Ask a Question forum: Barrel cactus

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Name: Josh
Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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Joshsz
Sep 5, 2016 9:12 PM CST
Hi there I am newer to the cacti and succulent world and have started quite the collection. I have a 14" diameter golden barrel and it has very light spikes at the top in a bed of wool and the spikes get progressively darker toward the bottom ending in a brownish red colour. Is this something to be concerned of? At the bottom there is scarring all the way around it but doesn't look like rot I am wondering if it is healthy. I would also like to know what type of soil mix would be best suitable and what size pot it should be in. I currently have it in the pot it came in inside a larger pot with a few smaller golden barrels. I will post a few pictures i live in Canada and my cacti sit in a south west window getting 10 hours of direct sun let me know what you think!
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Name: Kat
Magnolia, Tx (Zone 8b)
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kittriana
Sep 6, 2016 9:57 AM CST
Beautiful! That wool is healthy, new growth indicators. Lots of different soils for cacti- including ground walnut shell desert blend. Watering is negligible, but fyi, that barrel is for collecting the mist to draw down to the water storage part of the cactus that is underground. If you give it space, it will grow to fill its space, but very slowly.
kitt
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier
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Baja_Costero
Sep 6, 2016 10:05 AM CST
Your cactus looks quite healthy.

The location sounds good, with lots of sun through the window (indoor sun is not direct though as regular window glass filters out most of the UV). The southern orientation will be ideal in the winter when the sun is lower in the sky, provided there are not too many trees or structures outside to block the light. These plants enjoy lots and lots of sun and it's impossible for you to give too much inside. Just be careful if and when you choose to take the plant outside when the weather is good, you need to provide a gradual stepwise accommodation to the sun, starting with bright shade.

If you want to repot your cactus, I would recommend a soil mix with more rock. I like to use 50% pumice for my cacti, but whatever you have available (eg. perlite, lava rock) should work fine too. The problem with an all-organic mix is the risk of rot, which increases when the soil remains wet in between waterings. A nice fast draining mix helps a lot in avoiding this. To figure out what size pot will work, you need to have some idea of the size and shape of the root mass. These plants grow in cracks in the rocks in nature and do not demand a lot of space in cultivation. Ideally you should look for a pot that closely matches the size of the existing roots, plus a little extra space. You can certainly trim the roots but ideally find a pot with a good fit. Avoid watering for a week or two after repotting to be on the safe side, longer if you do serious root pruning.

The little plants will fit just fine into pots about 1.5 to 2 times their width, if you want to separate them. I like to use pots that are wider than deep, but not with dish-like proportions. Again, these plants grow in cracks in the rock so they do not need lots of space.

Watering will depend on the exact conditions but you want to soak the soil until water comes out the hole in the bottom, then wait however long it takes for the soil to dry out at depth. Poke your finger or a chopstick or a moisture meter in there if you are not sure, and be aware that the soil at the surface will dry out faster and not be informative about what's happening deeper in. Once the soil is properly dry, water and repeat the cycle.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Sep 6, 2016 10:09 AM (+)]
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Sep 6, 2016 11:31 AM CST
Wellcome 😎 : I would have them in individual pots. Because there is gonna be considerable root damage when you transplant. An arrangement like you have is good for succulents your gonna leave in same pot just about forever. The bowl shape pot looks precariously top heavy.
Soil ! I use 1 part washed sand or aquarium gravel to 1 part potting soil. Put a peice of window screen over bottom hole of pot. Water from bottom ! Less chance of root rot.put pot in a pail of water just almost to top of pot.for 20 minutes.and they'll be good for at least 6 weeks. Yours.probably longer. ? Temp and humidity? Mine 6 weeks. Summer and winter.inside and outside.same.
Being yours are crouded. When you take them out.your gonna have some root damage. No worry ! Just lay em out on some newspaper. Leave em out for several days to a week. So the cut or damaged roots can scab over. Ya dont want no root rot. Put em in lightly moistened soil.and they'll be good for several weeks. Water suffer them.
When to water ! Take a un-sharpened pencil.make a dent. If the dent doesnt go away in a minute or two. Its time to water.
#1 !!! Less water is better !!!
Welcome! Thumbs up I tip my hat to you.
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Sep 6, 2016 11:40 AM CST
Great information Baja!
Name: Josh
Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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Joshsz
Sep 6, 2016 5:04 PM CST
Thank you very much for all the information all of the cacti are in the pots the came in in the bigger pot so they won't get root bound yet. I only put them in this pot temporarily until I learn a bit more and decide what I will do with them. The pot I not top heavy at all just heavy all together it is a very heavy solid clay pot and it doesn't have a drain hole so I am Leary on using it as a permanent home for the big guy. I could drill a hole in the bottom of this pot if it is a suitable size for the barrel. I am planning on taking the small ones out as I don't want them to become root bound in each other I am way to novice to start pruning the roots.

I am also quite curious if I were to put them under a t5 or t8 fluorescent lights on timers if it would grow well and possibly even thrive!? Thanks again for all the great information!!!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier
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Baja_Costero
Sep 6, 2016 5:10 PM CST
Yeah, the drain hole is required. If you find yourself separating the fine roots of baby plants, I recommend a chopstick as the ideal tool for opening up holes and gently prying plants apart. I find the plant ends up less damaged than if I were to use my fingers. Smiling

I can't help with the question of lights (a good one given your location) but I spent today organizing my barrel cactus pictures from habitat and here are a few of the natives growing on their favorite substrate.

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Name: Josh
Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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Joshsz
Sep 6, 2016 5:25 PM CST
Drooling how I wish I lived somewhere warm! That is so awesome thanks for the pictures! Is that the fruit on the bottom of the one?! And is it an edible fruit!?
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier
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Baja_Costero
Sep 6, 2016 5:44 PM CST
The green fingers under the plant in pic #2 are another local succulent, Dudleya edulis. Whose species name coincidentally answers your second question in an unexpected way: edulis = edible. Tastes a little like green beans but more succulent & way less fibrous. One day when I can grow enough of those plants I plan to make a killer salad. Thumbs up

Pictures here of flower and fruit from the local barrel cactus. I need to get some proper flower pictures the next winter we get decent rain. The fruit is edible but not particularly delicious (to humans anyway). The birds must love it, though, judging from where the seedlings end up.

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Name: Josh
Thunder Bay Ontario Canada
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Joshsz
Sep 6, 2016 6:10 PM CST
Wow that is so cool!! I also have a few more cacti and succulents. i would love to share the pictures with you but as a new member it won't let me post pics in a blog as it could possibly be spam. That's what it said when I tried any way sadly! I have 18 more cacti and a handful of succulents my plan is to build a room in my house that is an artificial desert I have ten aquariums ranging from 25 to 65 gallon a great dehumidifier/heater now I just need to figure out what kind of lights work best for cacti while kind of keeping a budget😜

Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier
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Baja_Costero
Sep 6, 2016 6:27 PM CST
Come on over to the cactus and succulent forum and you will find like minded folk.

http://garden.org/forums/view/cacti/

Recent thread on winter lights for succulents.

The thread "Is it impossible to Grow Pachyphytum, Echeveria, and Gasterias, Agave, and Aloes" in Cactus and Tender Succulents forum
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Sep 6, 2016 6:50 PM (+)]
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