This month's box of goodness for Barry’s Cactus Club sees us deliver one of our favourite cacti - the Golden Barrel Cactus (or Echinocactus Grusonii). Originating from the volcanic slopes of central Mexico, his kind has sadly undergone a steady population decline, after the creation of a nearby dam and reservoir. Many of his friends were displaced in favour of this large establishment, which took over 23km² of his native habitat. It's not all bad news though, and thanks to extensive conservation works undertook from the late 1990s, he is beginning to make a slow comeback!
Knowing a little about his natural habitat will greatly help with your care. The rocky slopes of central Mexico will rarely provide a drink over the autumn and winter months, so he must be kept dry during this time. This will not only reduce the risk of over-watering in the cooler months, but it'll also replicate the dormancy period, which is a crucial part of his overall health. From late March onwards, think of the phrase ‘drenches between droughts' and only hydrate him once the soil becomes totally dry. The period between March and September is where most rainfall will occur, so try to replicate this, if possible!
Due to the lack of overhead rocks or trees, his naturally-occurring relatives will be baked by the sun, with only the clouds creating a barrier between the two. We'd recommend locating your cactus in a sunny window that offers at least an hour of morning or evening sun. Keeping him on a shelf of more than a metre from the light will dramatically slow his growth and may even contribute to over-watering.
Providing a bright windowsill will help him in two critical ways. It'll not only replicate his natural habitat of boiling temperatures over the summer months, but it'll also provide a slightly chillier environment, come winter. This cactus will appreciate a cooler period of around 8-12℃, so keep him on this window ledge all year round. Don't worry if your chosen location doesn't dip to these temperatures though, as even a slight change of warmth throughout the year will be enough to keep him happy!
Because of the lack of rainfall, nutrient-rich soil is a rare sight in his rocky homeland. We would recommend fertilising your cactus once every two or three months in the spring and summer while ending fertilisation entirely in the colder period. You can use Cactus-labelled food to sufficiently keep him well-fed.
Additionally, a good location and basic cacti-skills will see your Echinocactus thrive for many years to come. Some specimens can live for over twenty years in cultivation (in human care, etc.), with a grand diameter of over 30cm!
Creating your very own cactus collection is a rewarding, easy-natured practice that can be passed on to your children or close friends. They'll even produce a colourful show of spring/summer blooms after a few years, so what are you waiting for?!
Not yet a subscriber to Barry’s Cactus Club? Fancy having the Golden Barrel Cactus in your first box? Subscribe by Sunday 28th February 2021 to not miss out, click the button below to learn more.