Echinocactus Grusonii “Golden Barrel Cactus”

echinocactus grusonii

Last updated on July 1st, 2022 at 08:39 pm

The echinocactus grusonii, also known as a golden barrel cactus, with round, dense spines that make it an ancient food source for humans. This plant can live in dry climates and prefers to grow at elevations of over 2000 feet above sea level. It grows slowly but has been known to get up to six feet tall or more depending on the environment it lives in. The echinocactus grusonii’s flowers are pinkish-white colored and bloom from March through October, making them popular among gardeners who want a flowering species year-round while still having green foliage as well.

They are a monotypic species, also known by their synonym Opuntia grusonii.

The proper name is Echinocactus grusonii . It is also called the Golden Barrel Cactus or Golden Ball Cactus.

They are also a popular, fast-growing columnar cactus native to the deserts of Northeastern Mexico. Well-grown plants can reach 5 feet in height and have 8-10 inches in diameter. However, they are extremely slow growers (when proper care is given) and can take 5-10 years for a 2-inch seedling to mature.

Origin and description

echinocactus grusonii

The origin of this cactus is uncertain but there are two countries that claim to be the area where it was originated: Mexico and Guatemala. The name is derived from two Greek words: Echinos, meaning sea urchin, and Kaktos, meaning thistle or thorn bush.

The Latin word grusonii was added to replace the synonym Opuntia. According to John Pilbeam, an expert on Echinocactus, this plant is not a member of the Opuntioideae subfamily but is an intermediate between Echinocactus and Cereus.

The genus Echinocactus typically has abundant spines. There are some species with spines, others without, though most have spines located in rosettes at the top of the plant. This species also has spines, though they are not as abundant as in other species. The flowers of this cactus are white with maroon spotting at the base of each petal.

This echinocactus grusonii, native to Mexico, can grow up to four feet high. It has many branches that are covered in sharp spines, so it’s not recommended for those with a low pain tolerance! The echinocacti live dormant during the cooler months of winter until springtime when they bloom into beautiful yellow flowers which attract bees and hummingbirds.

They reach maturity at around six years old before producing seeds every year or two. These plants need full sun exposure (at least eight hours per day). Unlike other succulents, echinocactus grusonii does not do well with neglect: it requires very little water but must have excellent drainage soil mix.

The echinocacti are among the most unusual succulents, mostly characterized by their ability to store water in thick, fleshy leaves or stems. It stores its liquid reserves primarily as honeydew and other plants on which it feeds with tiny hairs surrounding the mouth’s opening at the end of an elongated stalk below a cluster of yellowish spines called glochids which help protect against predators but also get stuck in clothing – they’re very difficult to remove and can be painful.

Echinopsis chamaecereus (Peanut Cactus)

Echinocactus grusonii propagation

echinocactus grusonii

Propagating echinocactus grusonii is a bit tricky. Although, they are relatively easy to propagate through seeds or cuttings. Propagation of Echinocactus Grusonii by seed requires fresh seeds and cacti that are at least six years old, but it can be done with success on occasion. The main issue is finding the best time to sow them in order for them to germinate during the cool season because they do not tolerate frost well.

Seed propagation

Seed propagation is normally achieved by allowing the parent plants mature fruits to dry on the plant and then collecting them once clean, they can be sown immediately or stored in a cool dry place until germination takes place.

Ripe seed should not be allowed to dry out completely, and should not be extracted from the pulp. Cleaning seeds can prove difficult, as they are often encased in a gelatinous pulp.

Propagation through cuttings:

Propagation by cuttings is more difficult. It is best to take cuttings from the plant before the previous year’s growth turns brown and becomes brittle, although some success has been had with taking cuttings of older wood.

The propagation from cuttings should be taken when plants are dormant and will root easily without needing any special treatments or conditions other than good drainage soil mix, plenty of water, some shade protection (in summer if necessary), air circulation around the stock (if growing echinocactus grusonii in a pot), and some patience.

