The Devil’s Head Cactus ‘Echinocactus Horizonthalonius’

The Devil’s Head Cactus ‘Echinocactus Horizonthalonius’

There is no denying that cacti call some shots in the succulent group. That’s why it’s natural to find cactus and succulent being used interchangeably. Well, if you’re a succulent lover, you know better.

The cacti group is so diverse that you’re going to run into surprises (pleasant ones) now and then. Devil’s head cactus is just one of the more than 1700 surprises (species). You’ll find this guide particularly helpful if you’re looking into growing this cactus.

Dive right in!

Devil’s Head Cactus – Echinocactus horizonthalonius
A flowering cactus growing in a pot @cherokeelion

Devil’s Head Cactus – Origin

This succulent is native to the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts of the United States and Mexico. Taking into account that the Sonoran desert is the hottest in the whole of Mexico, it’s easy to see how hardy the devil’s head cactus is. To top it all off, the nature of these desert lands isn’t exactly a boost to plant life.

The two play a significant role in determining how you should take care of this baby when you decide to bring it home. You’ll get to know about that in a second.


This beauty can be hemispherical, columnar, globular, or flat-topped in shape. You can expect this plant to grow to a height of up to 16 in and eight inches across. The surface is blue-green.

The entire plant structure is divided into sections (called ribs), each bearing several areoles. And from these areoles, the popular cactus structures, spines, emerge. A typical plant will have up to 8 ribs.

Each areole can bear between three to ten spines that are cross-ribbed, measuring up to 4 cm in length. So the entire plant structure is spiky. This means you’ll have to take precautions when handling this succulent. The spines can be gray, pink, or brown.

The flowers are showy and can either be pink or magenta. They come out mainly during June, although it’s not unusual for the plant to bloom as early as April or later on in September – as long there is rain. The flowers open during the day and close when darkness sets in.

These blooms give rise to fruits that are either red or pink and covered with numerous tiny hairs.

Check out another kind of cactus to keep you interested like “Giant Barrel Cactus – Echinocactus Platyacanthus“.

Classification of the Devil’s Head Cactus

The devil’s head cactus is part of the larger Cactaceae family – like all the good cacti. Further on in the classification hierarchy, it belongs to the Echinocactus genus and is of the Ehorizonthalonius species.

Hence, in the botanical world, it goes by the name Echinocactus horizonthalonius. Besides devil’s head cactus, other common names include horse crippler, eagle’s claw, blue barrel cactus, visnaga meloncillo, and horse maimer.

Speaking of the Ehorizonthalonius species, there are two varieties of it:

1. Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. horizonthalonius

This is the one you’ll likely encounter since it’s the most widely cultivated. It is dominant in the Chihuahuan region from Arizona, New Mexico to Texas and Northeastern Mexico.

2. Echinocactus horizonthalonius var. nicholii

You’d be hard-pressed to find this variety in extensive cultivation. It’s an endangered species limited to only a few parts of the Sonoran desert in Arizona and Mexico. Compared to the first variety above, it is taller and bears branches sometimes.

Devil’s Head Cactus – Echinocactus horizonthalonius
Cactus growing in a pot @danjo_koumuten

Growing Conditions

As mentioned above, the devil’s head cactus is a desert native. The conditions call for serious buckling up. And this succulent has perfected this.

It can survive on so little, which means you won’t need to exalt yourself as much to see it grow into an adorable gem. Nevertheless, you’ll still need to be there for your baby.

Consider the following ingredients for a healthy Echinocactus horizonthalonius.

Be sure to also check out our piece “How Fast Do Cacti Grow?” to see more on the growing conditions of cacti.

1. Watering and Soil Requirements

The devil’s head cactus is a highly drought-resistant plant owing to its water-deprived natural habitat. To grow it smoothly, you’ll have to consider this when coming up with a watering routine.

Naturally, you’ll have to be a bit moderate on this front. A heavy drink for your plant once in a while will make sure it thrives. That is, water only when the soil is completely dried out.

But that would be useless if the soil doesn’t dry out fast enough. That’s why you’ll also need to consider a potting mix that won’t stay clogged for long – drainage is paramount.

So, grab a well-draining potting mix, a cactus/succulent one to be precise!

2. Ideal temperatures for devil’s head cactus

This succulent is not so cold hardy, so it’s essential to consider the average minimum temperatures you experience in your area before planting it outside. In which USDA Hardiness zone does your area fall?

You’ll be fine to grow it outside if your region is 8b and above. For 8a and below, you can grow the gem as an indoor plant. Alternatively, you can grow it in a pot outside so that you can bring it inside in winter.

Check out our guide to “How Long Do Succulents Live?” tos ee tips on maintaining your succulent for longevity.

3. Light requirements

This beauty is not so selective when it comes to exposure – as long as the light is coming in. It can do well in both full sun exposure and partial shade. Of course, you have to ensure enough rays are hitting it, especially when you’re raising it indoors.

4. Propagation

Propagation of the devil’s head cactus is by seeds. Allow the fruits to be significantly ripe – a bit overripe is recommended. Proceed to extract the seeds, clean, and allow them to dry.

Sow your seeds in a well-draining mix at the end of the cold season.

If you’d like this read, you’ll love our total in-depth ebooks! With so many succulent lovers asking for more, we listened and can’t wait to share it here! You’ll get more information from our very detailed ebooks than these short articles. Some ebooks are 30+ pages, perfect for a weekend read. And most importantly, they’re all FREE!

Happy Planting!

Succulent City chief editor


Succulent City

Hey everyone! Welcome to Succulent City! We are all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, we began the journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, our fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and we gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!

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