Euphorbia Obesa: Baseball Plant Care

Euphorbia obesa plants, commonly called “baseball plant”, “basketball plant” or “living baseball,” is a low-maintenance plant that needs very little water and moderate light to thrive.

If you are looking for a drought-tolerant plant that won’t take up too much of your time and add a splash of uniqueness to your landscaping, the Euphorbia obesa is right for you.

What is a Euphorbia Obesa Baseball Plant?

Euphorbia obesa, or “baseball plant,” is a grey-bluish green, drought-tolerant, perennial succulent that initially grows in a round baseball-like shape and later expands upwards.

They are sometimes compared in appearance to sea urchin cactus plants—and while they do store water, they are not cactus plants, but they are succulents through and through.

What-Is-A-Euphorbia-Obesa-Baseball-Plant

You will usually find these plants in botanical gardens, but they are easily found at local garden centers.

But they are native to central South Africa, where they are used to low rainfall and dry soil. Euphorbia obesa is a small plant, growing up to 8” tall and 4” wide.

It will produce tiny but pleasant-smelling small flowers at its peak. The foliage is a muted green and hardly noticeable.

The stem is the most notable part of the plant as it is the round, baseball-shaped section that inspired the common name Euphorbia obesa. 

Baseball plants are low-maintenance if you know how to care for them, and they can be grown both indoors and outdoors in most climates, occasionally with small modifications.

How to Care for a Euphorbia Obesa Baseball Plant

Like any Euphorbia species, caring for your Euphorbia obesa is pretty straightforward.

Simply, plant it in well-draining potting soil, water it deeply every one to three months, ensure it gets four hours of light each day, and make sure its environment is neither too humid nor too cold.

By following some basic guidelines, you will be able to enjoy your unique-looking baseball plant for many years.

Temperature and Climate

Temperature-And-Climate-For-Euphorbia-Obesa-Baseball-Plant

A Euphorbia obesa plant is most happy in arid climates and warm temperatures with not much rainfall and does best in USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10, but can be grown in other areas with some modifications. 

They do not love humidity because they are used to arid climates. If you live in an especially humid area, you may want to keep your Euphorbia obesa inside and help control the humidity with a dehumidifier. 

A potential hazard for Euphorbia obesa is too many days in a row that reach freezing temperatures or below.

While they are not unused to occasional frost in their native climate, they cannot withstand excessive periods of very low temperatures.

To remedy this, you can cover your plant as you might to protect it from excessive rainfall.

Light

Light-For-Euphorbia-Obesa-Baseball-Plant

While this great plant can be easily grown indoors, it loves to get lots of direct and bright light.

If you plan on keeping your baseball plants inside, make sure they are in a spot that will naturally get at least four hours of sunlight.

This is often going to be in a window that is on the south or east side of your house.

If your Euphorbia obesa will be taking up residence outside, they will do best if they are planted in a spot that gets partial shade.

How can you tell that a Euphorbia obesa is not getting enough light? The color of the plant will change from bright to dull, and it may also lose its round sea urchin shape.

Watering

Watering-Euphorbia-Obesa-Baseball-Plant

When it is warmer and the Euphorbia obesa is doing its growing, usually spring through fall in the Northern Hemisphere, you can do a deep watering once each month.

Wintertime watering can be scheduled every 2-3 months, making sure the plant is getting a deep soak each time.

In both the winter and growing seasons, it is best to water your plants in the mornings. 

Since Euphorbia obesa prefers to dry out between waterings, you will need to be conscious of how much you are watering yours, and water sparingly.

In their natural habitat, baseball plants only get about 12 to 14 inches of water annually. They are native to central South Africa, which has a fairly arid climate.

More rainy climates will require some protection for your baseball plant if it is grown outdoors, to prevent it from getting too much water.

Cover your plants during the rain but don’t allow the humidity to build, or you could face the same consequences of poor drainage and overwatering.

