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Registered: 07/02/05
Posts: 19
Last seen: 12 years, 7 months
Growing San Pedro
    #5087405 - 12/20/05 09:08 PM (18 years, 4 months ago)

I'd like to take advantage of a sale another member of this forum is holding, but I don't know very much about San Pedro. If a few of you could contribute links to sites explaining growth/cultivation/preparation, I'd greatly appreciate it.

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Re: Growing San Pedro [Re: Deaf] * 2
    #5087467 - 12/20/05 09:29 PM (18 years, 4 months ago)

San Pedro is a very easy to cultivate cacti. It can be grown from seeds and cuttings. Growing them from seeds goes in the same way as with Peyote.

To grow them from cuttings is simple. Just cut the cacti in pieces of about 4cm length and leave these pieces for about one or two weeks, in this time the wound will heal, a callus is formed. The cuttings do stay alive for a very long time, so don't worry about time and don't hurry, it is important that the wound is really dry.
Once the wound is dry and something like a skin has formed, the cutting is ready. Often it is hard to see what is the top or bottom, in that case just plant it on its side. If it is clear, what is the top, then plant the cutting straight up, half in the earth. You can use cacti earth from the local plant shop, but any good earth will do as well. It might take some time before growth starts, somewhere between a few weeks up to even a year.

San Pedro likes it hot, if you have a greenhouse, open the windows only in extreme heat. Indoors it grows well, infact it is one of the fasted growing cacti. It can grow quite a bit in one season, sometimes half meter, under the right conditions (Peyote is one of the slowest), which makes it for certain purposes a lot better.
When you live in a place where the days are quit short in winter, the cacti should be kept in a place with plenty light, at a temperature of
minimum 0-5C ( a little above freezing point) to 10C. It is important to keep them during winter in a cool place, else they will start growing and start making thin pieces (see picture below). A thin waist might be nice for a woman, but for a cactus it is ugly, and makes it instable. The trick is to stop the cactus from growing during a period of shortage of light. So it also important not to give water in this period, this causes growth and possibly even rot. Don't worry, it is cacti and can stay without water for long periods.

In the growing seasons you can give them regularly water, fertilizer is appreciated, both natural and artificial. There is no real need of artificial fertilizer, if the plant is regularly repotted or when natural fertilizer is used.

San Pedro flower only after many years, rarely in cultivation, which is pity, because it has very beautiful flowers. There seems to be quite a lot of variation in the genus, like more or less needles, sometimes small needles and sometimes very small.

One of the benefits of growing cacti from seed is that there is an enormous availability of cactus species you can choose from. Compared to plants, seeds can be usually acquired at relatively low costs. Personally I get a lot of pleasure from sowing my own cacti. Raising cacti from seed gives you the opportunity to see all the fascinating growth stadia from your cactus from germinating seedling up to full grown flowering plant.

There are many ways of sowing cacti that have been proven successful. Here I will describe a method that I have found usefull for most cactus species. The process of sowing cacti will be explained using a step by step protocol. First I will present a list of essential equipment and other things needed for sowing cacti.

cactus seed
sowing medium (peat / regular potting soil / 1-3 mm grit (1:1:1))
1-3 mm grit
seed tray and transparent top with ventilation slides
sowing room or glasshouse with indirect bright light where an approximate temperature of 25 ?C can be maintained (20 ?C at night)
?Superol? tablets as a disinfectant against fungi and bacteria attacks
plastic plant containers with drainage holes
small transparent plastic (sandwich) bags
plant water sprinkler
microwave or high-pressure cooking pot for sterilizing the sowing medium and 1-3 mm grit
chlorine based disinfectant (?Glorix? bleekmiddel) to clean the plastic pots
watertight container
watering can
plant labels
watertight marker

Sowing preparations:

Prepare the sowing medium by mixing peat with regular potting soil and 1-3 mm grit (1:1:1). Make sure that your sowing medium is very loose and airy. I usually take a fist full of the medium I just made and make a fist with it. When you open your hand the medium must loosely fall apart. If it sticks together like a ball then the medium is to tight and you should add some grit to loosen it up.
Sterilize the sowing medium for 2 hours in a high pressure cooking pot. Don?t forget to add a lot of water in the pot to prevent dehydration of the medium. Another means of sterilizing your medium is by using a microwave. Put the medium with enough water in a microwave cooking pot and sterilize for 15 minutes at 180-200 ?C. You also have to sterilize some 1-3 mm grit to put on top of the sowing medium. Grit can be sterilized in the same manner as the sowing medium or it can be boiled for 10-15 minutes in a cooking pot filled with water. After sterilization keep the cooking pots closed and let the medium and grit cool down overnight.
Clean the sowing pots with a chlorine solution in water. Don?t forget to clean the pots with water afterwards and make sure all traces of chlorine are washed off!
Prepare a ?Superol? solution in the water sprinkler, 3 tablets per liter of water. Also prepare a ?Superol? solution (3 tablets per liter of water) in the watertight container. This is to put the plastic containers filled with sowing medium in so they can soak up the solution.