The cut is made just above a node on the stalk of the cactus; this is where new roots will form. The cutting is then placed in a growing medium such as perlite or sand and kept in semi-shade (under a shrub or similar) out of the sun. It is important to keep the soil slightly moist but not soggy; if it is too wet the roots will rot, and if it is too dry they will shrivel up.

The cutting should begin to put out new growth in 6-8 weeks and can be potted up after this. After one year, the plant should be ready for repotting into a slightly larger pot.

The cutting will continue to vegetate until it reaches its full potential height when new growth will stop completely (usually after two or three years). If you have sufficient room in your greenhouse or conservatory, it is possible to keep cuttings for many years.

Echinocactus grusonii care

echinocactus grusonii

Light requirements

Echinocactus grusonii is a moderately light-demanding, fast-growing, and very beautiful species. Echinocactus grusonii requires lots of light because it can rot easily if too wet or kept too dark. The recommended amount of direct sunlight (or indirect bright sun) hours is at least 5 hours per day. For the first 2-3 weeks, place your plant outside in the sun for a couple of hours every day before you let it stay out all day.

In summer when the temperatures are high, I usually start by placing my plants outside in the early morning and bring them back indoors during hot noon.

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It can suffer from sunburn if direct sunlight is too strong. The thick, white spines of Echinocactus grusonii protect it from the sun and allow it to thrive in full sun conditions.

Echinocactus grusonii should also be kept away from heaters or fireplaces during the winter because they can dry out too quickly and cause minor burns on their trunk.

Soil/potting mix

Echinocactus grusonii does not tolerate wet soil and will rot if grown in moist or soggy ground. They are tolerant of a wide range of soils but should be watered well when planted to allow the roots to become established before any prolonged lack of water.

Echinocactus grusonii is more comfortable in soil that drains well. A couple of drainage holes will ensure the air can circulate and keep the soil from getting too wet or cold. For cacti planted in pots, use a mixture of 50% potting soil and 50% sand, perlite, or coarse decorative gravel for the drainage material.


Echinocactus grusonii is a very fast-growing and vigorous plant, so it needs to be watered regularly to keep its growth going strong. During the sunny summer months, you should water once or twice a week thoroughly drenching the soil until water runs out the drainage holes. In the winter, water less frequently, perhaps once a month or every other month depending on the soil.

You don’t want to bring your cactus into dormancy by overwatering it in the fall and winter if you live in a temperate climate like mine that gets cold and dry during this time of the year (California coastal region).

Echinocactus grusonii is prone to stem rot if drainage is poor, so be sure to provide plenty of drainage hole(s) and let your plant dry out between waterings. However, overwatering or letting the soil stay wet for prolonged periods can cause root rot as well.

Air circulation/ventilation

While Echinocactus grusonii is not as prone to rot or bug invasion due in part to its thick white spines, it may be susceptible to mold if not properly ventilated. Rotting may occur in the dark, humid conditions of poorly vented greenhouses and basements if plants are overwatered.

Echinocactus grusonii is a good candidate for floor plant arrangement because it has good air circulation to prevent molds and rotting due to high humidity.


Fertilizing echinocactus grusonii is a very important task to undertake. The plant will grow in an unhealthy manner if not given proper fertilizer. In particular, echinocacti need extra nitrogen and potash for optimal growth. There are many fertilizers that provide these elements as well as other necessary ingredients like magnesium and sulfur when it comes to echinocactus care.

A liquid or granular type would be best suited for this specific cactus variety because of their ability to penetrate the soil easily whereas pellets can get stuck on top of the earth where water cannot reach them properly since they don’t dissolve easily in water.


Echinocactus grusonii can tolerate cold temperatures in the winter, but it should not be exposed to freezing conditions. Healthy Echinocactus grusonii plants can withstand 10 degrees F (-12 °C) for a short time. The ideal temperature range for growing this plant is 50-95 degrees F (10-35 °C).

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However, Echinocactus grusonii should not be exposed to temperatures above 100 degrees F (37.8 °C) for a prolonged period like many other cacti or it will likely suffer from sunburn as well. If you live in a hot climate and don’t have air conditioning, try to move your cactus out of the direct sunlight during the summer, especially if it is a young plant that has not yet developed its spines.