Some potential symptoms of overwatering are flower loss or root rot. No matter the season, good drainage is paramount to keeping your plants happy.

If it is not able to dry out between waterings, your plant can potentially develop root rot, which will lead to physical changes and eventually the death of your plant if not caught early.

Soil types

Soil-For-Euphorbia-Obesa-Baseball-Plant

Baseball plants, like many succulents, enjoy sandy soil with a close to neutral pH. You can achieve this most easily by using a typical succulent potting mix from the store.

You can also create your own mix by starting with low-nutrient soil and adding gravel, sand, or perlite to help with drainage.

Your Euphorbia obesa will be happiest in well-draining soil that can dry out fully in between watering.

For this reason, you should also make sure you have drainage holes in your plant pot.

As an aside, the succulent soil that we always use is this succulent soil. We like it because our succulents seem to thrive in it. Plus, it drains so well.

Organic Potting Soil, Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, Professional Grower Mix Soil, Fast...
  • Imported from Canada, contains 100% organic ingredients, light-weight soil,...
  • The soil contains 75% natural substrate and 25% perlite, Our formula can...
  • The soil feature has good perviousness. rhizome breathability, well...

Fertilizer

While baseball plants prefer low-nutrient soil, an annual dose of fertilizer will help them to produce flowers and aid in their slow and steady growth.

Do not over-fertilize your Euphorbia obesa. While it is common to think that all plants will thrive with more nutrients, some prefer less.

If you fertilize your plant more than once a year, you will see it fail to thrive.

Pests and Diseases

Baseball plants are fairly easy to grow, but you may see root rot or, less likely, mites. 

One of the most common issues with the Euphorbia obesa is its propensity to get root rot.

While it enjoys deep watering on occasion, it also prefers good drainage and dries out in between.

If you overwater your plant or have it in the wrong type of soil, you can cause root rot. 

Pests are not usually drawn to Euphorbia obesa, but occasionally you may find that the plant has been damaged by mites.

You can remove pests gently with a damp or rubbing alcohol-soaked cloth.

Repotting

Euphorbia obesa are slow-growing and like to be left alone, but will occasionally need to be repotted once they fill out their pot.

Be careful when you do transplant your ball plant! While it does not have sharp spines, all Euphorbia obesa produce a skin irritant in the form of a white-colored sap.

It is recommended that you use gloves to keep your skin safe while handling your Euphorbia obesa. 

When it comes time to transplant, size up to a pot that is two sizes larger in diameter than its current pot.

Use fresh succulent potting soil and make sure to give it a good drink of water and possibly a dose of fertilizer depending on the time of year.

If you’re looking for a pot with drainage holes, we use these self-watering pots. We never worry about overwatering and thus preventing root rot and other issues.

Unique 10" Self-Watering, Aerating, High Drainage Plant Pot with Deep Saucer (10 Inch,...
  • SELF-WATERING, 2-WEEKS+ DEEP RESERVOIR: No more troublesome wicks that clog...
  • SELF-AERATING, HIGH DRAINAGE, MINIMIZE ROOT ROT: No need to keep poking...
  • WATER FROM THE BOTTOM + NO MORE OVERFLOW: Each planter comes with a clip-on...

Propagating Baseball Euphorbia Plants

Propagation-Baseball-Euphorbia-Plants

If you are hoping to multiply your Euphorbia obesa collection, you can do so via cross-pollination.

To produce seeds, you will need two plants: one male and one female. Each of these two plants provides both male and female flowers.

The female plant will provide the seed, while the male plant will pollinate the seed. This allows for cross-pollination.

If your baseball plants live indoors, because the flowers are on separate plants, you may have to hand pollinate them.

After pollination, seed pods should ripen quickly, usually within a week and a half.

At that point, they will open and the seeds will scatter, making them available for you to collect.

You can then start your Euphorbia plants from these seeds as normal, watering more often than you would a fully established plant, and allowing them to mature to one-half inch before transplanting.