Step 1: Filling the sowing containers with the medium

Prepare and clean a table for the sowing and keep ready all the equipment you will be needing. Use 1 sowing container per species of cactus. Fill the plastic sowing containers for 50% with sowing medium and slightly press it down. Now fill the container with sowing medium up to approximately 1 cm under the edge of the container. Add 0,5 mm of sterilized grit on top of the sowing medium.

When all sowing containers are filled as described, put them in the watertight container with ?Superol? solution. Close the top so no infected air can come in and let the containers soak up the solution for about 2 hours. Take the containers out of the solution and let the excess water drip out. Now fill the tops of the containers for approximately 1 cm with sterilized grit (1-3 mm).

Step 2: Sowing the cactus seed

Divide the seeds equally on the top layer of grit. Naturally, one species of cactus per container. Slightly press the seeds in the grit but also make sure to do this in a sterile way, for example by putting your hand in one of the clean sandwich bags. Put a plant marker in each container and write the name of the cactus and the date on it. Now put each container in one of the transparent sandwich bags. NB. with the opening of the bag facing upward. In this way water leaking out of the containers will stay in the bag and no insects can crawl in through the drainage holes. Before closing the bags make sure you spray inside the bag with the ?Superol? solution a couple of times to sterilize the air in the bags. Now close the bags and place them at approximately 23?C under medium light conditions. Do not use to bright illumination and certainly do not use direct sunlight because this will burn the seedlings. You will know when your seedlings are burned when they start to turn reddish brown. When this happens immediately reduce the light intensity.

Step 3: Germination of the seed

Most seeds should germinate after about 14 days but this varies with the species of cactus. After this carefully open the bags to check for possible infections and to see if the seeds have germinated. After opening and checking the bags, spray with `Superol` solution before closing them! If all seeds (or most) are germinated you should make 2-4 small holes (for example with a big needle) to let the seedlings slowly adjust to dryer air.

It is very important now to check the containers at least once a week. Always spray with `Superol` solution when opening and closing the bags. Each week 2-4 new holes must be made into the bags and after approximately 2 months you can remove the bags completely. Keep checking the seedlings on a regular basis for infections with insects or fungi. When the bags are removed the soil will dry fast so make sure to let the containers absorb some warmish water. Do not let the containers dry but also do not keep them soaking wet after the seeds have germinated.

Step 4: Transplanting the cactus seedlings

Transplanting seedlings into fresh cactus soil is needed when 1) the soil is completely dried out or 2) the seedlings have no more room to grow because they are packed together to much or 3) when a major infection with fungus or algae has occurred. The cactus seedlings do not have to be transplanted in sterilized cactus soil. Just use the same soil mix I described earlier and they should be ok.

As the seedlings grow try to increase the light intensity but be carefull for burning because young cacti are very sensitive.

Natural Growing Conditions
Trichocereus pachanoi (San Pedro) is a very hardy species. It is grows to a height of 5m and will branch at the base froming a small tree, it has up to four small yellow to brown spines on each areole. It grows between elevations of 1000m to 3000m in the Andes. Its range extends throughout Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Trichocereus peruvianus (Peruvian Torch) has a similar range and habitat to T. pachanoi, although it is also cultivated on the coast of Peru. Unlike T. pachanoi, it has massive vicious brown spines, up to 10cm in length.

T. peruvianus is touted as containing ten times the mescaline found in T. pachanoi, although as far as I can tell, this is based on the evidence of one test, while others have produced converse results. Also, in some quarters it is claimed that T. peruvianus is far more water/sun tolerent and hardy than T. pachanoi, while K. Trout claims quite the opposite;

...mine tend towards black rotted spots unless watering is moderate and only in hot weather.

He also claims that T. peruvianus is more prone to sunburn under very hot sun. On these matters I am inclined to trust the experience of K. Trout. As yet my own experience of these two species shows little difference in growing requirements.

Growing from Seed
Most Trichocereus species are very straightforeward to raise from seed. Please refer to the Growing Cacti form Seed technique.

