Echinocactus grusonii, more commonly known as Golden Barrel Cactus or Mother-in-Law’s Cushion, is a very interesting plant with a somewhat unique appearance. Whether or not you currently grow any cacti as houseplants, the Golden Barrel Cactus is one that you should consider growing. It is easy to care for and looks great in groups, whether it is a cluster of Barrel Cacti or an addition to a collection of tropical foliage plants.
Golden Barrel Cactus prefers sunny places. If you have a southern exposure (or northern if you are in the southern hemisphere) that would be best. The Barrel Cactus will tolerate less-sunny locations, but for optimum growth sun is required.
Some people find cacti to be great houseplants because they don’t require careful watering. With the Golden Barrel Cactus, this is quite true. Water the pot thoroughly and it doesn’t need to be watered again until it has dried almost completely.
You should use a potting mix that is specific to cacti to get the proper drainage. If the hole in the bottom of the pot is large and potting mix is spilling out, place a small square of screen or paper towel over it. It will allow water to pass through and keep the contents of the pot contained.
While your plant is in active growth, you can fertilize about once a month. Cactus fertilizer tends to be lower in nitrogen than standard houseplant fertilizer and is usually applied in small amounts. Don’t fertilize in the winter months while the plant is resting.
Barrel Cactus can most easily be propagated by division of “pups” from a mother plant. Let the wound callous over before planting the pup. It is also propagated from seed which can be collected from the small yellow flowers after blooming. Seeds should be left on the plant to ripen for as long as possible, then cleaned and dried.
Insect pests are not a significant problem for Golden Barrel Cactus, which is another perk of the plant. There isn’t anywhere on the plant for insects to hide and no leaves to die back and litter the pot. Any insects you may find on the plant may be removed with tepid, soapy water or alcohol on a cotton swab.
The spines on Golden Barrel Cactus are long and very sharp so it may not be the best choice for homes with pets or small children. Invest in a pair of thick gloves to wear when handling and transplanting your cactus. Barrel Cactus is a fairly slow grower so transplanting shouldn’t need to be done more than once a year.