All You Need to Know About the Golden Barrel Cactus

Amongst the most beautiful and easy-to-grow succulents is the golden barrel cactus, which is perfectly named as well.

It has a rounded, large body covered in vertical and long gold spines that gives it its unique appearance.

The cactus has a crimson tinge to it which is another reason for its unusual name. 

While it can easily be grown indoors or outside in the garden, it only flourishes in a few limited regions.

Did you know the golden barrel cactus is also called mother-in-law’s pillow? It is a rather funny name considering some people wish to have their moms-in-law sit on it! (Must’ve been some horrible mother-in-law) 

This blog will teach you all you need to know about the golden barrel cactus, including how to care for it, how to grow it, how to propagate it, and much more.

Let’s begin with some of its characteristics.

Characteristics of the Golden Barrel Cactus

Echinocactus grusonii is the official genus of the golden barrel cactus. Its other names include:

  • Mother-in-law’s pillow
  • Barrel cactus
  • Hedgehog cactus 

The golden barrel cactus resembles a barrel and can grow up to 3 feet tall and 3 feet round. The entire cactus is covered with long yellow-colored poisonous spines.

These rigid spines develop in clusters vertically along the cactus’ ribs, similar to several other barrel-shaped cacti. 

 Its spherical stem can reach heights of 60 inches and widths of 36 inches in the wild or in environments that are comparable to its native habitat in Mexico and Southwest America.

A spineless kind of this cactus also features ribbed stems that generate sharp yellowish spines. The cactus crown contains wooly hairs that are white in color at the top.

The cactus also produces blossoms in a wide variety of colors ranging from yellow and orange to purple and pink.

These blossoms are sometimes fragrant and attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds that help with pollination.

Golden Barrel Cactus Care Guide

The golden barrel cactus can thrive outdoors under the right condition, but it also does pretty well as an indoor houseplant.

Let’s find out how you can provide your precious succulent with the best conditions to thrive in.


Like all the several cacti genus around the world, the golden barrel cactus also is a sun worshiper. It loves the bright sunlight and needs at least 6 hours of it to survive and thrive. 

In case it doesn’t receive an adequate amount of sunlight, it will start losing its spines and become discolored.

Additionally, too much sunlight will also do no good to it, as it’ll lead to sunburn, causing the plant to wilt and exposing its vulnerable roots.

If your golden barrel is kept indoors, make sure to position it near a south-facing window, specifically during its growing season.

However, ensure you keep it away from direct sunlight during a heatwave. 

Overheating could burn your succulent and leave unattractive scorched spots on different parts of it. Pruning the parts is the only approach to get rid of burnt patches.

Golden barrel plants that are young are especially vulnerable to sunburn. Make sure to keep them out of the sun until they’re fairly mature to safeguard themselves.

Young cacti should be exposed to plenty of indirect sunlight so they can grow healthily.


Making sure your barrel cactus is planted in the optimum sort of potting soil is the first step along the way. Due to its succulent nature, this plant thrives on soil that drains well.

Your cactus needs proper aeration and drainage in the soil and incorporating sand or perlite in the potting mix will help ensure this and prevent soggy soil that could lead to rotting roots.

Ideally, a common cactus blend will work. For effectiveness, you can also utilize potting soil with a sandy base.


Similar to all other cacti, the golden barrel also hates wet feet. It thrives when under well-drained soil and when under-watered.

If you don’t understand how many times you should be watering your cactus, employ the “soak and dry” method.

Only water your golden barrel once the top layer of soil feels completely dry to touch.

Soggy soil leads to root rot and difficulties in absorbing nutrients from the soil. During spring and summertime, watering the plant once or twice a week is more than enough for it to survive.

Restrain from watering it during the winter months, once a month should be enough. 

The environment your cactus is growing in, and the size of the container will also determine how often you should be watering it. 

Any yellowness at the base of your cactus implies that it is time to water it. Slightly damp roots will result in a healthy and thriving golden barrel cactus.


The optimal temperatures for the barrel cactus to thrive range from 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit. The golden barrel cactus will experience issues with leaf loss if exposed to winter temperatures below 45 °.

