10 Types of Echinocactus: Care and Propagation Guide

Native to Mexico and some parts of the United States, Echinocactus is a genus that consists of six species and tens of varieties of cacti. The most common of all the species is the Echinocactus grusonii which is also called Golden Barrel cactus colloquially because it resembles a golden ball.

How to Grow and Care For Echinocactus

echinocactus

Echinocactus are gorgeous cactus plants that make beautiful houseplants. If you love the look and feel of these cacti, you should educate yourself about the various ways you can care for them.

Light

Echinocactus grows well in sunlight. Therefore, you need to make sure you place the cacti near the source of sunlight, if indoors. If you are planning on placing these cacti outdoors, you need to make sure they get direct sunlight. Echinocactus, if they don’t get enough sunlight, will wither away.

However, at no point should Echinocactus cacti be placed under direct exposure to harsh sun rays. This may lead to the burning of the leaves.

Read also:
How Much Sunlight Does a Cactus Need?

Watering

Echinocactus doesn’t have frequent watering needs. You should only water the plant when the soil dries out completely. You need to make sure that there is no water in and around the pot that houses the cacti. Overwatering may lead to rot in its root.

While watering Echinocactus, make sure that the drops of water don’t fall on the cacti especially when the sun is shining in full glory. This is because it may lead to a potential sunburn or lead to a fungal infection that may be difficult to deal with.

Fertilizing

The growing season is the ideal time to feed your Echinocactus with weak liquid cacti fertilizer. You don’t need to feed fertilizers to the cacti at other times in the year. This is because the plant has moderate fertilizer needs.

You can opt for a high potassium fertilizer once every four weeks during the growing season.

Read also:
Fertilizer for Cactus: When, How and in What Ratio

Soil

Don’t make the cardinal mistake of using your regular potting mix for growing Echinocactus at home. A cacti mix should be the ideal soil for this plant. You can even add perlite to the mix to enhance drainage and ensure that water doesn’t stand.

Climate

Echinocactus is a true desert plant that cannot stand humidity. It thrives in dry climates with little or no moisture and humidity. If you use it as an indoor houseplant, make sure to give it a dry, humidity-free atmosphere else it will not thrive.

How to Propagate Echinocactus

Echinocactus are best propagated from seeds. Make sure you sow the seeds in a good potting mix that has good drainage capabilities. If you live in a warm region, you can propagate them outside.

If you live in colder parts of the world, you would need to propagate the plant indoors using grow lights. This is because it will freeze to death in cold conditions and not yield any positive result.

Once the cacti have bloomed, it is crucial to prune them from time to time. This is because Echinocactus may attract mealybugs and spider mites occasionally. In case there is a pest infestation, you need to treat it immediately, either with a pesticide or soapy water.

Types of Echinocactus

Echinocactus grusonii (Golden Barrel Cactus)

Echinocactus grusonii has usually a single slowly growing globe-shaped stem that became elongated (barrel-shaped) in maturity, up to 90 cm (180 cm) in height and spread. It may offset with advanced age and a few multiples occur even at small sizes. Its stem is pale green and heavily ribbed.

Echinocactus grusonii var. albispinus

Echinocactus grusonii var. albispinus looks just like a regular “golden barrel cactus” but the spines are all white instead of yellow.

Echinocactus horizonthalonius ssp. horizonthalonius

Echinocactus horizonthalonius ssp. horizonthalonius is a relatively small barrel cactus that normally grows unbranched.

Echinocactus horizonthalonius ssp. nicholii

The Nichol’s turk’s head cactus (Echinocactus horizonthalonius subs. nicholii), is a small barrel cactus normally unbranched. The blue-green stem bears spines on vertical, spiraling ridges.

Echinocactus parryi

Globose depressed or shortly cylindrical, remarkably similar in morphology to E. polycephalus but distinct by the manner of growth and whiter spines. This Echinocactus is usually solitary but can branches spontaneously under normal conditions.

Echinocactus platyacanthus (Candy Barrel Cactus)

Echinocactus platyacanthus is a slowly growing barrel cactus known under the popular name viznaga, it is usually solitary and grows huge in habitat. It could live more than a hundred years and is easily recognized because of its massive size, by far the largest of all barrel cacti.

The stem is grey-blue somewhat tuberculate and nice when small, whilst large plants are heavily ribbed with numerous areoles forming a continuous line. They are day-flowering plants with vivid yellow flowers produced in spring and summer-autumn.

Echinocactus polycephalus (Harem Cactus)

Echinocactus polycephalus is a densely spiny cactus, solitary when young but almost always branching from the base in age and forming spreading clumps of 20-30 heads ( sometimes of more than 100 stems). The clumps are usually about 60 cm tall and up to 120 cm across.

Echinocactus polycephalus subs. xeranthemoides

Echinocactus polycephalus subs. xeranthemoides is similar to Echinocactus polycephalus, but globose and smaller. It is caespitose and sprouts freely around the base forming unsymmetrical clumps with rarely more than twelve individual heads and is sometimes solitary. The ribs are fewer and spinier.

Echinocactus texensis (Horse Crippler Cactus)

Echinocactus texensis, best known in cultivation as Homalocephala texensis, is a stout barrel cactus, which is solitary when young, very rarely slowly clustering in age.

Echinocactus texensis cv. Anayami Monstr

Echinocactus texensis cv. Anayami Monstr is an odd monstrous plant with narrow felt-like areoles derived from the well-known Echinocactus texensis. This form is rare and very different and has many irregular, more or less prominent “warts” or small supplemental monstrous ribs between and on the true ribs surface.

Both the true ribs and the smaller “warts” on them bear very elongated, felty areoles filled by more or less pectinate spines. With the exception of the long spiny areoles and irregular ribs, all the other characteristics are identical to the standard species, namely the size of stem, flowers and fruit.

There is a low chance of flowering but the character of monstrosa is transferred through seeds. By the way, “Ayanami” is just the Japanese name of texensis, which means twilled waves.

Read also:
1,000 Types of Cactuses With Pictures

FAQs

There are a lot of questions that people tend to ask before bringing Echinocactus home. Here are two of the most commonly asked questions answered just for you!

How Do You Repot Echinocactus?

The growing season, particularly the summer months, is the ideal time to repot Echinocactus.

The first thing you need to ensure is that the soil is completely dry without any specks of moisture. You also need to remove any dead roots that may have accumulated in the soil over a period of time. Use a fungicide if you deem fit and ensure the soil is completely healthy.

Now take a new pot and fill the soil in it while spreading the roots uniformly. It is important to abstain from watering the mix initially, at least for the first week, to avoid any rot in the roots.

The choice of container is a crucial one while repotting Echinocactus. To begin with, the size should be just right. Bigger or smaller containers do not serve the purpose well. Ceramic pots work well for indoor succulents while terracotta pots work well outdoors.

Several people also use plastic containers to grow and repot cacti. These are fine as long as you take care of the drainage.

How Often Does a Barrel Cactus Bloom?

Spring and summer, the period between April and September, is the time when the barrel cactus blooms. The sunlight aids the growth of the cacti and also facilitates its reproduction. The flowers attract pollinators that spread the seeds of the cacti far and wide.

The winter and fall months are the time period when the barrel cactus enters into a dormant state with no blooming.