Notocactus / Parodia
Notocactus is a genus with dozens of species, many of which are popular and easily grown in collections. You probably know or have seen many of the species, or have ogled them on Instagram and wished you could have such an impressive specimen in your own collection.
Their popularity is well deserved!
With many species staying small and easy to manage, while also easy to encourage to bloom with large, showy flowers, they’re a delight for any grower.
Current scientific nomenclature indicates that all Notocactus should now be treated as Parodia, something that many growers don’t quite seem to be honoring. Why, I’m not sure, but you will often find these cacti still referred to by their now-outdated name. For this reason, I use the two interchangeably here, but I have no personal attachment to either moniker.
Location in the wild
Notocactus / Parodia are found throughout Eastern South America, in Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay.
These cacti grow in a wide range of habitat types and conditions, so no blanket description of their preferred conditions can really be made.
Conditions in situ
The popular cultivated species are common because they are hardy, easy to care for, and forgiving. With so many species that cover such a range of area, there are no hard and fast rules for every single species in the genus.
However, most are tolerant of light frosts (32F for very brief periods), and do best in warmer weather.
They are easy to encourage to flower, and generally stay small.
Parodia (Notocactus) buingingii
This species can be found in Southern Brazil and Northern Uruguay, growing as a solitary globe that does not get particularly large.
It is known for the emerald green body and long, yellow spines that cover it. Flowers are large and showy, with pale yellow iridescent petals, brilliant yellow pollen and a distinctive red-violet stigma that is impossible to miss.
They bloom in summer, usually early in the season as the days are reaching their longest, and typically do not get much taller than 4 or 5 inches.
A favorite species in my collection, they are very eye catching when well grown and easy to cultivate.
They are tolerant of cooler nights in winter, so long as they are kept dry, and can cope with brief periods of light frost. They prefer being cooler compared to other cacti, but tolerate highs into the 100s as long as they have had time to acclimate (mine are routinely exposed to 110+ during the day in the greenhouse).
Some care guides suggest using rainwater, or fertilizing with sequestered iron occasionally, but in the year I’ve had mine I have used only regular tap water and cactus fertilizer with no ill effects. I also have relatively alkaline tap water, and guides say to use an acidic compost – and the cacti have been fine to date.
Parodia (Notocactus) graessneri var. flaviflorus
Synonym: Parodia haselbergii subs. graesneri
A tropical cactus species native to East of Rio Grande do Sul, in Southern Brazil. Being a tropical species does not mean that it should be constantly wet, but rather that during the hot growing season it can take quite a bit more water than other cacti species.
In the wild, they seldom expereince temperatures below freezing, but can tolerate occasional light frosts in cultivation.
These are a self-fertile species, and are often one of the first to bloom in spring. Compared to the species Parodia haselbergii, their flowers are brilliant yellow green and they have significantly more spines with longer “hair” than the nominate form.
Thrives with plenty of water during the summer growing season, but should be watered cautiously in winter to prevent rot. Thrives in poor soils and needs minimal fertilizer.
Prone to mealybug in the crown due to the dense hair, and one of the easiest ways to guard against it is to use a systemic pesticide in the soil once the blooming season has past.
For best appearance, grow in bright light and with poor soil; plentiful water and shade will result in lots of fleshy growth (as seen at left) rather than the dense spination and compact growth the subspecies is known for. Below is the same specimen a few months earlier when I first bought it.
Parodia (Notocactus) concinnus var. gerbalitoensis
A very specific “local form” of the wide ranging species Parodia concinnus, although they are almost impossible to tell apart from the nominate form of the species. “Most botanist agree on the fact that both should be included in the Parodia concinna, and the two plants are not readily distinguishable, if not for the geographical provenance.”
This form is found specifically in Yerbalito, Cerro Largo, in Uruguay, but the nominate form of the species can be found throughout the country as well as throughout Southern Brazil.
Generally grows on rocky outcrops in grasslands, rarely more than 4″ tall and usually a flattened sphere. Produces up to 5 blooms at the apex of the plant, with a mostly yellow flower that blushes slightly red, particularly at the tips. Stigma is brilliant red. Blooms in summer.
Easy to grow species that looks best with some shade during the hottest part of the day. Care guides typically recommend full sun, but those may be written by people who do not grow their cacti in blazing desert conditions. While for me, that means partial shade, if you are in a more northern location then full sun is likely best.
Can tolerate winter drops to just below freezing if kept perfectly dry, but prefers it warmer even in winter.
Grow in a poor soil with minimal fertilizers, which means mix your succulent soil with pumice for best results. If their soil is too rich, they grow too fleshy and become prone to pests.
Does well as a staged specimen, as once established in a shallow pot with good drainage, they can stay there for years.
Parodia (Notocactus) magnifica
One of the most striking species of Parodia, hence the name “magnifica”.
Native primarily to Brazil, with some fragmented populations into Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Found in a highly temperate region, commonly in rock crevices in deciduous forests or hilly grasslands. They grow in well-draining, highly organic soils due to the high amounts of leaf litter that occur from leaf drop and decomposition.
They experience cold winters, but rarely below freezing, and it is almost entirely dry through their coldest months.
Body is a blue-green glaucous globe, flattened top, and forms large clusters with time. Easily gets at least 12″ tall with age, and cultivated specimens may get even larger.
Protect from extreme winter temperatures, and for best appearance, some shade during the hottest part of the day is ideal. While some shade when it’s hot is ideal in southern desert climates, you also cannot get their best appearance without quite a bit of summer heat. They strongly prefer being able to get into at least the mid to high 80s during the growing season, with even hotter highs preferred.
Grows quickly and flowers profusely, making them ideal for landscaping in the right climate or container growing in colder regions.
Does well with regular water during the summer growing season, but needs to be kept almost perfectly dry in winter when it is cold.
Parodia (Notocactus) schlosseri
Found primarily in Uruguay, this is a small and attractive cactus.
Green body with red spines and white wool, usually grows as a single stem that is slightly spherical to columnar, up to 8″ tall and 5″ wide.
Flowers with large, yellow blooms that have brilliant red stigmas at center, typical of many parodia.
Easy to grow, particularly as they do not appreciate full sun in hot summer months nor do they like extreme cold, making them ideal for container collectors.
Grows readily from seed, and accepts plentiful water during the sumemr growing season. Keep quite dry in winter, and protect from temperatures below 40F.
Can be prone to mealybugs (hard to see against their white wool), as well as spider mites, particularly if you are keeping the cactus indoors.
When growing from seed, monstrose or crested forms can pop up – see below.