Golden Barrel Cactus Plant Care Guide

We recently introduced you to the fairy castle cactus, but today we will help you care for the golden barrel cactus. Many gardeners refer to it as the mother-in-law’s cushion for a good reason. So stay with us as we journey with this potted cactus in caring for it to thrive.

More About The Golden Barrel Cacti

golden barrel cactus

While you rarely cultivate the golden barrel cacti in their native habitat, it grows well as a houseplant. Some gardeners refer to it as the golden ball, but its fancy name is Echinocactus grusonii.

These cactus plants have an impressive globe shape in a deep green color. But it grows yellow spikes all over it, giving it the golden barrel cactus. Still, handle the cactus with care as those spines are sharp.

If you have kids and pets growing the golden barrel cactus indoors, we recommend opting for a spineless version. In its natural Mexican habitat and the Southwestern United States, it grows well; you will need to care to help it adapt in your home or grow as an outdoor plant in the garden.

Furthermore, in arid desert regions, it blooms yellow flowers but seldom will flower indoors. Still, it is not impossible if you mimic the growing conditions and it reaches about 15 years old.

If you can make it bloom, it happens during spring and summer. Nevertheless, the golden ball cactus can grow up to six feet tall but is slowly growing, and indoors they remain manageable for years.

So, now that you have some background history on these house plants, let’s look at how you can care for the ball of fun.

golden barrel cactus card card

Golden Barrel Cactus Care

golden barrel cactus

In short, the Echinocactus grusonii needs up to six hours of full sun to flourish. We recommend a sunny window on the south side of the home. Still, it also needs protection from the intense sun. Another important thing is to provide well-draining soil with warm conditions.

Golden Barrel Cactus Preferred Soil Mix

One significant threat for your barrel cacti is root rot that develops with poor drainage holes. So, having enough drainage holes with suitable soil is important. In addition, it helps to provide your cactus with a gritty yet coarse blend of well-drained soil.

A blend of potting mix with sand and some added stones is ideal to allow excess water to flow from the roots into the bottom saucer. The same applies in desert landscapes to encourage drainage.

Alternatively, you can invest in cactus soil, but getting your hands dirty and making one is always fun. Lastly, if you plan on going on vacation, never leave your plant sitting in a saucer of water, as no water for a few weeks will not harm most cacti.

Light Requirements for Golden Barrel Cactus

golden barrel cactus light requirement

Next on the list is light which is as essential as the soil. During the growing season, placing your plant in a sunny location will make it happy.

These slow-growing plants need up to six hours of full sun per day. But do not leave it standing in a sunny window if you are having a heatwave or there is intense light.

The poor cactus will scorch, leaving burns or patches on the flesh. The rule applies to young cacti and is best kept away from direct light and placed in indirect sunlight until mature.

How Often to Water Golden Barrel Cactus

Whether you have young plants or a mature cactus, you need to protect the roots from overwatering. The rule applies to most other plants as well.

When you water your golden ball and notice water pooling, then you have a drainage problem. The best is to wait until the soil is dry before watering to prevent root rot. You may find during warm conditions, you will water more than in the winter months.

The best thing is to get that finger dirty, sticking it in the soil to check the moisture as it can be dry rather than soggy.

Fertilizing Your Golden Barrel Cactus

As with most plants grown indoors, you can feed your plant between May and September with a cactus fertilizer once every six weeks. Preferably use low nitrogen with high potassium fertilizer. You can use half-strength when done at the repotting stage, and your cacti have fresh cactus soil.

compost as fertilizer

For your outdoor cactus, you can mix in some compost once a month.

Temperature and Humidity Level Needs

To keep your plant happy, it helps to provide your golden barrel cacti with temperatures between 50°F to 70°F. While your round shape cactus tolerates different temperatures, it is not frost resistant. Neither will your cactus survive very high temperatures over 70°F.

Regarding humidity, your barrel cactus can thrive in a standard home.

Repotting Your Barrel Cactus

golden barrel cactus in a pot

In spring, it helps to check your cactus soil after it wakes from its dormant period. The golden barrel cacti are slow growers and only need transplanting when the root becomes cramped. Still, even if the container is okay, it helps to provide fresh cactus soil yearly.

So, in general, it gives a quirky appearance and is not displayed for its height.

Propagating Golden Barrel Cactus

Whether you have a barrel cactus or any other cacti, the best method to propagate is through seeds. You can do it through the seed, but the flowers seldom appear indoors. So, if you want to use the seed method, it is best to buy them from a sustainable source.

First, it helps to get some pots ready with a potting mix, and best started with wet soil. Then push the seed into the soil close to the surface, making them visible. Next, keep the seed in indirect sunlight and moist.

You can keep the seeds in these conditions until you notice new seedlings about 0.4 inches tall. Then move your seedlings to individual pots.

Golden Barrel Cactus Varieties

There are other similar varieties you can add to your barrel cactus collection.

California Barrel Cactus

california barrel cactus

The plant is a desert landscape cactus known as the miner’s compass. It is a tall variety producing yellow flowers and has downward curving spines.

Arizona Barrel Cactus

fishhook barrel cactus

The fishhook cactus or candy barrel cactus, you find a blooming colorful display of flowers compared to the other species.

Texas Blue Barrel Cactus

texas blue barrel cactus

The barrel cacti grow blue-green stems with lemon-yellow flowers and are long-lasting.

Golden Barrel Cactus Diseases and Pests

The golden barrel cactus is an easy-going plant, but the flowering part is tricky. Still, a few things can cause problems.

Rotting of the Root Ball

Root rot is a big concern and will ruin the plant quickly. Cacti have strong roots compared to most plants. When the soil remains moist, it risks fungal infections and tissue rotting and only appears above the soil in the advanced stage. The cactus will look soft at the base, discolored, or fall over.


You may find some unwelcomed guests feasting on your plant, showing up in winter months or when warmer. One annoying insect is the spider mite that leaves tiny webs over the golden spines.

The best way to remove them is to cover your plant with plastic wrap, leaving it for a few days to prevent the infestation from spreading.

Another pest is the mealybug which feasts on fleshy parts of the plant. To remove them, you can wash your cactus down with insecticidal soap.

Sunburn Patches

While your plant can survive at 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with six hours of sun a day as a mature plant, it can become scorched or result in sunburn. The best is to keep young cacti in indirect light when there is a heat wave or the UV rays are intense.

Where to Buy Golden Barrel Cactus?

The fantastic news is the golden barrel cactus is not a rare plant, and you can find the seed of the cactus at your local nursery. But you need not look far; Plantly can help you find this fun golden ball to add to your cactus collection.

Whether you want to buy, sell or simply reach out to other plant enthusiasts, Plantly is the right place to be!

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