The Golden Barrel Cactus, binomial name Echinocactus grusonii, is a cactus species native to Central Mexico. It typically grows to be about 4 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter when fully mature. However, these plants grow very slowly, and it takes years before they reach their ultimate height. This has the benefit of allowing indoor enthusiasts to confidently cultivate these cacti without worrying over sufficient space.
They are perfectly spherical early on and become slightly elongated the older they get. They resemble a semi-globular barrel of wine at maturity, hence the name. Their beauty comes from their perfectly symmetrical, highly populated spines. Each specimen has between 20 to 40 ribs. Sometimes the spines become so dense that they crowd out the epidermis underneath.
Golden Barrel Cactus Main Characteristics
|Common Name||Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball Cactus, Mother-in-law’s-cushion, Mother-in-law’s-seat|
|Botanical Name||Echinocactus grusonii|
|Synonyms||Echinocactus corynacanthus, Echinocactus galeottii|
|USDA Hardiness Zones||9a to 11b|
|Mature Size||Height: up to 2 inches; Spread: up to 3 inches|
|Propagation methods||by seeds|
|Sun||Full sun to Part shade|
Golden Barrel Cactus Care
The Golden Barrel Cactus is a hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, making it ideal for indoor care. These cacti are highly sought after ornamental plants, and an untold number of them are in cultivation. However, in their natural habitat, they are considered an endangered species. Indoors, they rarely bloom, but it’s usually in late spring to early summer if they do.
Also, check out our list of tall cactus plants!
Light and Location
As with all cacti, the Golden Barrel Cactus needs a bright location. These plants do best in an east or west-facing window where they will receive several hours of direct sunlight each day. If you cannot provide this type of light, you can supplement with grow lights but consider this a stop-gap solution, not a permanent one.
The Golden Barrel Cactus is a desert plant, and as such, it has adapted to survive long periods of drought. When grown indoors, they will need much less water than most other houseplants. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. Water deeply but infrequently, about once every 2-3 weeks. When growth slows in the winter, you can reduce watering even further. Be careful not to overwater as this is one of the most common problems with indoor cacti.
Temperature and Humidity
Echinocactus grusonii is native to a hot, arid climate, and it prefers these same conditions indoors. They will do best in a room with an average temperature between 70-75°F (21-24°C). Avoid drafty locations, and extreme fluctuations in temperature as these can cause the plant to go into shock. In dormancy, they prefer cooler temperatures, around 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. These cacti are not particularly fussy about humidity but prefer it on the dry side.
Fertilize Echinocactus grusonii once a month during the spring and summer. Use a well-balanced cactus fertilizer diluted by half. Do not fertilize in the fall and winter when growth stops.
Propagating Echinocactus grusonii
Echinocactus grusonii can be propagated by seeds. It is a complex process and requires some expertise in plant cultivation. Of course, this has the pre-requisite that your plant has produced flowers, which is not always a given in indoor cultivation. Instead of sowing the seeds in a pot directly, as you would normally do with other plants, you need to follow specific steps.
- Sow them in a unique mix explicitly designed to help with germination (Part peat moss, part vermiculite, and part sand).
- Give the plant plenty of humidity and filtered sunlight and wait for the seeds to develop. It takes a month or two for a new plant to form.
- Then, move it to progressively bigger pots until it gets big enough that you can treat it like a regular cactus.
Potting and Repotting Golden Barrel Cactus
Pot your Golden Barrel Cactus in a well-draining cactus mix. You can find it easily at any garden center. These plants do not need a lot of root space, so a small pot is fine. In fact, it’s better to err on the side of too small rather than too big, as these cacti do not like to be pot-bound.
Repot every 2-3 years in the spring as needed. If you see that the roots are filling up the pot or if the plant is starting to lean, it’s time for a new pot. Be careful when repotting, as these plants have sharp spines that can cause injury. Use gloves and handle with care.
The Golden Barrel Cactus is considered non-toxic to humans and animals. However, the spines can cause injury if handled without gloves.
Common Pests and Diseases
Echinocactus grusonii is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, they are susceptible to mealybugs, particularly young plants. If you see these pests on your plant, act quickly as they can get out of hand if left unchecked.
How Big Do Golden Barrel Cactus Get?
Golden Barrel Cactus can grow to be quite large. In their natural habitat, they can reach up to 3.3 feet in height. However, these plants grow slowly, and it takes a long time for them to reach maturity.
How Often To Water Golden Barrel Cactus?
Golden Barrel Cactus are drought resistant and do not need a lot of water. Water them infrequently but deeply in the growing season. You must ensure that the water drains from the pot quickly; otherwise, root rot is a real possibility. In the winter, the plant goes dormant, and you can reduce watering even further.
How To Care For A Golden Barrel Cactus?
These cacti want bright, dry conditions with plenty of sunlight. Water them deeply in the growing season but let the water drain quickly. Keep them warm in the summer and somewhat cooler in the winter. But don’t let the temperature fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or you’ll have problems.