Advanced Arid Exotics

North-West Sydney, NSW, Australia. Specialising in advanced, mature examples of Echinocactus Grusonil (Golden Balls)

This plant belongs to the small family of cacti known as Echinocactus which it shares with five other plants. Its full name is ECHINOCACTUS GRUSONII meaning a spiny plant.

It is by far the most reliable growing plant in this family and most spectacular thus it has become the stock plant in any dry garden display or potted plant feature arrangement.

The term barrel cactus (barrel cacti) is often used in reference to this plant but this is a generic term that includes the other large spherical/ovoid family known as Ferocactus. Ferocactus are generally more demanding to grow especially in humid or coastal areas.

The words cacti and cactus are often interused both as singular and plural. Cactuses is sometimes used as plural.

The botanical names of the family is Cactaceae.

It is known under many popular names such as:

  • MOTHER IN LAW'S CUSHION
  • GOLDEN BALL CACTUS / CACTI
  • GOLDEN BARREL CACTUS / CACTI
  • BARREL CACTUS / CACTI
  • GOLD (GOLDEN) BALL CACTUS / CACTI

Echinocactus Grusonii (Golden Balls)
Part of the mass planting at the Huntington Gardens USA.
Showing very old plants with rings of "pups" around their bases.

 

 

 

Growing and Handling

  • Growing is easy if our advice is followed. Suggestions and written instructions can be given on purchasing regarding re-planting, watering, soil mixture, light positioning etc to ensure continued strong growth and attractive form.
  • On-Site advice can be given for small to large plantings if desired either on specific plants or for a diverse succulent garden display.
  • Plants can be purchased directly from our nursery or dispatched as required.
  • We sell at wholesale prices and can arrange delivery and advice on cultivation, landscaping and planting, depending on circumstances.

 

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Mixed cactus planting with Golden Balls
Mixed cactus planting with Golden Balls

Advantages In Cultivation

  • Like Bonsi, the 'Barrel Catsus' is a true heirloom plant that appreciates with age
  • Can be easily relocated without disturbing the form of the plant
  • Will thrive in pot cultivation until bigger than the container
  • Suited to open bed planting as singular focus plants or en-masse dramatic display
  • Easy to weed as they are resistant to ‘Roundup’ type weed killers
  • Soft non-invasive roots resist damage to architectural or landscaping structures
  • Attractive compact circular forms remain consistently beautiful all year
  • Variety in display with central wool, spines, flowers and seed pods
  • Long flowering time with daylight open buds opening throughout summer
  • Very slow growth rate ensures stability of display and low maintenance
  • Our selected varieties are frost and full sun resistant
  • Can go for 6 months in non growth period without watering or any care
  • Can be used inside as an accent plant for many weeks at a time
  • Complements modern architecture with planular surfaces and strong colours
  • Features well in raised beds and in sandstone, gravel and pebble gardens
  • Ideal accent plants in succulent gardens or with tall cacti
  • Non messy as they shed no bark, limbs, fruit, thorns or flowers
  • Resistant to rotting and sap sucking pests as they become more mature
  • Thick skin and spines resist impact damage and attack from birds and rodents
  • Low watering and feeding needs allow owners extended absence
  • Spines are not hooked like roses or hidden as in many climbers
  • Resistant to salty air and humidity unlike many cacti
  • Not prone to vandal attack as they are self protective
  • Ideal for security areas such as under windows.
  • Excellent for apartment balconies in hot, exposed areas.
  • Superbly suited to roof top gardens and glass sun rooms
  • Allergy free and non poisonous.

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Golden Balls blend easily with ground succulants
Golden Balls blend easily with ground succulants

Typical crown of flowers that continues for months on more mature plants
Typical crown of flowers that continues for months on more mature plants

* Note

Now that water is becoming an important issue in gardens, did you know that most cacti require little or no watering, other than that provided by nature? They are as close as one can get to a maintenance free garden.

Dramatic patio or garden effects can be achieved in raised beds or containers
Dramatic patio or garden effects can be achieved in raised beds or containers

Any surface can be turned into a unique easily maintained garden area.
Any surface can be turned into a unique easily maintained garden area.

Plants present no problems to pathways and can be tightly packed for dramatic impact
Plants present no problems to pathways and can be tightly packed for dramatic impact

[click on image for larger view]

 

Echinocactus Grusonii

  • This is the definitive barrel cacti, hence the most common name golden balls. Best suited for formal and mixed succulent planting, it is noted for its beauty, robust nature and attractive presentation both in flower or not. It is long-lived and drought and fire resistant. Like bonsai plants it appreciates in value with age and can be handed down as an heirloom.
  • They originally come from Central Mexico and are superb desert plants requiring minimal care. Our plants are cross pollinated to suit a temperate weather climate and have proven to grow well from Cairns to Hobart and Alice Springs to Bondi.

 

Golden Balls in habitat Mexico
Golden Balls in habitat Mexico showing a natural scattered mass planting. Now very rare due to poaching.

Size and Growth Rates

  • They can reach 1 metre in height in 100 years under excellent conditions. At full maturity they are globose to oval in shape with clumps of pups (off-shoots) at the base. They are generally solitary plants but do come in 2, 3 and 4 multi-headed forms from seed. We hold stock of all these forms.
  • Under good conditions with strong stock, suitable soil and nutrients they will reach the following sizes in the garden from seed. Our plants grow faster due to selected stock and controlled conditions.
Growth Rate

260 mm + in 10-15 years
450mm + in 25-30 years
600mm + in 40-50 years
Diameter measured minus spines

Plant Characteristics

  • Round compact and covered with rows of even spines in clusters
  • Up to 35 pronounced ribs with age with a thick tough skin. Skin thickens with age.
  • Spines yellow to white. 3 to 5 cm radial and 4 to 6 mm central in each cluster with mature plants.
  • Felted areoles around spines and white woolen growing center with age increasing with age.
  • Rings of yellow 4 to 6cm flowers annually near crown flowering through summer by day and open for many days
  • Retains old flower buds and seed pods to form concentric growth rings. Seed pods bright red.
  • Pale to dark green skin across surface, even in colour
  • Selected stock withstands temperatures from -3 degrees C to full summer extremes.
  • Concave apex with age filled with wool up to 6 cm deep.

Typical growth centre with woolen core
Typical growth centre with woolen core, spent flowers and next years flowers coming through as white fluffy bumps.

Its wool not spines that defines a cacti. This is known as Cactus cotton and used by the Indians. Golden balls produce large amounts of it around seed pods.
Its wool not spines that defines a cacti. This is known as Cactus cotton and used by the Indians. Golden balls produce large amounts of it around seed pods.

Growing Particulars

  • Individual plants vary a lot in shape and spination ranging from oval, round and squat with age.
  • Plants become resistant to nearly all pests as they mature.
  • Mature plants require almost no attention and can go many months without water at all, especially in cooler months.
  • Will thrive even in reduced light but slower in growth.
  • Can produce extra ribs with age and small plants (pups) at base.
  • Flowers spiral out of the center and first appear as white woollen bumps.

* NOTE

  • Having done plantings for Botanical Gardens we are happy to help buyers with any hints required to ensure safe planting, successful landscaping planning and maintenance into the future without cost.

Typical flower , wool and seed pod on plants crown
Typical flower, wool and seed pod on plants crown

 

 

Spines and the crown of spent flowers
Spines and the crown of spent flowers

[Click on images for a larger view]

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