Feeding and Watering
Unlike many cacti, some Trichocereus species respond very well to regular feeding and watering. T. pachanoi and T. peruvianus can both be given regular feeds throughout the growing season, and can be watered daily during the hottest parts of the Summer. Bear in mind though, that if kept damp through cold periods, they will invariably suffer. They should be watered only occasionally during the Spring and Autumn, unless it is unusually warm, and not watered at all during the winter months. Being wet during the winter will cause them to split as they expand with excess water, and they may rot and quickly die. In temperate zones, winter protection will probably be needed. This may involve bringing the plants indoors, but protection from the rain in the form of a makeshift roof or other cover should suffice.

Once Established
They will produce prodigious amounts of growth each year if kept well fed and watered throughout the warmest months, particularly if they have been acclimatised to accept full sun. Once these cacti are established they can easily produce 30cm of growth every year.

GROWING GUIDE -Cactus Care Basics

Unpack your cacti as soon as possible. Any specimens shipped with bare roots should be potted up in an appropriate size container (see below for tips on soil mixes and containers). Place your new arrivals in an area which receives bright filtered light. They will require a week or two to get acclimated to their new home, and you should avoid placing them in direct sunlight for the first few days. After this time you may gradually introduce them to more intense light and give them their first drink of water.

BASIC SOIL MIX --- Most commercial cactus mixes work well, but you can easily make your own superior quality mix. A good general purpose formula combines equal parts organic material, coarse river sand (don?t use beach sand), and porous organic material. For the organic material you can use any number of components such peat moss, a quality potting mix, coconut coir, etc. We?ve found a mixture made from equal parts peat moss, leaf mold (well decayed leaves) or compost, ground fir bark and healthy garden soil works very well. The porous organic material can be perlite or agricultural pumice. Another alternate formula combines 2 parts perlite or pumice to one part organic material. Remember, these are just general recipes, and you can improvise your own mix depending upon locally available materials. What?s most important is that your mixture provides excellent drainage.

CONTAINER --- Always use a pot with a drain hole. Be conservative when sizing your pot; a larger pot is not necessarily better when it comes to cacti. A general rule of thumb is to choose a pot sized approximately 1? larger in diameter than the cactus it will contain. Unglazed clay pots are recommended for those inexperienced with cacti. Their inherent porosity provides some extra insurance against overwatering. Plastic pots are fine, but require more careful attention to watering. After planting your cactus , it?s a good idea to top the mix with 1/4? to 1/2? of fine gravel. This topdressing will help prevent stem rot and it discourages algae growth.

WATERING --- Overwatering is probably the single most popular way to smother your cactus to death. A few simple rules will help ensure your relationship with your plant is long lived. Don?t water a cactus if the potting mixture is damp. Always allow the soil to dry out completely before you even think of watering again. Water early in the day so the top of the soil has a chance to dry a bit before evening. It?s best to water when you know you?re in store for a sunny day. During peak growing season you?ll be watering about once a week. When the days shorten and temperatures get cooler, you should begin to restrict watering. During winter, you should barely ever even water, once a month should suffice.

LIGHTING & LOCATION --- While most people understand that cacti require strong light, what most folks don?t know is that they do not necessarily appreciate intense, direct sunlight all day long (especially during hot weather). Most species will be happiest with about 4 to 6 hours of direct sun. If at all possible, we recommend you locate your cactus in the great outdoors during the active growing season. There seems to be no real substitute for fresh air and sunshine. Ideal spots are any areas which receive a few hours of direct sun, especially morning sunshine, and are partially shaded during the mid to late afternoon. During winter months when most of us will have to bring our plants indoors, a location on the sill of a south facing window will be best. If you can supply some supplemental lighting such as from a Special Grow Lamp , your plants will appreciate it. Cacti grown exclusively indoors under conventional lighting (even bright fluorescents) will rarely grow into healthy , mature specimens. Indoors, good ventilation is very important. Some air movement will help keep your plants disease and pest free. Don?t, however place specimens in front of heating and air conditioning ducts.

FEEDING --- Only fertilize plants which are actively growing and receiving adequate light. Use a fertilizer formula intended for blooming plants and mix up 1/4 to 1/2 strength solution. Feed about once every 3 or 4 weeks. We use Earth Juice brand bloom formula with excellent results. This is an organic, biologically active fertilizer. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen, and don?t use fish emulsions, bat guano, manures or other nitrogen-rich organic materials. During cooler weather and short days, your plant will be dormant and you should refrain from feeding.

