Indian Head Cactus, also known as Parodia ottonis, is a succulent plant native to South Africa. It is widespread in its natural habitat with no danger of extinction any time soon. The species is highly variable, with different specimens displaying wildly different characteristics from region to region. Local varieties with minor differences pop up all the time, but most botanists agree that they’re essentially the same plant with minor differences. It is immensely popular among cactus enthusiasts as a beginner acquisition, often serving as the first cactus for many.
It is a small cactus, typically growing to only about 6 inches tall. The plants are globular in shape, growing cylindrical with age, and have ribs running along their sides. The spines densely cover the areolas and are a bit of a hazard if handled without care. Flowers grow from the top part of the body and are usually bright yellow with a red center.
Parodia ottonis Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Indian Head Cactus|
|Botanical Name||Parodia ottonis|
|Synonyms||Cactus ottonis Echinocactus ottonis Malacocarpus ottonis Notocactus ottonis Peronocactus ottonis|
|Native Range||Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9a to 11|
|Mature Size||Height: 6-12 inches; Spread: 15-18 inches|
|Bloom Time||Late Spring, Early Summer|
|Propagation methods||by cuttings, by offsets, by seeds|
|Sun||Full Sun to Partial Shade|
Indian Head Cactus Care
The Indian Head cactus is a beautiful plant that adds interest and visual appeal to any landscape. If you’re in the market for a low-maintenance plant that’s easy to care for, Parodia ottonis may be the perfect choice for you!
Light and Location
Parodia ottonis grows best in full sun to partial shade. If you live in an area with hot summers, it is best to provide some light shade to protect the plant from the intense sun. However, it prefers full sun in winter when the intensity of the sunlight gets milder.
The Indian Head Cactus should be watered sparingly when the soil is completely dry. Water the plant in the mornings so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. Stop watering entirely in the winter.
Parodia ottonis can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, from hot summers to cold winters. However, they prefer colder temperatures in winter, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And, they can tolerate below-freezing temperatures for short periods if kept dry.
The Indian Head Cactus prefers dry conditions. In fact, it desperately wants to avoid humid environments in cold weather. Don’t mist the plant, don’t topwater, and don’t pair it with humidity-hungry plants.
Parodia ottonis doesn’t require regular fertilizing. However, approprite feed will help your plant to grow a little faster. To do so, use a weak liquid fertilizer diluted by half in the spring and summer months only.
Propagating Parodia ottonis
Parodia ottonis can be propagated by offsets or seeds.
The Indian Head Cactus produces offsets or baby cacti that can be used to propagate new plants. To remove an offset, wait until it is at least 2 inches in diameter. Gently twist the offset away from the main plant and let it callous over for a few days before potting it in soil. Larger wounds take up more time to heal, so it depends on the size of the cut. Only plant the offset once the cutting has dried out. The cutting should root in a few days.
This cactus is self-fertile, which means it can pollinate itself and produce seeds. To grow a new plant from seed, collect the seeds once they are mature and plant them in moist, well-drained potting soil in late winter or early spring. Place the seeds in indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist. Keep the pot warm until germination. This takes a bit of time, so patience is required.
Potting and Repotting Indian Head Cactus
When repotting or potting this cactus, it is essential to use a well-drained soil mix composed of equal parts sand, perlite, and garden soil.
When potting new plants from offsets or seedlings, leave enough room in the pot for the roots to spread out. If the plant is crowded, it will not be able to grow properly. When repotting mature plants, avoid disturbing the roots too much, as this can damage or kill the plant.
To repot successfully, gently remove it from its old pot and tease out the roots with your fingers to check for any damaged sections that may need trimming. Position the plant in its new pot, making sure that the soil line is at the same level as it was previously. Water thoroughly and position in a warm, sunny location to promote fast growth. Over time, your cactus will become a strong and healthy plant!
Parodia ottonis is not toxic to humans or animals. However, as with all cacti, the spines can cause injury on contact, so it requires careful handling.
This cactus is somewhat susceptible to mealybugs and aphids. You can treat these pests with insecticidal soap or neem oil. But severe infestations might require professional help.
Indian Head Cactus: Tips for Indoor Care (Video)
How Should I Get My Indian Head Cactus to Flower?
To flower, your Indian head cactus needs a cool winter dormancy period. In its natural habitat, it experiences a drop in temperature and shorter days during the winter months. You can simulate this by keeping your cactus in a cool room (around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit) with little to no light for about six weeks. After this period, slowly transition the plant back to its regular growing environment. Then, with proper care, your cactus should bloom in late spring or early summer.
What Type Of Soil Does My Indian Head Cactus Need?
Your Indian Head Cactus will do best in a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix. You can also try to make your own by mixing equal parts sand, perlite, and peat moss.