How to Plant Barrel Cactus Seeds


Barrel cactus is the common name for several cacti in the genus Ferocactus, which are found from the southwestern United States to northern Mexico. These natives of Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts survive extreme desert conditions and can live for 50 to 130 years. Barrel cacti, which can grow to heights from a few inches to over ten feet, make stunning accent plants in the desert landscape. Unfortunately, mature specimens are often taken from the wild, and most do not survive transplanting. These cacti reproduce by seed only, and fortunately, they are very easy to propagate.

Step 1

Purchase dried barrel cactus seeds, or collect your own where local law permits. Look for maturing fruit beneath the fading flowers in late summer to early fall. Use gloves or kitchen tongs to remove fruit from the cactus after the flowers have fallen off. Take only one or two plump fruits, since each one holds many tiny seeds.

Step 2

Hold the fruit wearing gloves, and slice it in half with a sharp knife to reveal the tiny dark seeds inside.

Step 3

Separate the seeds from the pulp, wash them through a fine sieve, and then dry them thoroughly on a paper towel. Store them in an air tight container for up to three years if necessary, or plant them immediately.

Step 4

Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.

Step 5

Fill a 2-inch deep seed flat with 1 inch of cactus potting mix. Spread the mix evenly and gently firm it into place.

Step 6

Sprinkle the seeds directly onto the soil surface and moisten it evenly with a spray bottle filled with water.

Step 7

Place the flat in a warm place where it will receive about eight hours of indirect sunlight. Barrel cacti seeds will not germinate without light. Optimal temperatures for germination are from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8

Keep the surface of the flat evenly moist by misting at least once daily with a spray bottle; be careful not to over water.

Step 9

Use tweezers to gently transplant the young cacti into 2-inch pots filled with cactus potting mix in about six months to one year, when they begin to develop tiny spines and are about an inch tall.

Tips and Warnings

  • Be aware that some states, such as Arizona and Nevada, have laws protecting certain species of barrel cacti. Check with your state's department of agriculture before collecting any barrel cactus seeds.

Things You'll Need

  • Barrel cactus fruit or seeds
  • Gloves
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Fine sieve
  • Cactus potting mix
  • Shallow seed flat
  • Spray bottle
  • Tweezers


  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Keywords: Propagating barrel cactus, Propagating southwestern barrel cactus, Propagating Ferocactus spp.

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.