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Ferocactus gracilis (Fire Barrel Cactus)


Scientific Name

Ferocactus gracilis H. E. Gates

Common Names

Fire Barrel Cactus


Ferocactus gracilis subsp. gracilis, Ferocactus gracilis var. gracilis, Ferocactus peninsulae var. gracilis

Scientific Classification

Family: Cactaceae
Subfamily: Cactoideae
Tribe: Cacteae
Genus: Ferocactus


Ferocactus gracilis is an attractive cactus with a solitary, globular to cylindrical stem that grows up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and up to 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. It has about 24 ribs, 7 to 13 reddish-brown, somewhat curved, up to 1.6 inches (4 cm) long central spines, and 8 to 12 whitish radial spines. Flowers are diurnal, golden yellow or reddish, and with a darker red stripe down the middle of each petal. They appear in summer. Fruits are cylindrical, yellowish, and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long.


USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Choose a location that receives direct sun during all or most of the day. Plant your Barrel Cactus in early spring before new roots begin to form. The roots may appear dry, but that is typical before new growth begins. Dig a hole deep enough for the plant's roots and amend it as needed to provide fast-draining soil. A good soil mixture includes 10 percent native soil, 45 percent washed sand or pumice, and 45 percent compost.

Water the cactus at the time of planting to anchor it into the soil. Water again only if the weather in your area is unseasonably dry and if normal spring or winter rainfall doesn't occur. Ferocactus needs a dormant period with dry soil during the winter.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Ferocactus.


Ferocactus gracilis is native to Mexico (Baja California).


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