then check out my blog post on the golden barrel cactus