The Compass Barrel Cactus, scientific name Ferocactus cylindraceus, is a cactus species found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. It is widespread in its natural habitat and usually grows on rocky slopes and canyon walls.
The Compass Barrel Cactus is so named because it leans south as it ages. If you come across a fully mature specimen, you’ll find the cylindrical column leaning to the south. Experts say this behavior protects the sensitive tip from harsh conditions and all Ferocactus cylindraceus develop this way. It is also called the California Barrel Cactus, as its predominantly found in this region. The spines can grow up to 3 inches long and are very sharp. One central spine is surrounded by three radials that form a semblance of a crucifix. The central spine is often curved, forming a hook shape.
The plant can grow to be up to 6.6 feet tall. The cactus blooms in the spring, and its flowers are red on the outside and yellow on the inside. The fruit is fleshy and covered with scales.
- Compass Barrel Cactus Main Characteristics
- Compass Barrel Cactus Care
- Propagating Compass Barrel Cactus
- Potting and Repotting Compass Barrel Cactus
- Common Pests
- Common Problems
- The Complete Guide to Caring for a Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) (Video)
Compass Barrel Cactus Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Compass Barrel Cactus, California Barrel Cactus, Desert Barrel Cactus|
|Botanical Name||Ferocactus cylindraceus|
|Native Range||Southwestern United States, Northwestern Mexico|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9 to 11|
|Mature Size||Up to 6.6 feet (2m)|
|Propagation methods||by seeds|
Compass Barrel Cactus Care
The Compass Barrel Cactus is a popular plant for landscaping due to its unique appearance. It is also a popular choice for cactus gardens. Like many of its cousins in the cactus family, it is heat tolerant and does not require much water. This makes it an ideal plant for areas that are dry and sunny. If you are looking for a unique and interesting plant for your home or landscape, the Compass Barrel Cactus is fantastic.
Light and Location
The Compass Barrel Cactus grows best in full sun. It can tolerate some shade but won’t grow as well in shadier conditions. If you live in an area with hot summers, this cactus is a good choice for your landscape. Just be sure to give it some protection from the afternoon sun. It can also be grown indoors, in a sunny spot.
If you’ve been growing this cactus in the shade, don’t move it to the full sun immediately. Instead, slowly acclimate it to brighter conditions. Sudden changes in the environment are detrimental to the plant.
Unlike most cacti, this one needs to be moderately watered to survive. Give particular attention to watering in the growing season. When you do water this plant, be sure to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Overwatering can lead to root rot.
The Compass Barrel Cactus is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. It can tolerate below-freezing temperatures if it is not exposed to them for extended periods. If you regularly experience cold winters, grow this cactus indoors to protect it from harsh frosts. In winter, keep the plant in a somewhat cold location (around 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to induce flowering in the spring.
This cactus does not need high humidity to thrive. In fact, it actually prefers lower humidity levels. If you live in high humidity areas, provide good air circulation around the plant.
The Compass Barrel Cactus does not need much fertilizer to grow well. Too much fertilizer can do a lot of harm. If you decide to fertilize this plant, use a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer and apply it sparingly. It’s best to fertilize when the plant is actively growing in the summer.
Propagating Compass Barrel Cactus
The Compass Barrel Cactus can easily be propagated by seeds. In fact, this is the only way to propagate these cacti. To collect seeds, wait until the plant has flowered and fruited. The fruits will dry up and eventually split open, revealing the seeds inside. You want to wait for the fruits to become overripe before taking the seeds, as otherwise, they won’t germinate.
Plant the seeds in a well-draining cactus mix and place them in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist (but not wet) until the seeds germinate. Once they’re sufficiently grown, move them from the container to their own pot and treat them as mature plants.
Potting and Repotting Compass Barrel Cactus
When potting, choose a potting mix that’s fast-draining. A cactus mix is a safe choice for most cacti, and this one isn’t different. Just make sure that the mix is heavy with nutrients as these plants like rich soils. Ensure the pot has drainage holes. These holes ensure that the water doesn’t stand in the pot after a watering session. This is essential to prevent root rot.
As this cactus grows, you’ll eventually need to repot it into a larger container. The best time to do this is in the spring before the plant starts actively growing. Pick out a pot that is one size larger than the current one. This will help to prevent root rot and other problems associated with overwatering.
When repotting, don’t damage the roots. Gently remove the plant from the pot and place it in the new one. Fill in around the plant with fresh potting mix, being sure to firm it gently. Water well and ensure the excess water drains away before putting the plant back in its original location.
The Compass Barrel Cactus is considered non-toxic to humans or animals. However, the spines can be quite sharp and may cause injury if handled carelessly. Therefore, it’s best to keep this plant out of reach of small children and pets.
This cactus is also susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. These pests can be difficult to control, so it’s best to take preventive measures to keep them from infesting your plant. Check the plant regularly for pests and quarantine any new plants before adding them to your collection.
If you find pests on your cactus, you can treat them with a mixture of water and horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
The Compass Barrel Cactus is generally a hardy plant, but it can be susceptible to problems if not cared for properly. Overwatering is the most common problem with these cacti. If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes or the potting mix is not fast-draining enough, you’re likely to have a case of root rot on your hands. Once the rot is set, there isn’t any coming back. So the only solution is prevention. That is why it’s imperative to choose the right mix before picking out a pot.
The Complete Guide to Caring for a Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) (Video)
How Big Can A Barrel Cactus Get?
The Compass Barrel Cactus can grow up to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It grows in the shape of a column. However, indoor specimens don’t usually grow that tall.
Does The Barrel Cactus Have Deep Roots?
No, the roots of this cactus are relatively shallow. They’re mostly concentrated in the top few inches of soil. This makes replanting them quite easy.
How Do I Get My Barrel Cactus To Bloom?
To encourage blooming, make sure your plant is getting enough sunlight. It also needs to be kept cold in the winter months leading up to the flowering season, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also try fertilizer with a high-potassium content.