Echinocactus grusonii

Golden Barrel cactus, Mother-In-law’s Cushion

Echinocactus grusonii enjoys a variety of common names from Golden Barrel cactus to Mother-In-law’s Cushion.

It is the familiar and quintessential barrel cactus making a ridged dome covered in thousands of golden-yellow spines and produced by the hundreds of thousands in nurseries around the globe.

Perfect for a sunny window sill, greenhouse, conservatory of summer patio, all this beauty and easy plant requires is a position in full sun and to be kept frost-free.

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Origin: East-Central Mexico
Genus: Echinocactus
Species / Cultivar: grusonii
Common Name: Golden Barrel cactus, Mother-In-law’s Cushion
Synonym: Kroenleinia grusonii

Plant Biography

Described for the first time in 1891 and named after a renowned cactus collector, Hermann Gruson, the barrel cactus is endemic to Mexico. Surprising, perhaps, that it is considered rare and endangered in the wild with a large portion of its habitat making way for a dam. The Echinocactus grusonii grows at altitudes around 1400 m, on volcanic rock slopes.

More recent research has pointed that the E.grusonii might be a hybrid between two other species of cactus, however the jury is still out on this topic.

Despite its natural habitat being under threat, the barrel cactus has enjoyed huge popularity in cultivation as an ornamental plant and it has become a symbol of arid gardens.

The flowers of the Echinocactus grusonii are fairly inconspicuous, and are present only in very mature specimens.

Echinocactus grusonii
Soil: Cacti and Succulent Mix
Enjoys a drier soil with a high ratio of drainage material.
Growth Rate: Slow
This plant is particularly slow to grow, even during growing season.
Water Requirement: Low
Will grow in a drier position and is unlikely to need regular watering once established.
Maintenance: Low
Minimal skill or input needed beyond the basics, a very independent plant.
Situation: Full Sun
Wants direct, unfiltered sunlight most of the day, such as a south facing position.
Eventual Height: 1m
The plant's ultimate height in typical growing conditions.
Eventual Spread: 40-80m
The plant's ultimate spread in typical growing conditions.
Hardiness: Half Hardy
Will need protection from frosts in order to survive winter, eg. with fleece jacket.
Care and size guidance

Care and size guidance

Plant the Echinocactus grusonii in a well drained soil in full sun. A part shaded spot is also ok, if it’s a hot place. Once established, the plant is extremely drought tolerant.

Water during the growth period, but avoid to let water sit on the plant. For short periods of time, the E.grusonii can withstand temperatures down to -8 degrees, however it’s recommended to be kept in a container and brought indoors if your area is experiencing wet and cold winters.

Feed with a high potassium feed in summer months.

Keep the plant dry in winter. If in a pot, make sure the roots are not sitting in water as this leads to root rot very easily.

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