Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus)

Scientific Name

Echinocactus grusonii Hildm.

Common Names

Golden Barrel Cactus, Golden Barrel, Golden Ball Cactus, Golden Ball, Mother-in-Law's Cushion, Mother-in-Law's Seat


Echinocereus grusonii, Echinocactus corynacanthus, Echinocactus galeottii

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Cacteae
Genus: Echinocactus


Echinocactus grusonii is a cactus with a slow-growing, usually solitary, globe-shaped stem that became barrel-shaped in maturity. It grows up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall and about the same in diameter. The stem is pale green and heavily ribbed with numerous areoles sprouting yellow radial spines. Flowers are yellow and up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. They appear in summer around the crown of the plant, but only after 20 years or so.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Golden Barrel Cactus is fairly quick growing at first, and then the growth rate slows right down. So you can expect to wait about ten years for the cactus to reach 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter. Like most cacti, it is drought tolerant and needs very little care and attention to grow well. Not enough sunlight and overwatering are common mistakes. When handling, it is best to use gloves to protect your hands from the prickly spines.

When it is young and growing, it is best to repot your Golden Barrel Cactus once a year, in a slightly bigger container during spring. Once they mature, repot maybe every 2 to 3 years or when necessary.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Echinocactus.

You can sow Golden Barrel Cactus seeds outdoors in warm climates, but sowing them indoors is easier and will result in a higher germination rate. Expect the seeds to germinate in one to two months.

Learn more at How to Grow Golden Barrel Cactus from Seed.


Echinocactus grusonii is endemic to east-central Mexico.


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Golden Barrel Care Guide – Learn About Golden Barrel Cacti

The golden barrel cactus plant (Echinocactus grusonii) is an attractive and cheerful specimen, rounded and growing to as much as three feet tall and three feet around much like a barrel, hence the name. Be careful, though, as it has long dangerous spines. As with many barrel cactus plants, the stiff yellow needles grow in clusters along ribs of the cactus.

Gallery [ edit ]

Mature golden barrels showing their distinctive clustering habit. Photo from the Huntington Desert Garden in California.

Echinocactus grusonii, a nearly spineless form

Echinocactus grusonii spine detail at the United States Botanic Gardens

Stereoscopic crossview of a golden barrel cactus.

Echinocactus grusonii – Cactus garden

Echinocactus grusonii (commonly known as Golden barrel cactus) is one of the most popular cacti with a single slowly growing globe-shaped stem that became elongated (barrel-shaped) in maturity, up to 90 cm in height and spread. Cultivated usually only grow to around 30 cm. The stem is pale green and heavily ribbed with numerous areoles sprouting radial, yellow spines. Flower are diurnal, vivid yellow, 4-5 cm wide and form a circular ring at the top of the plant, but are not very visible being small in relation with the size of the barrel, and lost into the creamy colored wool at the plant apex. The flowers are produced from end of spring to summer only on larger mature specimens receiving enough full sun.

Scientific Name: Echinocactus grusonii
Common Names: Golden barrel cactus, Golden ball or, Amusingly, mother-in-law’s cushion.

How to grow and maintain Echinocactus grusonii:

It grows well in full sun or filtered shade locations. Plants that do not get enough sunlight will grow more slowly and fail to thrive.

It prefers any rich, well-drained soil such us clay, pumice, lava grit, and only a little peat or leaf-mold. Or use a cactus soil mix is ideal.

Echinocactus grusonii prefers average temperatures between 50 degrees Fahrenheit – 75 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 degrees Celsius – 24 degrees Celsius are ideal but not below 40 degrees Fahrenheit / 5 degrees Celsius and avoid frost.

Water moderately, during the growing season. Allow the top 1 inch of soil to dry out before watering again. During the winter season, do not water the plants but just keep them moist otherwise they will rot.

Fertilize your Echinocactus grusonii plant once a month, during the growing season, with a weak liquid cactus fertilizer.

Echinocactus grusonii can be propagated by seed. To seed a cactus, plant the seeds shallowly in a cactus mix and keep them warm and very slightly moist.

It is best to re-pot at the start of the developing season, or summer. To re-pot cacti, ensure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently expel the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you re-pot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.

Pests and Diseases:
No serious pest and diseases problems. Watch for infestations of mealybug, scale insects, and spider mite. Expel mealybugs by dipping cotton swabs in rubbing alcohol and dabbing them or spray the golden barrel thoroughly with insecticidal soap once a week until they’re gone.

Plants→Echinocactus→Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Common names:
(6) Golden Barrel Cactus
(3) Golden Ball
(3) Uitsnauatl
(3) Asiento de Suegra
Barril Dorado
General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit:Cactus/Succulent
Life cycle:Perennial
Sun Requirements:Full Sun
Water Preferences: Mesic
Dry Mesic
Soil pH Preferences:Moderately acid (5.6 – 6.0)
Slightly acid (6.1 – 6.5)
Neutral (6.6 – 7.3)
Minimum cold hardiness:Zone 9a -6.7 °C (20 °F) to -3.9 °C (25 °F)
Plant Height :2 to 4 feet
Plant Spread :2 to 3 feet
Fruit:Other: Woolly
Flower Color:Yellow
Bloom Size:2"-3"
Flower Time:Summer
Underground structures:Taproot
Suitable Locations:Xeriscapic
Uses:Will Naturalize
Resistances:Drought tolerant
Containers:Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Needs excellent drainage in pots
Miscellaneous:Tolerates poor soil
With thorns/spines/prickles/teeth
Awards and Recognitions: RHS AGM
Conservation status:Endangered (EN)

Common and durable golden-spined barrel cactus to 2-3 feet in diameter. Known as the asiento de suegra (mother-in-law's seat) in Mexico. Very spiny, with a wooly crown when mature. Yellow flowers and wooly fruit appear within that crown. 21-37 ribs, 3-4 central spines.

Propagated from seed. Fast growing for a barrel cactus. Tolerates extreme heat and extreme exposure. Provide good drainage and strong light in cultivation. Expect maybe 20 years to sexual maturity.

Extremely multiheaded versions of this plant are typically created by ablating the growth center and forcing branches, though there is normally some degree of occasional branching. The site of injury is completely hidden after a few years of growth. A white spined version (silver barrel?) exists, but the spines turn brown pretty fast, so it's not particularly silvery when mature.

The golden barrel is nearly extinct in habitat due to the construction of the Zimapán dam in Hidalgo, but one of the most common cacti in cultivation. A second population far to the west of this area (in southwestern Zacatecas) was recently discovered.

The genetics of this plant place it outside Echinocactus as it has historically been understood, and closer to Ferocactus. A new monotypic genus, Kroenleinia, was proposed for this plant in 2014, but it has not been widely accepted because other related genera have not been fully evaluated.

Watch the video: Beheading to save my Golden Barrel Cactus

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