Humidity is not a major concern with golden barrels even though they do live in more arid environments. It would be best to provide cactus soil as well because this will help retain moisture and keep the plant happy.


echinocactus grusonii

The golden barrel cactus, echinocactus grusonii, can be pruned any day of the year. However, it is best to do this on a dry and sunny day in order to reduce as much risk for rot or fungus growths that are often associated with wet plants. The golden barrel will grow towards the light so trimming may not be necessary but if needed make sure you remove at least one-third of excess foliage by cutting back just above a leaf node leave enough leaves intact so that there is still some shade underneath them.

Pruning helps promote new spikes from cuttings which ultimately leads to more flowers appearing on your golden barrels in future years making it an important part of echinocactus grusonii care.

The spines on Echinocactus grusonii are sharp and can easily cut skin, so be sure to wear gloves when pruning or cutting off damaged portions of the plant.


1) Take caution lest you cut into an active growing point (from which new branches will sprout). If you do accidentally damage a growing point, it is best to cut off the top of the problematic area at an angle and then sand that portion flat before pruning off any damaged parts.

2) Use a razor blade or small pruner to make cuts on your cactus instead of using hedge clippers or scissors because blades will cleanly remove portions while still leaving some sharp spines for protection from bugs and other predators.

3) If you want a smaller plant, then do not remove portions of the cactus as it grows. Instead, just stop watering your plant whenever its size slows down. The areas that are cut off will grow back quickly once the watering is resumed.


The golden barrel cactus should be repotted every two to three years. This is necessary because the plant roots outgrow their pots and become restricted in where they can grow which could lead them to rot or have a difficult time absorbing water through the soil.

A golden barrel will do best when planted into an earth substrate mix with as much organic material as you possibly can get your hands on, whether it’s from composted leaves, manure, or other substances that add additional nutrients like nitrogen and potassium for better growth of all aspects of this succulent – such as stems, flowers, and fruit.

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Young Echinocactus grusonii is often sold in small starter pots that don’t have enough room for the plant to grow. Therefore, you should repot or transplant your cactus into a bigger container as soon as possible to prevent stunting and overgrowing from lack of space.

If you wish to grow your Echinocactus grusonii outdoors in the ground, you should transplant it into a pot after one or two years and then later transfer it to the garden after another 5-10 years. The reason why you should wait so long between outdoor planting is that the cactus needs some time to mature its growing points from which new side branches will sprout.

Growth rate

The golden barrel cactus grows at the rate of three to four inches per year. It is not considered a fast-growing plant and it can take up to 20 years for one to reach maturity.


The golden barrel cactus is not toxic to humans. The spines on Echinocactus grusonii are sharp and can easily cut skin, so be sure to wear gloves when handling this cactus. However, the question of whether or not this cactus is toxic if eaten has been raised numerous times by concerned hobbyists due to the occasional mislabeling of “Echinocactus grusonii” as “Echinopsis grusonii.”

However, there are no credible reports of anyone being poisoned or sickened by this species (or any other members of the genus Echinocactus). Therefore, it is perfectly safe to handle and display this cactus if you take due care in handling its sharp spines.

Pests and diseases

The main pests that may attack Echinocactus grusonii are aphids and mealybugs (or other pests)

Disinfecting with alcohol or using organic insecticidal soap should take care of any bugs that may be living on your cacti (see this article for more details).

Other pests

If possible, avoid bringing Echinocactus grusonii into greenhouses or basements where other more common and dangerous bugs (e.g., spiders, centipedes) may live. Otherwise, be sure to thoroughly inspect your cacti for any signs of infestation upon purchasing them and/or before putting them into your containers. If problems arise, remove the affected plant(s) and disinfect any nearby surfaces to take care of the problem before it gets out of hand.

Disease prevention

Avoid letting rain or overhead water splash onto your plants (especially if also growing them outdoors). Water from overhead sources can easily get onto your plants’ skin and take extra time/effort to dry off. Also be sure not to let run-off water or contaminated water from nearby plants (e.g., if growing outdoors near ponds, lakes, or streams) get onto your cacti’s skin and potentially introduce a fungal infection.