Cacti

Blue Barrel Cactus Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Ferocactus Glaucescens”

Read our guide to the Blue Barrel Cactus for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Ferocactus Glaucescens”
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Ferocactus glaucescens, commonly known as the Blue Barrel cactus, is an evergreen species of flowering cacti in the Cactaceae family. This cactus can be found growing on the limestone hills of Hidalgo and it is also endemic to central and eastern regions of Mexico.

Blue Barrel cacti have an interesting appearance and many gardeners around the world appreciate them. If you want to grow these cacti outdoors, they are excellent for desert gardens, succulent gardens, rock gardens, and Mediterranean gardens. Indoors, they are great ornamental houseplants that look lovely potted in any type of containers.

Keep reading If you want to learn more about growing Barrel Cacti.

About Blue Barrel Cactus

  • With their superb pattern of spines and their adorable flowers, Blue Barrel cacti have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society.
  • Blue Barrels cacti can add a spectacular texture to their surroundings without much effort. Their cute shape and vibrant colors will be the most eye-catching component on a windowsill, desk, coffee table, or bookshelves.
  • They are pretty resistant to livestock and play a big part in the good functioning of the ecosystem. Their flowers produce nectar, making them very attractive to bees and birds.
  • These cacti love lots of light, but they can also tolerate some partial shade when grown in extremely hot temperatures. In winter, protect them from frost.
  • Blue Barrel cacti require fertilizers only once a year before their active growing period. While caring for these babies, take some extra time to inspect them for pests.
  • They are susceptible to root rot, so no water should be ever allowed to stay around their roots for too long. Plant these cacti in a well-draining cactus mix and water them when the soil has dried out completely.
  • Besides their spiky shield, there are no toxic effects known about Blue Barrel cacti. It is better to grow these cacti in a location where pets and children cannot come into contact with them.
Blue Barrel Cactus
Blue Barrel Cactus

Blue Barrel Cactus Features: An Overview

  • They belong to the Ferocactus genus that contains about 30 species of barrel-shaped cacti. The most popular cultivated houseplants include F. Robustus, F. Echidne, F. Latispinus, F. Glaucescens, and F. Gracilis.
  • Blue Barrel cacti grow pretty big with proper environmental conditions. They can reach about 2 feet (60 cm) in height and diameter, forming a globular shape.
  • These beauties present multiple ribs that come with a somehow greenish to blue skin. Like all cacti, their succulent ribs can store large amounts of water.
  • Their deep and prominent ribs are almost entirely covered with thick, white, gray, or yellow spines that are usually distributed throughout the plants.
  • There is a specimen named Ferocactus Glaucescens f. Nuda that has none to very few irregularly scattered spines. When this cactus gets older it becomes completely spineless.
  • During their blooming period, from spring to late summer, Blue Barrel cacti exhibit lovely yellow, funnel-shaped flowers. Their young shoots will appear at the crown.
  • Their pollinated blooms are followed by white rounded fruits that measure up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) long. They contain seeds that can be collected and used in propagation.
  • Due to their easy-going style, these cacti can be a great companion to other cacti species or even succulents with similar environmental requirements.

Growing Blue Barrel Cactus

Blue Barrel cacti are perfect for any type of gardener, especially the beginners, as they are generally very easy to grow and care for. They are best planted in early spring before their most vigorous period when new roots begin to develop. Once these cacti have settled in their new growing environment, they will have very few demands on your part.

In their natural habitat, Blue Barrel cacti grow under full sun exposure with some partial shade. If you want your cacti to grow properly, you must place them in a well-lit spot where they can receive plenty of bright and direct light. Indoors, these cacti grow best near a south or east-facing window. If the sun is too harsh or you live in a region with hot climates, protect your cacti from direct afternoon sunlight, as it may affect their overall health.

Ferocactus Glaucescens
Ferocactus Glaucescens

Blue Barrel cacti do well in warm temperatures that range from 68 to 77 °F (20-25 °C). They are quite tolerant of freezing temperatures that drop to 25 °F (-4 °C), but it is not recommended a prolonged exposure. When the cooler temperatures show off and during the winter, bring your cacti inside to protect them from extreme conditions.

