Echinocactus grusonii – Golden barrel cactus


Within the genus of the Echinocactus, the grusonii is one of the best-known cacti , as well as beautiful and thorny.

The common names are:Golden barrel cactus, Mother-in-law seat, cactus barrel, cactus ball, cactus urchin or mother-in-law cushion.

Description of Echinocactus grusonii

The seat of the mother-in-law has a spherical shape , looks like a barrel when it becomes an adult. Another peculiarity is that in its upper part flattened (at the apex), it presents a yellow or whitish halo, with a woolly tissue.

The thorns are organized with symmetry, taking advantage of the entire circumference. They are divided into groups of seven to ten barbs. The plants are more developed (can measure up to 5cm) and sometimes twist down. The truth is that they intimidate; you have to be careful with them.

Original from Mexico and very popular, but in danger of extinction. It grows in volcanic rocky areas, on slopes at altitudes of about 1,400 meters. They can live up to 30 years.

The variety albispinus, is apparently a golden cactus, with white spines and not yellowish.

The Echinocactus grusonii are solitary and globose cacti, barrel-shaped at maturity, about 100 to 120 cm in height and up to one meter in diameter.

It is usually pale green or bright, very grooved, with many areolae with radial buds. The thorns are yellowish, usually (there are different varieties).

The young specimens are covered with tubers, which are like wart-like inflammations. As it grows, the tubers are aligned in vertical rows, somewhat less visible.

Echinocactus grusonii
Echinocactus grusonii

When the cactus grows to 15 cm in diameter, the tubers will have merged, forming 20 to 27 ribs, separated by indentations.

The areolas are placed along the ribs and are full of yellowish or whitish woolly hairs. In the upper part there is so much density of areolas, that it seems crowned with hair or wool.

When they are young specimens, they can be confused with cactus of the genus Mammillaria.


The flowers are bright yellow and have a cup shape. They are about 5 cm wide. Remember that it only flowers in very adult and large specimens.

The are flowers are diurnal about 4 or 5 cm wide and form a circular ring on the top of the cactus. They are not very visible, they are small with respect to the size of the plant and they hide between the superior lanosidad.

The flowering season is from spring to the end of summer, but only in adults and very sunny.

Echinocactus grusonii - Flower
Echinocactus grusonii – Flower

It can be grown outdoors, very sunny, which will lead to the appearance of long spines.


The period of active growth is spring and summer, better if it is with warm temperatures. It tolerates the minimum temperature, 5ºC.

It can get to endure  -8ºC, but those low temperatures, can make the plant discolor and brown spots appear, distinctive that it has been in the cold.

If, on the contrary, in winter we have it at an average of over 12ºC, we can overtake spring and begin to grow ahead of time, which will cause it, due to the lack of winter sun, to grow more unsightly, which is his own.

Irrigation and fertilization.

Water moderately in the active period, summer-spring. To water enough to have the mixture humid, it needs a lot of water, but not to flood the substratenever.

Always, let the substrate dry, before watering. In winter, water very little. Too much irrigation can cause the decomposition of the roots and base of the cactus.

It is not essential to fertilize , if a good substrate is available , but in the case of fertilizing, do it with a slow-release fertilizer in the pot and rich in potassium.

Echinocactus grusonii - Barrel shape
Echinocactus grusonii – Barrel shape

Try not to wet the body of the cactus and less being in direct sunlight, as it can burn or cause scars. It can even cause the appearance of fungi .

Substrate and transplant.

The substrate for the Echinocactus grusonii must be rich and well drained, with clay, pumice, lava sand and a part of peat.

The mixture for pots, with base in earth or peat is adequate, but make it more porous, with the addition of a third part of coarse sand.

If it is necessary to transplant each spring, otherwise it can remain in the same pot, if it fits comfortably. After replanting, do not water in a couple of weeks.

They are cactus of easy cultivation.


It can  be multiplied by seeds. Prepare a nursery for cactus and in 2 to 6 weeks, you will have your new shoots. Try, if possible, to get seed from a cactus not more than a year old. That way you will have more chances of success.

It is convenient to plant with the temperatures of spring or summer, but place the seedbed in the shade. Use a loose substrate with good drainage, so that fungi do not appear.

It will be like small balls or spheres of red color. When the thorns begin to sprout, it is time to transplant to pots about 5 cm in diameter.

Echinocactus grusonii
Echinocactus grusonii

Leave them there for two years and then pass them to a pot , about 10 or 12 cm in diameter.

Plagues and diseases.


Pests , can attack the cochineal or red spider .

Avoid excess moisture in the earth . As with most succulents, this is your Achilles heel. The roots may not breathe properly or worse: rot by the appearance of fungi.

Another cross that carries the Echinocactus is the cochineal , with tremendous appetite for the succulent plants. The aphid may also appear, but it is less common.

If the density of the pest allows it, it will be enough to remove the insects manually or with the help of a brush dipped in alcohol. If not, you can use potassium soap as an insecticide, which is completely harmless to humans. The azadirachtin (neem oil) or pyrethroids can be “plan B”, more aggressive if not work first.




Genus Mammillaria