How Much Direct Sunlight Does A Golden Barrel Cactus Need?

Golden Barrel Cactus needs direct sunlight to thrive; since golden barrels grow outdoors in desert conditions that receive intense sunlight, the cactus cannot acclimate itself to low light. These plants do best when they receive full sun exposure while also planted in well-draining soil.

The golden barrel is a fairly popular succulent for many gardeners since it is a low-maintenance plant. It doesn’t require a lot of attention to thrive and remain healthy. In most cases, all you need to do is be careful with the watering and provide plenty of sunlight exposure. But how much sunlight does it require to thrive? How can you tell if your barrel cactus receives too much or not enough light? How can you improve the lighting conditions? We cover everything you need to know.

So, does barrel cactus need direct sunlight? The quick answer is yes. Most barrel cactus species require a certain degree of direct sunlight exposure to thrive in a home environment. Keep in mind that this type of cactus is adapted to growing in arid environments with minimal shade from taller trees. Therefore, it still needs to feel the same conditions at home to thrive. In fact, growing a barrel cactus indoors can be quite challenging due to its lighting requirements.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about the barrel cactus and exposure to direct sunlight. This blog post is packed with valuable information to make you a better gardener.

How Much Light Does the Barrel Cactus Need to Survive?

This can vary greatly depending on the type of barrel cactus you have. However, a general rule of thumb is to provide your cactus with approximately six to eight hours of sunlight exposure every day.

Barrel cactus will do best with direct sunlight, but it can still survive in bright indirect sunlight. A barrel cactus that has been previously kept in a relatively dark environment need to be introduced to direct sunlight gradually to avoid sunburns.

Barrel Cactus exposed to sunlight.
Barrel cactus will do best with direct sunlight.

Keeping your barrel cactus in partial shade is not an immediate death sentence for your plant, but the results can be catastrophic if you don’t take appropriate steps to fulfill its light requirements.

In fact, some types of barrel cactus can survive in partial shade or indirect sunlight for a relatively extended period.

But prolonged exposure to shade can cause your plant to become sickly and unhealthy. Just because the cactus can survive a situation doesn’t mean it is healthy for them.

How Much Sun Does the Barrel Cactus Need Indoors?

If you like to grow your barrel cactus indoors, you should be prepared to find the brightest spot in your house and position it there. It should be on a south or east-facing windowsill.

If you live in an area that doesn’t get plenty of sunlight, you might be forced to use supplemental artificial lighting to ensure your barrel cactus receives the right amount of light it requires to thrive.

Closeup image of a Golden barrel cactus.
You need to acclimatize it when you decide to move it outdoors in spring and summer.

You need to remember that growing a barrel cactus indoors all year round can be too difficult. Typically, you want to keep your plants indoors during winter to protect them from the extreme cold and take them out in spring and summer.

If you keep your plant indoors all year round without providing it with sufficient lighting, it will most likely turn spindly and lose its coloration.

When using artificial grow lights indoors, consider purchasing a foot-candle meter or downloading a mobile app to help you measure the amount of light you are providing to your barrel cactus.

As a general rule of thumb, you can more or less maintain your barrel cactus at approximately 3,500 foot-candles or more. Anything below 1,500 foot-candles will cause your cactus massive struggles.

To achieve better results, you must maintain a high light level for more than eight hours a day.

In terms of direct sunlight indoors, your barrel cactus can handle as much as you can give it. But you will still need to acclimatize it when you decide to move it outdoors in spring and summer.

How Much Sun Does the Barrel Cactus Need Outdoors?

The best place to grow a barrel cactus is in your outdoor garden. However, things change a bit when growing your barrel cactus outdoors.

Instead of trying to squeeze your barrel cactus into the brightest spot, you need to protect it a little bit so that it doesn’t suffer from sunburn.

After all, the barrel cactus doesn’t come from full desert conditions as most of us tend to think. Sun damage can be extremely severe if you forget to acclimate your plant properly.

Golden Barrel cactus outdoors.
The best place to grow a barrel cactus is in your outdoor garden.