Euphorbia obesa is an endangered plant. Harvesting them in the wild is now protected by the government.

Propagating your personal plants or buying from a reputable nursery are the best ways to obtain more plants.

Pruning

Euphorbia obesa does not need to be pruned to maintain its shape. The bulbous, baseball-shaped section of the plant is actually the stem.

Foliage and flowers will sit on top of the ball.

Remove dead leaves or flowers in the spring if you wish to keep your plant looking spruced up, but this low-maintenance plant does not require pruning for shaping or optimal growth. 

FAQ

How can you tell if an Euphorbia obesa is male or female?

Euphorbia obesa is a dioecious plant, meaning that male and female blooms appear on distinct plants at various times of the year. Therefore, a male and a female plant are required for reproduction. When compared to the male, the female has three projecting stigmas to which the pollen grains adhere. The male, on the other hand, has a hairy core that is covered in yellow pollen.

Why is Euphorbia obesa (Baseball Plant) unique?

Despite the fact that Euphorbia obesa looks like and shares many traits with a cactus, it is a completely separate type of succulent plant. With its spherical shape and the lines running along its exterior, it appears as though the plant has been stitched together to form a ball of sorts.

Why should you not touch a baseball plant?

The stem of the baseball plant contains a high concentration of milky latex, which causes skin discomfort. The Euphorbia obesa plant’s white, milky sap is poisonous and can cause irritation to the skin and eyes when ingested. When working with the plant, use caution and consider wearing protective gloves. It is best to plant this out of the way of young kids and pets.

How fast does Euphorbia obesa grow?

Euphorbia obesa plants usually germinate within three weeks after the seed has been planted. The seedlings will initially grow at a slow rate, but can be moved into their own pots once they have grown to a size that allows them to be handled safely. After 5 to 10 years, you should expect your baseball plants to begin producing flowers. Be patient, the wait is well worth it!

Conclusion

The Euphorbia obesa is a fairly easy to grow succulent, especially for the seasoned succulent grower.

You may even be able to produce more with the correct propagation techniques and have a full Euphorbia obesa garden to tend to.

If you are able to maintain their drainage in appropriate soil, don’t over-fertilize, and water deeply but sparingly, you will be able to enjoy your uniquely baseball-shaped plants for many years to come.

They are a great addition to any front yard landscaping, along with other low-maintenance plants.

Other Euphorbia Plants

Euphorbia obesa is a great plant for a beginner and does really well in warm climates. There are other Euphorbia plants that are just as nice to plant in your landscaping or grow as a houseplant. Take a look at our other posts to give you an idea.

Euphorbia Tirucalli: The Pencil Tree (or Pencil Cactus) is a 40-foot-tall shrub (some say small tree) with pencil-thick, smooth, succulent branches. It can be clipped and grown as a houseplant, despite its widespread use in landscaping. The milky, caustic, and poisonous sap of this plant can cause temporary blindness.

Euphorbia Ingens: Candelabra trees are hardy, low-maintenance plants that are ideal for use in landscape design. They are so easy to care for that if you overwater them they may die. In the wild, they can reach 40 feet in height, and their branches continue to grow even taller!

Euphorbia Lambii: This plant is widely used as a landscape plant outside. It is known as the Tree Euphorbia or Truffula Tree as it is a strange-looking Euphobia plant with a top-heavy appearance. These plants will certainly enhance the curb appeal of your front yard.

References

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  • United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. (n.d.). Baseball plant. The United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. URL: https://usbg.gov/plants/baseball-plant
  • Mosquin, D. (2019). Euphorbia obesa. University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. URL: https://botanyphoto.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/2019/04/euphorbia-obesa/
  • Graper, D. (2018). The Poinsettia and its Relatives. South Dakota State University Extension. URL: https://extension.sdstate.edu/poinsettia-and-its-relatives
  • About/mentions: Euphorbia obesa, Euphorbia, succulent

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