MANAGING PESTS --- Common pest you may encounter are scale, spider mites, and mealy bugs. Most insects are best managed by physically removing them from your cacti. A focused stream of water from your garden hose will remove many unwanted critters. More stubborn residents can be removed with a cotton swab or soft bristle brush soaked in rubbing alcohol. Neem oil preparations or non-toxic, fatty acid soaps known as insecticidal soaps can provide additional help for more troublesome infestations., but be sure to test an area before spraying an entire specimen . Insecticidal soaps can cause tissue burn in some species. If you?re growing T. pachanoi or T. peruvianus, avoid pyrethrins. They will cause severe tissue burns! Never apply any treatments in direct sun or during high heat and humidity. Sprays are best applied in early morning with good ventilation to ensure rapid drying.

TEMPERATURE --- T. pachanoi , T. peruvianus and E. triglochidiatus are fairly cold hardy and can briefly withstand temps to about 20 degrees F. if kept dry. In most cases however, you should bring your specimens indoors if you expect freezing weather.

During the active growing season both Trichocereus pachanoi & Trichocereus peruvianus can benefit from more aggressive watering and feeding schedules, and will reward you with amazingly rapid growth. As long as they?re getting a few hours of direct sun and good ventilation, they really respond to the extra food and water. They also respond well to some nitrogen in their diet, and you can use 1/4 to 1/2 strength solutions of fertilizer intended for vegetative growth such as Earth Juice Grow. If you aren?t experienced, however, stick with a conservative routine.

We offer an excellent book on the subject of growing and caring for cacti called The Plantfinder's Guide to Cacti & Other Succulents that you may find quite helpful as well.

Growing San Pedro
You should keep in mind that it will take at least a year to get a plant large enough for one dose, and unless you are using year round high intensity growth lights (such as used for pot cultivation) coupled with an ideal watering and fertilizing schedule, you can expect to wait two years.


San Pedro are different than most columnar cacti in that they grow very rapidly, and enjoy a somewhat richer soil mix and more frequent waterings than most cacti. They are quite hardy, and will grow successfully in a wide range of conditions. The mescaline content in these cacti apparently are a defense mechanism against invading organisms, and increase during stressful conditions, particularly when the cacti are underwatered.


Growth of these cacti occurs mainly during the brightest months of summer. In locations where intense, bright sunny days occur for only a few months, they will not grow rapidly. Growth can be greatly stimulated with high intensity plant growth lights such as used for marijuana cultivation, but year round operation of these 1000 watt bulbs can be very expensive. Ideally, angled lighting from both sides should be observed to allow full illumination along the entire column. When underwatering to increase potency, the cacti should be placed in a less exposed location, with partial shade. If the lighting is too bright for maximum potency increase (but not for maximum growth) the cacti will turn a lighter shade of green. This response occurs after only a few weeks, so adjust the lighting to achieve a darker shade of green.


The cacti should be planted in very porous soil. A typical cactus potting soil mix is OK, but can be improved by addition of extra pumice. The more porous the soil mix, the more frequently the cacti will have to be watered, and the less danger there will be of root rot and other problems of over-watering. However, the soil mix should also be fairly rich. Cactus are damaged by high nitrogen contents, so be sure to use a fertilizer with low nitrogen. Don't begin this treatment immediately after repotting; let the roots set in. When attempting to increase potency, this feeding is not necessary since the cactus will not be receiving water.


These cacti like to send out far ranging lateral root systems near to the surface, so if potted they should be placed in very wide clay pots. Deep but narrow pots will result in stunted growth. Clay pots are required for proper drainage. Use of large clay pots is in many ways preferable to planting directly in the ground, since the watering, drainage, and feeding can be controlled more precisely. However, if attempting to increase potency, the cactus can be placed in small, constricted pots since good growth conditions are not desired. In any case, repotting cactus should not be idly done since it shocks the root system and injures the cactus. It is best to choose a suitable pot and stick with it.


When in full growth, the cactus should be watered quite frequently. The cactus should be watered when the subsurface soil is not damp to the touch. This will depend on many other factors. At one extreme, for a cactus in very well-drained, high pumice soil, potted in porous clay pots, receiving bright full sunlight all day long, in an exposed, windy, hot location, the cactus can be thoroughly watered every four days. If fed this frequently, the plant food concentration should be halved. One way to test soil dampness is to insert a small, clean redwood stake into the soil. If it comes out with small particles of sand clinging to it, the soil is still moist and should not be watered. During dormant winter months, the cactus should be watered much less frequently, perhaps once a month or so. This will stimulate root growth and result in faster growth during the hot season. As mentioned above, when attempting to increase potency, the cactus should not be watered at all for an entire growing season, and placed in a less exposed, partially shaded location.

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Registered: 07/02/05
Posts: 19
Last seen: 12 years, 7 months
Re: Growing San Pedro [Re: Dety]
    #5089015 - 12/21/05 09:23 AM (18 years, 4 months ago)

Great reply, thanks

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