Ensure the cactus is located in a section of your garden that receives partial shade from other taller plants at different times of the day. Alternatively, you can grow your barrel cactus under some artificial cover that only lets in a specific amount of light.

If you don’t do anything to protect your succulent from full sunlight throughout the day, its roots may dry out too quickly, forcing you into frequent watering, which can again lead to root rot issues.

Luckily, if you are just growing the barrel cactus outdoors during spring and summer only and your area doesn’t receive intense sunlight, you don’t have to cover them.

Can a Barrel Cactus Get Too Much Sunlight?

The simple answer is yes. Like other succulents, the barrel cactus is also highly susceptible to too much sunlight. If your barrel cactus is exposed to more than six hours of direct sunlight every day, it will develop sunburn.

If your barrel cactus is getting the right amount of light, its color should be vibrant. The appearance of brown spots on sections of the plant and a washed-out color could be signs of sunburn.

When you notice these signs, you will need to provide your plant with sun protection by moving it into a slightly shady area or providing it with some light shade.

A golden barrel cactus sunburned.
Figure out its light requirement and provide what is just enough for its survival.

If you are growing your plant indoors and positioned on a windowsill, consider moving it away into a relatively cool spot. Give it a couple of days or weeks to heal before you start acclimatizing it again.

But don’t move your barrel cactus into an extremely cold area because these succulents can’t tolerate such conditions either.

Your primary objective should be to study your plant, figure out its light requirement and provide what is just enough for its survival.

How Do You Know Your Barrel Cactus is Receiving Too Much Light?

So, how do you know that your barrel cactus is receiving too much light? Well, the most obvious sign is the appearance of dark or brown spots on its surface that appear abruptly.

These spots are a clear sign of sunburn that occurs when the succulent isn’t acclimatized properly when moved from indoors to outdoors. This is a common problem in spring and summer as gardeners move their indoor plants outdoors.

The main issue is that the barrel cactus has been surviving under indirect sunlight indoors, but it is now being moved in direct sunlight outdoors. The appearance of the black/brown spots is a clear sign of a shocked plant.

Moving the cactus in a partial shade and acclimatizing it properly may solve the problem, although the spots may take some time before they disappear.

Simply move the cactus back into indirect sunlight or partial shade and introduce it to full sun gradually to allow enough time to build resistance to sunburn.

How Do You Know Your Barrel Cactus Isn’t Receiving Enough Light?

The main sign of sunlight deficiency in a barrel cactus is stunted growth and leggy appearance. When your barrel cactus is leggy, it means that it isn’t growing the way it should.

The signs of stunted growth include smaller thorns and more sideways or upwards growth than normal. This is fairly easy to note in a barrel cactus. You should also be worried if your barrel cactus starts showing noticeable signs of leaning towards the nearest light source.

If you notice these signs, move your plant to a relatively brighter spot where it can receive plenty of light.

A topview of a golden barrel cactus.
If you notice these signs, move your plant to a relatively brighter spot.

However, you still need to follow the right acclimatization process. Move them into the bright light spot gradually to avoid burns.

Can You Grow the Barrel Cactus Under an Artificial Light?

All succulents can grow with artificial light. Like other succulents, the barrel cactus only uses light for photosynthesis which is a critical process to the plant’s survival.

So long as you provide your barrel cactus with the right amount of light (whether natural sunlight or artificial grow lights), they will thrive and remain healthy.

However, the barrel cactus isn’t an easy plant to cultivate under artificial grow lights because it is adapted to dry, sunny, and hot climates.

Therefore, you need to think about purchasing high-intensity lights that produce the right type of light needed for growth.

The light should be able to emit wavelengths in the range of photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). The best lights are those that emit at least 180 PAR.


Barrel cacti are a great option for anyone looking for an easy-to-care-for succulent. As long as you provide your barrel cactus with plenty of light, it will be happy and healthy. Place your barrel cactus in a sunny spot outdoors if possible, or in a bright room indoors.

If you’re not sure whether your barrel cactus is getting enough light, look for signs of distress, such as wilting spines or browning tips.

If you think your barrel cactus may be receiving too much light, move it to a shadier spot or reduce the amount of time it spends in direct sunlight.

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