It is important for temperatures to be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit as the lower temperature can cause stress and result in a variety of problems.

After the winter, if you want to move your planted barrel cactus outside, don’t do it abruptly because this could startle the plant and put it under a lot of stress.

Rather, gradually acclimate it by putting it outside for a few hours in a location with some cover before introducing it to direct sunshine.

How to Propagate a Golden Barrel Cactus?

The finest and simplest method for growing these cacti is seed propagation. You will be able to find seeds easily through online websites or nurseries in your area.

Make sure the person you get your seeds or cactus from doesn’t collect them in the wild.

You can also propagate them using offsets. 

Propagation Using Offsets

  • Always wear gardening gloves when handling cacti.
  • Using sharp and sterilized knives, separate the offset from the parent plant.
  • Let the offsets dry at room temperature before planting. 
  • Once ready, transfer the offset into a container with cactus potting mix.
  • Lightly water it.
  • Place the pot in a location where there is plenty of indirect sunlight.
  • Water it once a week until the roots take hold.
  • Once the young plant is strong enough, you can place it outside, although transition it gradually so it doesn’t stress itself.

Propagation Using Seeds

  • Seeds can easily be obtained from a nursery, or you can pick them from golden barrel cactus blooms. 
  • Soak the seeds overnight in water.
  • Prepare a seed tray or shallow container with a cactus potting mix.
  • After the seeds have soaked, place them in the container.
  • Cover the seed with some dirt.
  • Leave the container in direct sunlight for many days.
  • Ensure you keep the soil moist to help seeds germinate.
  • When the seeds start to sprout, usually after a month, carefully remove them from the container and transfer them into a pot with well-draining soil. 
  • Now, be patient, as barrel cacti can take years to develop.

Barrel Cacti Flowering

An indoor golden barrel cactus is less likely to bloom when compared to the ones growing outdoors. If it does bloom, however, you will notice yellow, triangular blossoms along the plant’s crown during mid-summer.

These flowers, when fertilized, provide juicy yellow fruits with seeds that are persistently viable for years.

Although they are capable of producing flowers, they typically won’t begin to flower until they’ve grown over 6 inches in thickness, which takes approximately 15 years!

In the spring or early summer, blooms reach a width of about 2 – 3 inches and resemble a halo on the top of the barrel cactus. They can last for over 2-6 weeks.

The key to obtaining blooms is making sure the cactus receives full sunlight during its growing season, which is in spring and early summer.

In order to promote blooms from April through September, it also requires a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus given to it once a month. Additionally, hold off on watering for a while before the growth period.

The artificial drought will replicate its thriving conditions in the wild and simulate its natural growth cycle, which will help it to produce flowers.

Facts About the Golden Barrel Cactus

  • The Golden Barrel is now on the verge of extinction due to excessive wild harvesting and disappearing habitats.
  • Under optimal conditions, a golden barrel cactus can live up to 300 years!

Golden Barrel Cactus Varieties

This beautiful cactus is available in 4 varieties:

Fishhook Cactus

It also goes by other names, including Southwestern barrel cactus, candy barrel cactus, and Arizona barrel cactus. The distinguishing feature is the various colored blooms it produces 

California Barrel Cactus

This is a taller variety with spines curving downwards and yellow-colored blossoms. It is also known as the miner’s compass and desert barrel.

Colville’s Barrel

This variety consists of maroon, orange, and yellow blooms and is also known as nail keg barrel, traveler’s friends, Sonora barrel, and Emory’s cactus.

Blue Barrel Cactus

Also known as the Texas blue barrel or glaucous barrel cactus, this variety produces long-lasting lemon green flowers and consists of bluish-green stems.

Wrap Up

Growing the golden barrel cactus is quite simple. It performs well if you understand what you’re doing, even if it’s vulnerable to major temperature changes.

If you take care of your golden barrel cactus properly, this will thank you with a lot of lush, green growth and bright blossoms.

As it ages, it becomes tall and slender. Just be certain to plant it in a pot that is big enough and keep it away from other plants because it grows quickly.