Echinocactus grusonii-Golden Barrel Cactus

The two Echinocactus grusonii on 7-19-16, #274-30.

Golden Barrel Cactus

Echinocactus grusonii

ek-in-oh-KAK-tus groo-SON-ee-eye

Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit

Synonyms: Echinocactus corynacanthus Scheidw., Echinocactus galeottii Scheidw., Kroenleinia grusonii (Hildm.) Lodé

Echinocactus grusonii Hildm. is the correct and accepted name for the Golden Barrel Cactus. It was named and first documented by H. Hildmann in Deutsche Garten-Zeitung in 1886 and Monatsschrift für Kakteenkunde in 1891. Both publications are listed.

The genus Echinocactus Link & Otto was named by Johann Heinrich Friedrich Link and Christoph Friedrich Otto and documented in 1827. The title of publication is quite long… Verhandlungen des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gartenbaues in den Königlich Preussischen Staaten 3.

Plants of the World Online lists only 6 accepted species of Echinocactus (as of 10-27-19 when I am updating this page).

When this cactus was discovered, plants were dug by the thousands and sent to botanic gardens, palaces, and collectors throughout North America and Europe. Their native habitat is the Rio Moctezuma Valley in Mexico. In 1990, the area was scheduled to be flooded after a dam was built so a Mexican botanical garden removed them and other rare plants. Today, the Golden Barrel Cactus is one of the most common cactus in cultivation even though very few remain in the wild.

I bought my Golden Barrel Cactus from Wal-Mart on 2-1-16. Actually, I somehow bought two of them. They were in 2 1/2” (4 oz.) pots. The taller one measured approximately 2 1/2” tall x 2” wide and the shorter one approximately 2 1/8” tall x 2 1/4” wide. The label states:

“Drought tolerant when established. Rugged tolerance of the elements; yellow flowers appear at the crown. Needs well-draining soil. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Looks best with regular watering in hotter months.”


Echinocactus grusonii on 5-31-17, #339-8.

It is always strange to me how some critters, such as the crickets, always manage to chew on the cactus even though they have long spines. 2013 was probably the worse year for crickets and I had many succulents that were damaged in one night. I had to start moving them into the shed in the evening and back outside every morning for a while.


Echinocactus grusonii on 8-29-17, #369-55.

There is almost always something stuck in their thorns. Leaves, bugs, cat hair…


Family: Cactaceae
Origin: Mexico
Zones: USDA ZONES 9A-11 (20-40° F)
Size: Ummm…
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Fast-draining.
Water: Average during warmer months, sparse in winter


Echinocactus grusonii on 10-11-17, #382-27.

I like growing cacti because many are so amazing. Most of them grow very slowly so I measure them at least once a year.

Cactus are very easy to grow providing you follow a few basic rules. The main thing is probably the soil. They need soil that is fast draining and very porous. They have this weird root system under the plant that isn’t very large at all. Ideally, your pot shouldn’t be much bigger than the root system but where in the heck would you get a pot like that? For many years I used 2 parts of a good potting like Miracle Grow or Schultz with 1 part perlite and 1 part chicken grit. Many cactus and succulent growers recommend using pumice in place of perlite and grit, so I bought a bag from General Pumice online. I started using it late in 2018 and I have been happy with the results. I mix 50/50 with a good potting soil like Miracle Grow.


The taller Echinocactus grusonii at 4″ tall x 4″ wide on 10-17-17, #384-7.

I moved the potted plants inside for the winter on October 17 (2017) which is a little earlier than last year. You need to check your plants over carefully before bringing them inside to make sure some critters aren’t coming in.


The smaller Echinocactus grusonii at 3 3/4″ tall x 4 1/2″ wide on 10-17-17, #384-8.

As with most cactus, they don’t require much water. I water my cactus along with my other potted plants when they are outside but I just go over them a little. During the winter, I hardly water them at all. Sometimes I may give them a light misting.


Top view of the Echinocactus grusonii on 10-17-17, #384-9.

One thing is for sure, you don’t want to accidentally back into one of these. Handle with care!


