The baseball plant (Euphorbia obesa) is a succulent perennial that is native to the Cape Province of South Africa. Since its discovery during the late 1800s, baseball plants have exploded in popularity as houseplants due to their unique appearance and low-maintenance needs. Though baseball plants are actually considered an endangered species in their native habitat due to unsustainable harvesting, they can easily be found in garden centers. Today, national and international legislation that prohibits harvesting baseball plants has been enacted in an effort to protect the remaining native populations of baseball plants.
These long-lived, slow-growing succulents are characterized by bulbous shape, V-shaped markings, and seam-like ridges that resemble stitching. Rather than branches or leaves, the plant consists of a single wide stem body from which the flowers sprout. Young baseball plants are round in shape but become more elongated and cylindrically shaped with maturity. Baseball plants are also called sea urchin plants since they loosely resemble that creature.
The plants are dioecious, with either male or female flowers that are yellow in color and rather insignificant in appearance. To produce seeds, the female flowers must be cross-pollinated by a male plant, and for this reason, the plant is rarely propagated by seed except in the nursery trade.
|Botanical Name||Euphorbia obesa|
|Common Name||Baseball plant, sea urchin plant|
|Plant Type||Succulent perennial|
|Mature Size||7 to 8 inches tall, up to 4 inches wide|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, direct light; tolerates some shade|
|Soil Type||Well-draining cactus/succulent potting mix|
|Soil pH||6.0–7.0 (slightly acidic to neutral)|
|Bloom Time||Summer (flowers are fairly insignificant)|
|Hardiness Zones||10–11 (USDA); grown as houseplants in all zones|
|Native Area||South Africa|
Baseball Plant Care
Baseball plants are relatively easy plants to care for as long as their light and water requirements are met. They thrive if grown in a standard coarse potting mix formulated for cactus and succulents and placed in a location that receives plenty of sunlight or at constant bright indirect light. They are slow-growing plants that can be allowed to fill their pots before repotting becomes necessary. Few houseplants require less care than baseball plants.
Baseball plants do not produce leaves or foliage but they do produce small, fragrant flowers in the summer months. The tough stem structures are largely impervious to pest and disease problems, but if overwatered or allowed to soak in water, the roots may develop rot.
In their native habitat, baseball plants are accustomed to plenty of bright, direct sunlight. When grown indoors, baseball plants should receive at least four hours of direct sunlight a day if possible. 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 ("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 coarse, 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. Water the plant only when 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. If grown outdoors, they can tolerate occasional temperatures down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
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 the best results.
Propagating Baseball Plant
Like other species of Euphorbia, baseball plant is difficult to propagate from seeds, since male and female plants require cross-pollination in order to produce seeds. Further, the seeds are very slow-growing.
Euphorbias such as E. obesa, which have a single stem structure rather than individual branches, are normally propagated by first decapitating the plant at soil level. When small new growth structures emerge around the remaining root body, each new offset can be carefully cut away and replanted in coarse cactus/succulent planting mix. These are quite -growing plants that can take as much as eight years before they mature into flowering plants.
Potting and Repotting
Baseball plants do well in any coarse potting mix formulated for cactus and succulents. They 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.