How to Grow and Care for Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

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In this post, we’re going to be talking about Golden Barrel Cactus. We will explore the essential steps to successfully grow and care for this stunning succulent so that it can bring a touch of desert beauty to your indoor or outdoor space.

Echinocactus grusonii, popularly known as Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Ball, or mother-in-law’s cushion, is a species of Barrel Cactus endemic to East Central Mexico. Its main characteristic is its globular shape, achieving an almost spherical silhouette.

It features bright green stems with 20 to 40 pronounced, vertical ribs.
Spines and golden yellow (or occasionally white) spines that emerge from contrasting yellow areoles.

The sharp spines are long, straight, or slightly curved and are arranged in evenly spaced clusters along the ribs, with central spines growing up to two to four inches long. The crown of the cactus has a white, coral, woolen hair at the top.

Growth Habit

Echinocactus grusonii can grow up to three feet tall and three to four feet in diameter in the wild or when they’re given the correct conditions at home that stimulate their Mexican habitats.

This cactus has a slow growth rate, often taking 15 to 30 years to reach maturity and flower and as it matures, it may produce offshoots or pups that attach to the base of the main plant, resulting in a clumping growth habit.

Younger Golden Barrel plants do not look similar to mature specimens; generational lifetime is estimated to be 30 years, and there may be up to 50 pronounced ribs in mature plants, though they are not evident in young plants, which may have a knobbly appearance.

Golden barrel cactus is primarily suited for people who want to grow it in a rocky setting, kind of a desert-type landscape, hydroids, or botanical gardens. They are grown indoors inside conservatories or other classrooms where enough sunlight is provided. However, they seem to have great difficulty flowering indoors, so if you’re planning to grow it indoors, know that it might be hard.

Are Golden Barrel Cacti rare?

Echinocactus grusonii is quite rare and actually endangered in the wild, where it can be found around Mehsud early on in the state of Colorado and the state of Haiti Calliope.

The popularity of this candy depleted its supply, and as a consequence, it has been classified as an endangered species. So, you’re more likely to see it planted in gardens, less in the wild.

Flowering and Bloom Time

The Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) produces beautiful flowers that appear at the very top of the plant, creating a crown-like formation. They are usually bright yellow or orange, although pink and red varieties can also occur but are less common.

The flowering period for the Golden Barrel Cactus typically begins in April and as the flowers start to wilt in early May, they may change color. After pollination, the flowers transform into fruits, which contain seeds for future generations.

Flowering only occurs when they are grown outdoors and is very unlikely to happen when you grow them indoors. Additionally, the cactus can take 15 to 30 years to flower. However, these are grown mainly for their foliage rather than flowers, for that desert look that’s appealing to cactus growers and collectors.

Offshoots, or pups, can sometimes attach to the bottom of the main plant, causing them to grow from the bottom. However, they usually clump at the bottom due to seed drops and multiplication.

Care of Echinocactus Grusonii

Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is a popular and striking cactus species known for its spherical shape and golden spines. Here are some guidelines on how to grow and care for it:

Light

Golden Barrel Cactus thrives in full sun exposure. Place it in a location where it can receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

If growing indoors, choose a sunny spot near a south-facing window to provide ample light or in an area where you can provide some shade during the hottest days, depending on where you live.

Temperature and Climate

Golden Barrel Cactus is native to desert regions and therefore prefers warm temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C) during the growing season. However, it withstands all types of temperatures, both high and low, as long as they are not extreme.

Humidity does not seem to be a major concern for the cactus, but it depends on how your indoor environment is and where you live. So, try to provide it with as much fresh air as you can, but not cold drafts.

Watering

Like most cacti, Echinocactus grusonii is drought-tolerant and requires infrequent watering. During the growing season (spring to fall), water the cactus deeply but sparingly, approximately once every 2-4 weeks using the soak-and-dry method. That means before you water again, you need to make sure that the soil has completely dried out; otherwise, you will be overwatering it.

Reduce watering in winter (dormant season) to simulate drought conditions. Water sparingly or not at all during this period. And when it comes to the potting mixture, think about a draining succulent or cacti mix. It’s very smart to add gravel or small pebbles at the bottom of the well-draining pot first so that it will encourage drainage. Doing so will help your cactus survive if you accidentally overwater.

Soil

Golden barrel cactus prefers sandy, well-draining soil mix specifically formulated for cacti and succulents. It is important to provide a soil mix that allows excess water to drain quickly, as these cacti are susceptible to root rot if the soil becomes waterlogged.

