The baseball plant (Euphorbia obesa) is a type of succulent that is native to the Cape Province of South Africa. Since its discovery in the late 1800s, baseball plants have exploded in popularity as houseplants due to their unique appearance and low-maintenance needs. In fact, baseball plants are actually considered an endangered species in their native habitat due to unsustainable harvesting, although they can be easily found in most garden centers and nurseries. Today, national and international legislation that prohibits harvesting baseball plants has been enacted in an effort to protect the remaining population of baseball plants that exist in the wild.
While at first glance baseball plants appear to be a part of the cactus family, they are in fact a part of the Euphorbia genus in the succulent family, although they share many similarities with cacti.
Baseball plants are also sometimes referred to as sea urchin plants since they loosely resemble the creature.
|Botanical Name||Euphorbia obesa|
|Common Name||Baseball plant, sea urchin plant|
|Mature Size||7 to 8 inches tall|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, direct light|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, cactus soil|
|Native Area||South Africa|
How to Grow Baseball Plants
Baseball plants are relatively easy plants to care for as long as their light and water requirements are met. They are long-lived, slow-growing succulents that are characterized by their bulbous shape, V-shaped markings, and seam-like ridges that resemble stitching. Young baseball plants are round in shape but become more elongated and cylindrically-shaped with maturity.
Baseball plants propagate through seeds, which can make them difficult to propagate for the average plant owner. They do not produce leaves or foliage but do produce small, fragrant flowers in the summer months. Baseball plants are dioecious, meaning each plant produces either male or female flowers. If properly pollinated, female plants can produce up to 150 seeds per year. Due to their prolific propagation rates, baseball plants have become commonplace in commercial nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers alike.
In their native habitat, baseball plants are accustomed to plenty of bright, direct sunlight. When grown indoors, baseball plants should receive at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Loss of color and pattern, as well as a loss of shape, are all indications that your baseball plant is not receiving enough light. Etiolated, or ‘leggy’ growth is another indication. Place your baseball plant in a south or east-facing window in your home to ensure it receives adequate sunlight.
Baseball plants require well-draining potting soil in order to thrive and should be planted in a potting mix intended for cacti and succulents. Cactus soil is available at most commercial nurseries and garden centers, but if you don’t have one readily available you can easily make your own by mixing 3 parts regular potting soil, 2 parts coarse sand, and 1 part perlite.
Baseball plants, like most succulents and cacti, do not tolerate overwatering well. Water the plant only once the soil is thoroughly dry. Baseball plants require more water during the spring and summer months, and significantly less water during their dormant period in the fall and winter months.
Temperature and Humidity
Baseball plants appreciate warm temperatures. When grown inside, the average household temperature is more than sufficient. However, be careful to avoid placing your baseball plant in areas with cold drafts as it can inhibit growth.
As with most succulents, baseball plants do not require regular fertilization as they are accustomed to growing in nutrient-poor soil. However, fertilizing your baseball plant during the spring can help it to thrive during its peak growing season. Be sure to use a cactus/succulent fertilizer for best results.
Potting and Repotting
Baseball plants do not require frequent repotting, and should only be repotted once the circumference of the plant is pushing against the edge of the pot. Protective gardening gloves should be worn at all times while repotting baseball plants as their sap can irritate the skin upon contact.
Toxicity of Baseball Plants
Like all plants in the Euphorbia genus, baseball plants contain a poisonous milky-white sap called latex that is considered toxic to humans, dogs, and cats. The latex is a skin irritant that can cause burns and rashes, and can also cause irritation to the mouth and stomach if ingested. Extra care should be taken while potting and repotting baseball plants to ensure that you do not come in contact with the latex.