Planting Blue Barrel Cacti

When first planting these cacti, make sure you choose well-draining soil and a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom. The ideal growing medium for Blue Barrel cacti is a commercial potting mix that is specifically designed for cacti and succulents. For optimal drainage, they will require a layer of perlite added above the potting soil. You can also prepare your own mixture by combining 45% compost, 45% pumice or washed sand, and 10% native soil.

Like most cacti, Blue Barrel plants grow naturally in areas with low fertility and nutrients. They do not need frequent fertilizing but will benefit from it before their active growing period. Feed your Blue Barrel cacti with a diluted liquid fertilizer that is low in hydrogen once a year in spring. It is suggested you read the package instructions before this process to make sure you provide your cacti with proper amounts of fertilizers.

These cacti grow at a pretty slow pace, so they can remain in the same pot for long periods. When your cacti start to outgrow their container, transplant them in one that is slightly larger. Make sure you use suitable potting soil and skip watering for a week after repotting.

Blue Barrel cacti are generally pest-free, but they can be sometimes bothered by scale insects or mealybugs. If you notice any sign of infestation, you can treat your cacti with a spray designed for pests, insecticidal soap, or neem oil.

Ferocactus glaucescens, From Amazon

Watering Blue Barrel Cactus

Thanks to their succulent ribs, Blue Barrel cacti can store large amounts of water. They can survive long periods of drought and it is even better to forget about watering once in a while than to over-water them. These cacti will need a little extra attention when they are young, but once established, you will get along very well with this low-maintenance companion.

During their active growing period, from spring to fall, Blue Barrel cacti prefer regular watering. Make sure you always check the soil in-between waterings to avoid soggy conditions or waterlogging. When the soil feels dry to the touch and has dried out completely, this is the perfect time to water your cacti again. A nice soaking followed by good drainage is the best watering method for these beauties to thrive.

During periods with cooler temperatures and in winter, Blue Barrel cacti will demand watering less often than usual. If you live in a humid region, you can even skip watering until the warmth of spring starts to settle in.

Humidity-wise, Blue Barrel cacti perform best in a location that mimics their natural habitat. If the air around your cacti is too humid, you must place them in a room with a dehumidifier or far from other plants that enjoy humidity. A room with air vents is also suitable to maintain the ideal humidity levels for your cacti.

Propagating Blue Barrel Cactus

Have you noticed some new-born babies around your Blue Barrel cactus? Well, what are you waiting for? Of course, you can leave them attached to their mother plant, but where would be the fun then? Go on and use those adorable pups in propagation! We are more than sure that your friends will enjoy some bloaty tiny cacti around their home, so make sure you gift them some too!

The sprouts can be removed from the mother plant pretty fast, but you must be very careful when touching these spiny babies. Make sure you wear some heavy protection or gardening gloves to avoid damaging your skin. Some gardeners prefer to wear even two pairs of gloves, as their spines pierce through materials quite easily.

Ferocactus glaucescens in the wild
Ferocactus glaucescens in the wild

Remove the little pups from their mother carefully at ground level, so their stems are visible. You can collect them with bare hands or by using a sharp and sterilized knife or pruners. Once you have all the babies you want to propagate, place them in a warm and shaded location to callous a bit. Move the mature Blue Barrel cactus in a semi-shaded area to allow it to recover.

Fill a large container or a bed with fresh cactus mix and a top layer of 2 inches (5 cm) of coarse sand. Plant your pups in their new growing medium and do not water them for a week or two. When this period has passed, you can water them moderately anytime the soil has dried out completely.

If the babies are grown in a bright and warm environment, they will have no trouble developing a strong and healthy root system in a few months. You can check the propagation status by gently pulling the little Blue Barrel cacti from time to time. Once you notice some resistance, your pups are ready to be transplanted in their own pots and cared for as usual.

In Conclusion

Do not get intimidated by Blue Barrel cacti! Although they are pretty defensive with their sharp spines, they will soften up with proper care and lots of love. Like all cacti, they will make for a great lifetime companion without much effort on your part. Just give them a chance and you will not regret it!

Are you growing Blue Barrel Cacti? Share your experience with us in the comments!

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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