Barrel Cactus Propagation

Barrel Cactus Propagation: 2 Basic Methods, Step-by-Step Guide

Are you a newbie to the cacti world? If so, barrel cactus plants are one of the easiest to grow, maintain and propagate. For those who are interested in growing multiple cacti, barrel cactus is a good option to start with.

In this article, I’m going to share some useful hacks on barrel cactus propagation that work on two different methods.

Barrel Cactus

2 main barrel cactus propagation methods

You can try two different methods of propagation with these plants:

  • Pups method
  • Seeds method

Both propagation techniques are interesting and worth trying. Don’t be afraid of experiments as each technique can give you a bit of different results!

These propagation tips are true for many species of barrel cactus plants, including the indoor species, such as the golden barrel cactus, and outdoor ones, such as the California barrel cactus.

I tried both methods on my golden barrel cacti, so I can share my experience with a few useful tips.

Pups method

Growing a golden barrel cactus from pups is a bit fiddly, but a very fascinating method. Since your cactus has a few babies, growing them is an awesome and rewarding experience!

What are barrel cactus pups?

Mature barrel cacti can produce offsets around the parent plant. Cactus pups are little mini-mes of the parent plant that are naturally formed at the ground level and are fun to deal with.

Barrel cacti produce offsets once in a few years.

Why do you need to detach cactus pups?

The pups themselves are not harmful at all. However, as they are attached to the mother’s body, they thrive by common nutrition. Lack of nutrients in the potting soil can cause the death both of the mother plant and the pups.

Is it easy to prune barrel cactus pups?

When you detach young barrel cacti from a mother plant, they are very fragile and easy to damage. Their tiny roots can be difficult to see, so be careful so as not to harm them.

I prefer to prune each pup with one accurate cut. This technique can help you to put less stress on both the mother plant and the young cacti and save most of their tiny roots.

How to propagate barrel cactus with pups?

Since barrel cacti are good survivors, they have a high chance to grow from the pups. If you do everything right, the pups’ method is efficient.

Early spring is the best season for pups’ propagation. As the active growing season starts then for most cacti, you have all chances to get the newly planted pups grown big and healthy.

Before you start, make sure that you have all the tools and items from the list below:

  • Clean sharp knife
  • Tweezers (optionally)
  • Protective gloves
  • Planting pots with drainage holes
  • Well-draining soil for cacti
  • Water bottle
  • Spray bottle

Step #1: Protect your hands with cactus-proof gloves so as not to deal with the cactus spines with bare hands.

Step #2: Choose several well-formed and healthy pups for replanting. Poorly developed or unhealthy pups have less chance to grow. As for the younger offsets, I usually wait until they become ready for pruning.

Step #3: Slightly pull the pup from the main plant. If you are lucky, a pup can easily detach with minimal effort. If necessary, gently remove it with a clean sharp knife or tweezers in one accurate cut.

Step #4: Let the pups sprout roots. Choose a warm, well-ventilated, and shady spot to keep them for a few days until the new roots begin appearing from one end.

Step #5: While waiting for the roots, prepare a new planting pot with well-draining soil. I often opt for the special cacti soil mix or use such gritty substances as perlite, small rocks, or clean coarse sand that work best with cacti.

For growing multiple cacti babies at once, I recommend taking a wide planting pot where they can grow freely. However, growing each barrel cactus baby separately is also a good option.

Step #6. Make a shallow hole in the potting soil to place a young cactus inside it. Make sure to cover the roots with the cacti soil.

Step #7: Water the newly potted cacti a little bit to supply them with enough moisture.

Step #8: Wait for a few weeks until the root development is completed. The bigger offsets you plant, the sooner they will be established in a new pot.

Keep the top level of soil moist with the help of a spray bottle. Young cactus pups need enough moisture to develop healthily. Avoid over-watering that can cause root rot!

When I practice this type of propagation, I provide young barrel cacti with enough direct sunlight to speed the growing process up. Cacti require at least 8 hours of full sun exposure in a day, so make sure that you provide young plants with that. However, while the roots are established, opt for a bright location with moderate sunlight.

Barrel Cactus

Seeds propagation

This type of propagation is the most optimal. Since cacti flowers turn out into fruits, wait until the fruits are fully ripened. I take the tiny seeds from the completely dried cactus fruits and sow them in the cactus soil.

How to grow barrel cactus seeds?

Step #1: Prepare a shallow container with warm water to soak cactus seeds overnight.

Step #2: Fill half of the seedling tray with the coarse sand. Then, add the same part of cactus soil.

Step #3: Sow the seeds over the soil surface and press them gently into the soil. Be careful so as not to bury them!

Step #4: With the help of a spray bottle, moisten the seeds a bit.

Step #5: Securely cover the seedling tray with a lid or a clean cloth or film.

Step #6: Provide the proper growing conditions for the seeds to germinate. Choose a bright and warm place with enough indirect light. The temperature should be about 70 °F (21.11 °C) to 80 °F (26.67 °C).

Step #7: During the germination period, keep the soil adequately moist. The seeds best germinate in slightly moist ground. However, be sure not to over-water them.

Step #8: As soon as you can see the young seedlings developing, remove the covering and place the tray in the sunny spot. Young plants need enough sunlight to grow and develop healthily.

Step #9: When the cactus seedlings grow up to 2 or 3 inches (7.62 cm) tall, it is time to bring them into the bigger pots.

Bonus: find the best pot for your cactus

Step #10: During the growing season, provide the proper conditions for the growing seedlings. For the first 3 months, a good idea is to keep young cacti in light shade. Providing adequate sunlight is always crucial. If you can keep the wild-like conditions with cool temperatures at night and warm during the daytime, this will be your best choice.

Water sparingly for several weeks until the root system is formed and fully established. Excess water will cause root rot and kill the plant, so the right watering frequency is crucial.


How do barrel cactus multiply?

You can grow multiple barrel cacti, either with the help of seeds or pups. Seed propagation is more popular as it is easier than taking care of pups. However, pups are a good option to multiply your cactus garden since the young plants have already appeared without sowing the seeds.

How do you separate barrel cactus pups?

Since barrel cactus pups are fragile, be careful so as not to harm either a parent plant or the pups.

Remove the cactus babies at the ground level. Then gently pull and lift them so that you can see how to detach them properly. Be sure not to harm the tiny roots! Try to detach each pup with one cut to make less stress for them as well as for the mature plant.

Can you put cactus cuttings straight into soil?

Yes, this is okay to place the cuttings into the soil directly. The key point is to provide moderate sunlight while the root system is still establishing, so choose a partially shaded location.

Can I cut the top off my cactus and replant it?

Yes, you can. This is one more type of barrel cactus propagation that is popular with some cactus enthusiasts. I suggest using a sterilized sharp knife to make a safe clean cutting. Then, wait until the cut-off part is calloused and then place it into a new pot.

How does the barrel cactus spread seeds?

Barrel cactus seeds are naturally spread by the local birds that consume the fruits. This natural way of spreading seeds allows barrel cacti to broaden their growing area.

How long does a barrel cactus live?

Barrel cactus generally reaches maturity in about 5 to 10 years. Since that, their lifespan can be long. With proper maintenance, they can live more than 100 years old!

Final thoughts

As you can see, multiplying barrel cactus is not a science. We hope you will succeed in growing your cactus garden!

You might also like to check the guide: best types of cactus you can grow at home

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