If you are using a regular peat-based soil mix, adding sand or extra perlite can help improve drainage. Also, ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging and root rot.

Fertilizing

Golden Barrel Cactus has low fertilizer requirements. Fertilize sparingly during the growing season, approximately once every 2-3 months using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for cacti and succulents, following the package instructions for dilution and application. Avoid over-fertilizing, as it can lead to excessive growth and weak spines.

Golden Barrel Cactus propagation

The most common method of propagating Golden barrel cactus is by seeds. In the temperate zone, the seeds can be sown in the period from March to September. Before sowing, they should be soaked in water, and then the excess moisture removed using paper napkins.

After sowing, control lighting, and temperature, and also, you must regularly ventilate. The seeds usually take two to three weeks to germinate, but no more than a month.

Transplant seeds after three weeks. The germination period takes two to three months. The interval between them is equal to the diameter of the characters. Three weeks later, the following transplant is carried out as the siblings are too close to each other.

The cactus can also multiply through seed drops, leading to the formation of new plants called pups. These babies grow from a well-established root base, sometimes in clusters. They may be removed for planting somewhere else or left to fill in the bed. You can also get a new copy in a vegetative way if the parent plant gives a sprout or offset, which is quite rare.

Repotting and Transplanting

Now, when it comes to repotting, when these plants are young, it’s best to repot them once a year. You should do so during spring so that the plant can recover and establish itself in its new container or location. Once they mature, think about every 2 to 3 years; that should be enough.

Choose a pot with drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom. The pot should be slightly larger than the root ball of the cactus, allowing room for growth

Gently remove the cactus from its current pot, being careful not to damage the roots. If the roots are tightly packed, you can loosen them slightly to encourage new growth. Place a layer of soil at the base of the new pot and position the cactus, ensuring that the top of the root ball is about 1-2 inches below the pot’s edge. Fill the pot with the potting mix, pressing it gently around the sides of the cactus.

If you are transplanting the golden barrel cactus into the ground, dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball. Protect yourself and the cactus by using towels or rugs to handle the plant and prevent injury.

Place the cactus in the hole, making sure to orient it in the same direction it was previously facing to avoid sunburn. Backfill the hole with a well-draining soil mix, incorporating rocks or pumice for added drainage.

Common Issues

The golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is generally a hardy plant, but it can still be susceptible to certain pests and diseases. Here are some common issues that can affect golden barrel cacti:

  1. Spider Mites: Spider mites are tiny pests that can infest the cactus and cause damage by sucking sap from the plant. Signs of spider mite infestation include webbing, yellowing or stippling of the cactus, and overall decline in health.
  2. Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white, cottony insects that can infest the golden barrel cactus. They feed on the plant’s sap and can cause stunted growth, yellowing, and wilting of the cactus.
  3. Root Rot: Golden barrel cacti are susceptible to root rot, which is caused by fungal diseases such as Pythium. Overwatering or poorly draining soil can lead to root rot, resulting in mushy, discolored roots and the overall decline of the plant.
  4. Sunburn: Golden barrel cacti are adapted to thrive in full sun, but they can still suffer from sunburn if suddenly exposed to intense sunlight without acclimation. Sunburn appears as yellow or brown patches on the cactus, and it can lead to permanent damage.

Regularly inspect your golden barrel cactus for signs of pests and diseases. If you notice an infestation, isolate the affected plant to prevent the spread to other cacti. For spider mites and mealybugs, you can use a gentle spray of water or insecticidal soap to remove or control the pests.

To prevent root rot, ensure that the cactus is planted in well-draining soil and avoid overwatering. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Also, protect the cactus from intense sunlight by providing partial shade or gradually acclimating it to brighter conditions.

Remember, golden barrel cacti are slow-growing and can take several years to reach their mature size. With proper care and attention, these cacti can thrive and become a stunning focal point in your collection.

FAQs

How long does it take for golden barrel cactus to grow?

It is a slow-growing plant growing about an inch a year. During the first year of life, it can reach 3 inches in diameter. However, when it reaches adulthood it can have an impressive diameter, which is why it is frequently used to create landscape environments in all types of gardens.

Is golden barrel cactus edible?

Yes, the golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is edible. Different parts of the cactus can be consumed, including the fruit, seeds, flower buds, and inner flesh.

Remember to handle Golden Barrel Cactus with care due to its sharp spines, and keep it out of reach of children and pets to avoid any injuries.

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