Houseplant of the week: barrel cactus

Why will I love it?
It’s the quintessential cactus you can find everywhere, even in supermarkets, making it a gateway cactus for beginners. Barrel cacti (Echino-cactus grusonii) range from windowsill-size to over a metre high. It’s a survivor that may even outlive you.

Light or shade?
Lots of light for this desert native.

Where should I put it?
Place on a sunny windowsill or in a conservatory if you have one.

How do I keep it alive?
This cactus is accustomed to the unforgiving sun of the Mojave desert, so place it in a window, preferably south-facing, so it gets lots of direct sun. To avoid root rot, ensure the soil is free-draining and the pot has a drainage hole. Follow the cactus seasons: in summer (April-September) water and feed weekly; in winter (October-March) stop watering it, unless you have the central heating up high, in which case water a little every six weeks.

Did you know …
The barrel cactus is used as a compass by travellers in the desert, as they tend to grow faster on their shady (northern) side away from the harsh desert sun, and so lean to the south or south-west.

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