How Much Water Should You Give a Barrel Cactus? ( Not Under or Overwater)

Barrel cacti, like their close relative the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), are native to the Sonoran Desert of North America. They are one of the most common desert plants, and can also be called cylindrical cacti or opuntia.

While it’s true that, unlike tropical desert plants, barrel cacti don’t need a lot of water to survive—even in hot, dry climates you only need to water them once a week during the summer and only a few times during the entire winter season—their roots need some water to function properly. If you grow your barrel cactus indoors, you will likely have to water it more often than if it were planted outside in the ground.

When watering your barrel cactus, fill up its pot until you see water coming out of its bottom holes. Then allow its soil to dry out until it starts to shrink in size before watering again.

If you think cacti are easy-to-water plants, you might not. Even if these are plants that are used to drought, they still require very specific care. Period, frequency, quantity… we tell you all about the art of watering your cacti properly.

The Necessary Equipment

It is essential to provide suitable equipment for watering your cacti:

  1. A watering can.
  1. Pebbles and stones or clay pebbles: Here are the two main materials used in cacti pots: pebbles and stones. Pebbles are small rounded stones that can prevent standing water and drain it in a way that protects the roots, so you will put a layer at the bottom of your pot. Clay pebbles have a porous surface and drain the water very well but can be a bit heavy for tropical species like barrel cactus. Clay pebbles also get hot in direct sunlight. River stones drain the water well because they are flat and do not hold too much water. They are easy to clean and lightweight.

    In addition, you cover the surface of the earth with gravel for aesthetic reasons, but also to keep this part dry.
  1. White vinegar: In the case of cacti, it is better that your water does not contain hard water in order to allow them to grow normally. Water containing calcium and magnesium can cause the formation of deposits that clog the pores of the plant and prevent water from circulating freely. In this case, you can use white vinegar to neutralize the water and remove these deposits.

How to water?

To properly water your cacti, you must take care of two essential things:

The roots shouldn’t be in potting soil that is soggy and the plant itself shouldn’t be damp.

The watering pot is removed from the knob and then watered directly around the neck to achieve greater accuracy. Water the feet of your plant but not the body. On the other hand, you could make it vaporize.

Remember to water your plants at the beginning of the end of the day, to prevent any droplets of water that could cause damage to the plant if the plant is in direct sunlight. sunlight.

If you can, choose rain or spring water that is less harmful to the plant. The water must be cool which means it should not be too hot or too cold. If you use tap water and it’s highly chlorinated, you should make sure to fill the watering cans early in the morning to allow the chlorine the time to disperse.

The 8 Mistakes to Avoid

  1. The biggest mistake to avoid is overwatering. It causes root rot and would be fatal to the cactus. To rule out the problem, observe a drying time between two waterings, and drain the bottom of the pot well with the clay pebbles or gravel. Also, make sure the substrate is draining so that excess moisture can evaporate.
  2. As we have already seen, it is imperative not to keep standing water in the saucer of the pot. Wait 15 minutes after watering and remove the water.
  3. After repotting, which should be done about every two or three years, do not water your cactus right away. Otherwise, you risk seeing the roots rot.
  4. Do not check your plant’s water needs, these may vary depending on its species.
  5. Watering it too often is harmful because the humidity is not recommended, it is better to opt for a large watering than for a succession of small ones.
  6. Resuming watering abruptly in spring or stopping watering completely as winter approaches is not good. Go gradually in one case as in the other.
  7. Do not take the temperatures into account when watering: in a dry and very warm room in winter, you will water your cactus, otherwise, it is not necessary.
  8. Forget the drainage at the bottom of the pot: this is essential to keep the roots dry.

Watering a Cactus: What Water to Use?

First, let’s talk about the type of water you should use for your barrel cactus. Tap water can be high in minerals that aren’t good for your cactus, so if possible you should consider using rainwater instead. 

You can filter rainwater to remove excess minerals, but it’s not necessary if you have only a few cacti since they’re small enough that you can change their water often. That said, if you have a large collection of cacti or succulents—or if you want to use tap water with them—you should consider purchasing a recuperator (it sale here) to filter out excess minerals from the tap water before adding it to your plants’ soil.

What’s the Best Way to Water a Cactus?

Watering a cactus sounds like an easy task, but it has to be done in just the right way. The soil has to be completely dry before any water is given, and it should only be given in small amounts. Watering a cactus too often or giving too much water at once can cause the roots to rot and the lower edges of the plant to die off.

Can You Overwater a Barrel Cactus?

Cacti aren’t just drought tolerant – they need some drought to survive. Their roots rot easily and too much water can kill them.

Why is my barrel cactus shrinking? Under watering

Your barrel cactus is shirking and there are a few reasons for that. First of all, your cactus is not getting enough water. It is important to water your cactus regularly, especially during the summer months when it is extremely hot and dry. The soil should be always wet but never drenched with water. You will need to check this several times a week.

Secondly, your cactus could be rotting due to age. Your cactus could be over 20 years old and its health may begin to decline as it grows older.

Thirdly, light could be too much for your cactus during the summer when the sun shines directly on your cactus all day long. During this time you will need to move it into a dark place with little or no light. If you keep it in direct light, it will get sunburned and shrivel up more quickly.

Lastly, overwatering during winter can rot the roots of your plant and make it shrivel even if it was kept in the shade. In order to prevent this from happening you will need to let the soil dry out between watering sessions

Should You Water the Cactus from the Top or Bottom?

When you water from the top, essentially what you’re doing is watering the plant’s leaves, which are very efficient at absorbing water. The leaves will absorb all of that water and not pass any of it down to the roots. The roots will still be thirsty! So if you water from the top, don’t be surprised when your cactus’ leaves begin to droop because it can’t absorb enough water through its roots.

By watering from the bottom of the pot instead of pouring water into the top, the roots sense the water below and have to reach for it! This helps them grow bigger and stronger. You’ll also have a better idea of whether or not your plant needs more water because its soil will become increasingly wet as time goes on—you’ll be able to tell when it needs more just by looking at how saturated that soil has become.

How Do I Know If My Cactus Is Getting Enough Water?

Cacti are plants that don’t need water. They can live in deserts, after all. But they’re not immune to drought. In fact, they’re incredibly sensitive to it—and will suffer if you don’t give them enough water.

In the wild, this is because there’s a limited amount of water available for them. So when you give your cactus too much water, it might seem like a good thing—you’re giving it what it needs! But the truth is, cacti absorb water very slowly, and so giving them too much overwhelms their ability to take up that water at all. The result? Their roots rot and they die.

The best way to tell if your cactus needs watering is to stick your finger in the soil (make sure you go down at least 2 inches). If it’s wet or even a little cold, leave it alone! Cactus are incredibly slow growers, so they won’t be thirsty again any time soon. You can even go a whole month without watering them if you want (just keep an eye on the soil). If it feels dry, give it some water! Don’t drench the soil, but do let some water seep in and wick down to their roots


A well-watered barrel cactus should not be wet, nor should it be allowed to become bone-dry. To keep your plant happy, water it sparingly, and as soon as you see the topsoil is dry (a finger pressed into the topsoil should leave an impression).

There are some plants, such as the barrel cactus, that require water minimally. In fact, too much water can actually be detrimental and lead to the death of a barrel cactus. Determining how much water your barrel cactus needs really depends on the environment in which it is located.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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