A cactus paved the way for many steep gardening careers in the hobby and professional sectors. The spiky succulents make it easy to get started and motivate procrastinating beginners with a powerful or bizarre habit to persevere. The harmoniously shaped spherical cactus symbolizes all these virtues thanks to its modest demands on care. However, the eye-catching appearance with the gold shimmering spikes does not develop entirely without horticultural attention. A certain minimum of care must not be neglected with an Echinocactus grusonii. The following guide details all aspects of successful cultivation.


  • Plant family of the cactus family (Cactaceae)
  • Scientific name of the species: Echinocactus grusonii
  • Native to local locations in Mexico
  • Not hardy
  • Light green spherical shape
  • Growth height from 20 cm to 130 cm
  • Yellow flowers only at an advanced age
  • Woolly covered, oblong fruits up to 2 cm long
  • Adult specimens have 30 distinctive ribs
  • Entire surface densely covered with 5 cm long, golden yellow thorns
  • Trivial names: mother-in-law chair, mother-in-law seat, gold ball cactus

Since cacti enjoy a large following in Germany, the ball cactus will certainly not die out, even if it is listed on the Red List of Endangered Species. In 2008, two large cactus societies in Germany and Switzerland demonstratively voted Echinocactus grusonii ‘Cactus of the Year’.


On the small area of ​​​​its Mexican homeland, the spherical cactus thrives on steep slopes in soil that combines permeability and water storage. The closer the bucket substrate approaches this quality, the more promising the care becomes. Beginners look around in retail. Professionals prefer to mix their own substrate, especially when cultivating a larger population of cacti.

  • High-quality cactus soil from specialist shops is suitable as a substrate
  • Alternatively, a mixture of 4 parts humus, 1 part clay, 1 part filler and 1 part sand
  • Suitable fillers: coconut fibers, perlite, expanded clay, wood fibers, peat

Only be satisfied with the potting soil if it is permeable, poor in nutrients and humic, with a pH between 5 and 6.5.


The mother-in-law chair unfolds its beauty best under direct sunlight. Consequently, the scratchy comrade moves to the balcony and terrace for the warm season. Since there is no protection from the window glass, the Echinocactus grusonii first spends a few days in the light penumbra to slowly get used to direct sunlight. However, the plant should not be left in the semi-shade for a long period of time, as the beautiful gold coloring of the spines does not appear under such conditions. In addition, a spherical cactus then stretches towards the light, whereupon the round habitus transforms into a columnar shape.

  • Sunny, warm location at 19 to 24 degrees Celsius
  • Ideally protected from rain outdoors
  • In the room no further than 1 meter from the window
  • Behind glass with shading in the midday sun

As soon as the mercury column in spring does not fall below 5 to 10 degrees Celsius at night, spending time outdoors promotes the vitality and expressiveness of a golden globe cactus. The one or other rain shower does not affect the plant as long as it does not fall long and hard. To counteract the formation of waterlogging, the bucket is not in a saucer.


The water supply of a cactus is divided into two parts. During the vegetation phase, especially the flowering period, the need for moisture is not much lower than for any other indoor and balcony plant. Due to the plant’s own water storage, water the spherical cactus until the substrate no longer absorbs moisture. This can be seen from the water that collects in the coaster. The memory is now full. Therefore, it does not bother the mother-in-law seat if you miss watering. At the latest when the thumb test shows that the soil is drying out, the reservoir should be refilled. A saucer is emptied after 20 minutes so that the excess irrigation water does not rise again due to the capillary action of the roots and cause root rot.

If you cultivate the Echinocactus grusonii in the room all year round, it only gets sips of water during the dark season.


Experienced cactus gardeners make even less fuss about the nutrient supply than about watering. From March to September they add a dose of liquid fertilizer for cacti to the water every 14 days, which fulfills this maintenance aspect.

If you have decided on a compost-based substrate, the interval between fertilizer applications increases to 4 weeks.


Although a continuous room culture is easily possible, this treatment does not do justice to the natural way of life of a spherical cactus. The climate of Mexico knows no frost and snow; after all, nature also takes a break there, albeit under more moderate conditions. If you want to enjoy your golden ball cactus for many years, give it a little rest from November to February.

  • Mother-in-law stool bright and cool over the winter at 5-10 degrees Celsius
  • A place in the unheated conservatory or bright stairwell is ideal
  • Water only enough to keep the cactus from drying out
  • Don’t give fertilizer

If your Echinocactus grusonii has a hibernation every year, chances are it will flower during this time as it gets older. In the warm living room, not only does this flowering fail, but a columnar habit develops.
From the end of February, gradually increase the amount of watering and place the cactus in a warmer environment. You should not confront the bristly companion with the blazing March sun without a period of acclimatization in the light penumbra.


It is recommended to pot the Echinocactus grusonii every year in spring to inspect the root area. When the roots fill the pot completely, repot.

