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San Pedro Cactus: Growing and Caring For the Trichocereus Pachanoi

If you look around, you’ll find that the San Pedro cactus is, quite possibly, the most sought after cactus variety. Many gardening enthusiasts love to grow a plant that thrives with less and is minimal when it comes to the grooming routine. And it’s seemingly evident that this outdoor plant from the Echipnosis genus doesn’t disappoint.

San pedro cactus

San Pedro Cactus Plant (Trichocereus Pachanoi)

Anytime you walk into your nearby gardening retail store, you’ll probably find this plant labeled as Trichocereus or Cereus pachanoi, but its scientific name is Echinopsis pachanoi.

It natively comes from a couple of countries in South America including Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.

This plant ideally thrives outdoors under USDA hardiness zones 8b through 10b and is quite capable of enduring frosting conditions. So you won’t need to give it the utmost attention during winter.

As it matures, the San Pedro cactus tends to resemble an upright pillar or column and grows up to 20 feet tall—which is equivalent to about 3 meters, hence why you might need to consider placing the medium on the outdoor space.

Over time, your San Pedro cactus will develop a few whitish areoles that produce 6-7 spines which are usually about 2 cm long. It sprouts a few stems that reach up to 6 feet in width and 20 feet in height.

Trichocereus cactus

Around mid-summer, this cacti plant produces white flowers, together with a few edible fruits. So if you’re planning to grow multiple San Pedro’s in your garden, you’d be lucky harvest enough fruits to sell commercially.

San Pedro Cactus Care Tips

Soil & Transplanting

Your San Pedro needs soil that drains quite well and is moderately acidic. During summer, you might want to add soluble fertilizer to make the soil nutrient-rich. To fast-track its yield, it’s far more beneficial to use soil with organic material, preferably humus since it decomposes microorganisms which the plant takes in as nutrients.

When your plant is at its tender years, you want to highly dilute the fertilizer, so it doesn’t cause the soil to have excess salt concentration which coats the root hormones and ultimately stunts the overall growth.

An older San Pedro cactus would, however, do well even after using a fertilizer that’s mildly diluted. You’ll need to transplant your baby San Pedro to a bigger growing medium once it hits 1 year.

You can purchase cactus potting soil in gardening retail stores. This type of soil dries up so quickly and is ideal for succulents since they store moisture in their stems, pads, and trunks, so they can survive throughout the drought season. In simpler terms, this practically means that plant doesn’t need too much watering because it might ruin the entire rooting hormones.

Light & Temperature

As a drought-resistant plant, the San Pedro is, far and wide, tolerant to direct sunlightnot forgetting the fact that it’s native to the warmer regions of Peru and Ecuador. But if the seedlings are exposed to full sun rays, they’ll begin to form brownish blemishes which are signs of sunburn and that would be hard to rectify.

If this happens, the only suitable remedy would be to start over with the germination process again.

It’s, therefore, far more fruitful to place it on a south-facing windowsill where the sunlight is a bit filtered, to protect it from any form of irreparable damage. If you choose to fully grow it indoors, you want to use grow lights to enhance the photosynthesis process and level up the temperature it needs to grow healthy.

San pedro cactus flower

A mature San Pedro cactus plant would put up with freezing temperatures as low as 15 °C, and if it mutates to the cold environment, it can steadily thrive even when surrounding conditions are below 5°C. But during normal days, you want to keep your plant under warm temperatures, preferably above 50°C throughout the entire growing season.

Watering

Most succulents require less watering sessions when it’s winter. During this season, the rooting hormones freeze and become dormant, so they don’t absorb enough water like they do when it’s summer. So if you plant it outdoors, it’ll need frequent watering sessions when the temperatures are warmer. But if the roots are soaked in too much water for long hours, they begin to rot and this would eventually cause your San Pedro cactus plant to die.

Give the soil enough time to dry up completely before the next watering session.

Toxicity Levels

I guess you’re probably wondering whether the San Pedro toxic to pets and humans. This plant contains Mescaline—an alkaloid with hallucinogenic effects that harm the neural circuits in the brain. This suggests that the plant is slightly poisonous, so you want to keep it out of reach of kids.

Grooming & Maintenance

Same as other cacti plants, the San Pedro isn’t hard to sustain. If you want it to bolster up a few newer and fresh-looking stems, you need to trim the hedges and pluck off the withered parts occasionally, say, twice or three times every month. Since older plants sprout quite faster than the seedlings, trim it about 10 inches deep.

There’s nothing more you need to do apart from watering it evenly after the grooming routine to help your plant rejuvenate its growth cells—except for winter since the hormones are usually numb during the freezing seasons. While the San Pedro plant springs up, it becomes prone to diseases and pest attacks. As a remedy, you can use neem oil to get rid of pests leeching off of your plant’s foliage and yield.

Can You Propagate The San Pedro Cactus?

Trichocereus pachanoi giant san pedro cactus

Soon after your San Pedro plant grows up to 3 meters tall, you’ll fancy having a couple more in your garden since you’ll love if for its pleasant aesthetic and potential to facelift your backyard’s landscape.  Propagating your Trichocereus pachanoi using seeds is, so far, the most effective method, compared to other options.

To get started, you’ll need these items: 

  1. A mist spray bottle for plants
  2. Transparent airtight jars
  3. Seeds not older than 2 years
  4. Well-draining sandy soil mixed with pumice and coco coir

How to Propagate Using Seeds

Once you get hold of everything on the list above, these are the next steps that’ll help you carry out the whole propagation process: 

  1. Use a medium-size growing medium and fill the base level with potting soil mix. 
  2. Make sure the soil is evenly distributed and gently squeeze the seeds through the soil. 
  3. Mildly sprinkle water on the seedbed.
  4. Put the growing medium somewhere with filtered sunlight to prevent the seedlings from getting scorched. 
  5. If you want to grow your San Pedro cactus indoors, you need to buy grow lights that enhance the light spectrum which is essential for seedlings during their growth period. Hunt for one with at least 100 watts or more. 
  6. The surrounding temperature should be anywhere between 25°C to 30°C.
  7. After about 2 to 3 weeks, the seeds will begin to germinate since this is the average yield period for most cacti plants. 
  8. If you see any white or powder-like spots after this period lapses, that could be a sign your seedlings are infested with fungus gnats, and chances are they’ll die eventually. 
  9. You also need to be careful not to buy low-quality seeds since they die off—regardless of whether you’ll make efforts to give them the most suitable growing conditions. The bottom line is you need to purchase your seedlings from credible gardening retailers in the market. 
  10. Typically, you can propagate your San Pedro cactus when it’s almost 1 year old, precisely during summer. Newer seeds make sturdier San Pedro plants, so you need to check how old they are before getting started with the propagation process.

Common Pests & Diseases That Damage The San Pedro Cactus

Like other cacti plants, the San Pedro is prone to a few pest attacks and diseases that often catch most succulents.

Almost every variety in the Trichocereus species is vulnerable to various strains of fungal infections. One common symptom you might spot is the rotting of stems.

You’ll also probably have to deal with mealybugs, root aphids, and spider mites. To get rid of such pests, you can start off with a natural pesticide such as neem oil, especially if your San Pedro isn’t mature enough.

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