The two Echinocactus grusonii on 1-18-18, #401-5.

The two Echinocactus grusonii are doing quite well inside. We all miss being outdoors, but seeing the snow outside makes them thankful to be inside.


Echinocactus grusonii on 5-17-17, #443-30.

All the plants were glad when warmer temperatures stayed around so they could get back outside. I decided to name them “Greater” and “Lessor”.


Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus) on 7-29-18, #487-38.

I always kept most of the potted plants on tables next to a shed in “the other yard” (where my grandparent’s old house was). We had a really bad Japanese Beetle invasion in 2018 and the plants were under a Chinese Elm tree. The beetles love the leaves and were beginning to sample the plants. So, I moved the potted plants on the front and back porch of my house on July 4. I put most of the cactus on the back porch in full sun.

Moving the cactus to the back porch was a good idea because there are no crickets there either. The deck is at least 4′ above the ground. 🙂


Echinocactus grusonii the Lesser on 10-10-18, #519-27.

Cooler weather came as usual and a frost was in the forecast so I moved the potted plants inside on 10-10-18. I always measure the cactus when I bring them inside. The  Echinocactus grusonii the Lesser measured 2 1/2″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide and Greater measured 2 7/8″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide. I measured them without the spines which are an additional 1 1/4″ long. Last year’s measurements included the spines… I re-potted these two plants before I brought them inside but somehow I forgot to take a photo of the Greater…


Echinocactus grusonii on 11-29-18, #534-8.

I took the cactus outside on November 29 for a photoshoot. We had a couple of spring-like days and I was wanting to do a post about the differences between the cactus in my collection.


Echinocactus grusonii the Greater with yellow spots on 11-29-18, #534-9.

Echinocactus grusonii the Greater is still doing fine after the cricket damage from last May.


Echinocactus grusonii close-up on 12-1-18, #535-6.

The Echinocactus grusonii gives new meaning to “handle with care”. Its spines are long, very stiff, and sharp. Different varieties and forms of Echinocactus grusonii have different sizes of spines. The only photos I have seen online of spines as long as mine is of the Echinocactus grusonii var. albispinus which have white spines instead of yellow. Umm… The above photo looks like it has white spines, but in person, they look yellow. It makes me wonder, though. Hmmm… Of course, Echinocactus grusonii var. albispinus is considered a synonym of the species now.


Echinocactus grusonii close-up from the top on 12-1-18, #535-7.

The top of the Echinocactus grusonii is not one you would want to sit on. I read this cactus produces small flowers near the apex that can be hidden by the wool.



One of the two Echinocactus grusonii on 6-22-19, #593-10.

All the cactus are on the back porch enjoying their summer outside.


Echinocactus grusonii (var. albispinus ?) on 10-11-19, #639-21.

Once again “F” was in the forecast so I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter. As always, they are the comedians of my cactus companions. They always try to confuse me when I am measuring them. Occasionally, Lessor will stand on its toes and Greater will puff out its stomach. Their long thorns don’t make it any easier. Since last October, Greater has grown from 2 7/8″ tall x 2 1/2″ wide to 3″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide. It was 2 1/2″ tall x 2″ wide when I brought it home from Wal-Mart in February 2016. Lessor has grown from 2 1/2″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide last October to 2 7/8″ tall x 3″ wide. It was 2 1/8″ tall x 2 1/4″ wide when I brought it home the same day as Greater. Those measurements are without the spines…


Echinocactus grusonii (var. albispinus) at 3 1/2 tall x 2 3/4 wide on 10-15-20, #747-24.

I had to bring the potted plants inside for the winter on October 15 because an “F” was in the forecast. As always, I took photos and measurements. I always make jokes about these two characters because they are always joking around with me. Every time I measure them one is a little taller than the other and the other is a little wider. This year was different… When I measured them they were the same size. The green pot is a little shorter which might make the one on the left look shorter but their measurements were the same. This year they both measured 3 1/2″ tall x 2 3/4″ wide (without the spines). I am sure I must have screwed up…

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