Cumulopuntia sphaerica: Care and Propagation Guide

One of the more common varieties from the Cactaceae family, the Cumulopuntia sphaerica is an indigenous South American cactus variety.

This abundant plant is a survivor, capable of adapting to a range of weather, terrain, and climate conditions, and thriving in them. You can find Cumulopuntia sphaerica in high-drought areas, near the seaside, at elevations as high as 3,500 meters or as low as 50 meters, on slopes, and flat terrain.

Cumulopuntia sphaerica is known by many scientific names, such as Opuntia sphaerica, Sphaeropuntia sphaerica, and Tephrocactus sphaericus, as well as colloquial names such as ‘corotilla’, ‘gatito’, ‘perrito’, and ‘puskaye’.

cumulopuntia sphaerica

How to Care for Cumulopuntia sphaerica

Cumulopuntia sphaerica is among the harder cactus species to cultivate, similar to many cacti that are native to the Peruvian dust bowls. However, with some effort, you can grow and care for these supremely resilient plants.


Cumulopuntia sphaerica is capable of enduring high heat for long hours; what’s more, they prosper in it. These plants require ample sunlight to grow and bloom in, similar to the conditions in their native land.

Exposing them to direct sunlight ensures robust plants, with regular flowering and healthy spination. Therefore, well-ventilated, open spaces, such as outdoor balconies and gardens, are ideal spots for these plants.


These plants hit their vegetation period in April, extending up to mid-September. They should be watered and fed during this period. Use just enough water to keep the soil slightly wet and ensure that there is no water accumulation.

In the dry and cool winter months, you don’t have to water the plant; you can water them when new buds start to emerge.

If your Cumulopuntia sphaerica is housed in a big pot, water less than you usually would, as water accumulates in bigger pots.


Like all cacti, these plants require fast-draining soil that is rich in grits, minerals, and cactus composts. The pH value should be between 6 and 7 and the soil must be air-permeable as well, as insufficient oxygen can cause the roots to rot.

At home, you can use a mix of coco coir or peat moss, sandy soil, and vermiculite to improve the permeability of air, and vermicompost or eggshell powder to improve soil fertility.

cumulopuntia sphaerica cactus


Fertilize once in the growing season, using specifically formulated fertilizers that are high in potash and low in nitrogen and contain all necessary trace elements and micronutrients.

Dilute the fertilizer with water to half its strength, so as to prevent over-fertilizing.

Cumulopuntia sphaerica plants are used to deficient soil, needing limited nutrition to survive. Over-fertilizing can cause excess vegetation, leading to fungal attacks.


Cumulopuntia sphaerica requires extreme summer and winter temperatures, unlike most other members of the Cactaceae family, as in the Peruvian wilds, it shares its space with Melocactus peruvianus, also known as the ‘Melon Cactus’ and the ‘Turk’s Cap Cactus’.

The plant can tolerate occasional spells of extremely low temperatures around 23°F (central Chile’s morning frost conditions) but will not survive in snow. In fact, these low temperatures are essential for healthy buds.

Therefore, even while growing this plant at home, you’ll need to rest in a cool place, with temperatures between 23 and 41°F, to ensure healthy budding.

cumulopuntia sphaerica

Pests and Diseases

Generally, Cumulopuntia sphaerica in a healthy environment, with ample ventilation and exposure, low humidity, and rich soil, do not attract pests, though they may attract some insects.

However, some pests and diseases that the plant species is prone to are:

  • Mealybugs: These bugs can develop above the soil or underground on the roots, causing disfigurement in the plant.
  • Rot: Rot is a common but minor issue, easily avoided if water and air permeability are ensured in the soil and ventilation is ensured in the surroundings.
  • Red Spiders: Young cacti, especially, are vulnerable to red spider mites. However, these can be kept away by misting the plants from above.
  • Insects: Insects such as aphids, thrips, and scales could also cause issues, though this is rare.


Cumulopuntia sphaerica does not require pruning. Just make sure you remove all dead branches, flowers, and any other dead or diseased parts as soon as you see them. Always use gloves or any efficient protection for your hands while pruning.

Potting and Repotting

While potting the plant, use a permeable pot that’s the right size, to prevent water accumulation or root development restrictions. As mentioned earlier, use the right soil mix to ensure that your plant stays healthy.

Repot annually until the plant reaches 5 cm in diameter. This will help your plant increase the number of flowers and the size of its stems.

Once the plant has reached the mentioned size, repotting bi-annually or tri-annually will suffice.

Repotting at the end of winter is ideal. Refrain from watering the plant for 2-3 weeks after repotting, so that no root rot seeps in through broken roots.

How to Propagate Cumulopuntia sphaerica

As is the case with most cacti, Cumulopuntia sphaerica can be propagated via grafting, cuttings, and seeds.

For grafting, use a good rootstock, cutting off its tip, and place the plant, with its roots removed, in the rootstock’s center. Secure it with rope, if necessary, for a couple of weeks, or till the rootstock and the plant merge and grow.

If you want to propagate via cutting, take the cuttings in the spring and summer from healthy branches. Dehydrating these for a few weeks will help the roots to develop more quickly.

Insert the cutting into a container of cactus potting mix covered with coarse grit once the callus forms. Don’t skip the coarse grit, as this is necessary to prevent the cutting from becoming overly moist, which in turn leads to improper penetration of the soil for the compost and nutrients.

A minimum temperature of 20°C is necessary for cuttings to take root.