  • The new bucket is a maximum of 10 cm larger in diameter than the previous pot
  • Cover the opening in the ground with perlite, gravel or expanded clay drainage
  • Shake off the used substrate from the roots and plant the ball cactus
  • Press the soil down repeatedly with your fist so that no cavities form

A pouring edge of approx. 5 cm makes sense so that nothing spills over later. Then water the ball cactus until its water reservoir is full. If you do not consider repotting necessary, the work is limited to thorough cleaning of the bucket, placing it in fresh substrate and watering.

Tip: Robust work gloves are essential to prevent blood from flowing when working with the spherical cactus. Resourceful hobby gardeners also pack the thorny plant area with newspaper.

Propagation by seed

Since in our regions the flowering of an Echinocactus grusonii is a rare event, there are consequently only small chances of harvesting seeds. You will quickly find what you are looking for in well-stocked specialist shops when you are looking for fresh seeds. The period of time before pricking out the seedlings is the only phase in the life of a globe cactus during which it should experience a warm, humid microclimate.

  • Fill a shallow seed tray with seed compost, coconut substrate or a peat-sand mixture
  • Moisten the substrate, scatter the seeds and press down lightly with a wooden board
  • The light germs must never be covered with soil

Ideally, you have a heatable indoor greenhouse. Place the seed tray in it and close the plastic lid. Germination starts within a few days in a bright, not full sun place, at a constant temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. If you don’t have a mini greenhouse, just pull a piece of cling film over the seed pot and place it on the west or east window sill. If you do the sowing during the summer, a semi-shady place on the warm balcony is of course also well suited for the procedure. If it takes longer to germinate, spray the seeds a little every few days to keep them from drying out. In addition, the cover should be aired daily for 10 minutes to prevent mold from forming.


The closer the climatic conditions are to the optimum during sowing, the faster germination will begin. Two cotyledons emerge from the seed, in the middle of which a small cactus ball develops. As soon as the seedlings get too close, they are isolated. To do this, take a pricking stick and lift the strongest plant out of the substrate. Simply pulling on it will destroy much of the shallow root system and destroy any hope of a beautiful goldenglobe cactus. Each pricked cactus now gets its own bucket, which is filled with normal substrate for adult cacti.

diseases and pests

If an Echinocactus grusonii is ailing, the problems are usually due to neglect in care. The following damage patterns indicate care errors rather than an infection or a pest infestation:

  • A soft, yellowish cactus: rot due to overwatering
  • Cylindrical change in habit: lack of light
  • Fatty, bloated appearance: overfeeding
  • Reddish discoloration of the upper layer of tissue: sunburn

If you succeed in making an early diagnosis, with a bit of luck the immediate adjustment of the care will remedy the situation. If the entire spherical cactus is affected, it is usually no longer worth the effort to take countermeasures. Use the knowledge gained for a successful cultivation of the next mother-in-law chair.

Despite the sturdy constitution of a globe cactus, it is still not immune to some common pests and diseases.


If small, white webs appear on a gold ball cactus, there is a high probability that mealybugs are responsible. The female lice lay innumerable eggs on the Echinocactus grusonii. The nymphs that hatched after a week then suck the lifeblood of the plant. If their shameful doings are not stopped, the mother-in-law’s seat will turn brown and die. How to ward off mealybugs:

  • Isolate the affected globe cactus to prevent the mealybugs from spreading
  • Apply systemic insecticide in stick form according to dosage instructions
  • Use the Australian ladybird as a biological control agent

The use of natural predators in biological pest control is becoming increasingly popular. The beneficial insects are placed precisely on the infested cactus, where they prey on the mealybugs. After the work is done, the ladybugs migrate away.

spider mites

Spider mites appear in concentrated form on indoor plants during the heating period. A spherical cactus that is not in the cool winter quarters is often one of the victims of the pests. Since they are smaller than 1 mm, the naked eye sees them late. If the infestation is still limited, proceed in this case in the same way as against mealybugs.


In contrast to the tiny pests, the fungal infection caused by powdery mildew can be recognized relatively early. A white, mealy coating spreads out on the cactus ball. Spraying with a milk-water solution, known from biological infection control, is out of the question for a spherical cactus. Repeated dusting of the plant with rock dust has proven to be helpful. In addition, the database of the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety publishes currently approved fungicides.

An oversupply of water is not always responsible for rot on a gold ball cactus. If you can rule out care errors, you will probably be confronted with Fusarium wilt, Phytophthora rot or damping-off. Instead of exposing your entire plant population to the risk of infection, it is advisable to dispose of the diseased plant in the household waste.

A spherical cactus impresses with an imposing appearance, reinforced by a golden shiny dress of thorns. In order for the Mexican immigrant to thrive in this form in our regions, he only needs a little species-appropriate care. If the location and the water and nutrient supply are based on the needs of an Echinocactus grusonii, there are best prospects for a habit that underlines the tongue-in-cheek designation as mother-in-law’s chair.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *