How to Grow a San Pedro Cactus (Echinopsis Pachanoi)

San Pedro is one of the most distinctive, mysterious, and psychedelic of all plants. It is also called the cactus of vision because it is said to spiritually enlighten a person who consumes it. This article will walk you through everything needed to grow

Scientifically known as the “Echinopsis Pachanoi”, a San Pedro cactus can be a great houseplant choice to liven up any space. The steps to growing it and caring for it are no more unique than the steps needed for any other plant. But following these steps will ensure that your San Pedro cactus is flourishing and healthy. 

The steps to growing a San Pedro cactus include choosing the right cactus soil mix from any local plant store and giving it the proper amount of water and sunshine. You can also propagate it to other pots or patches of land. 

While those are the basic steps to planting a San Pedro cactus, the following is a more detailed description of all the previous steps and a guide on how to maintain your San Pedro cactus. There is also a brief introduction into what you should know about the San Pedro cactus before you purchase one. 

Steps to Growing a San Pedro Cactus 

The first step to growing a San Pedro Cactus is to make sure you have the right tools. The gardening tools you’ll need include: 

  • Water 
  • Cactus potting mix 
  • A 5- or 6-inch plant pot 
  • Potting soil 
  • Trowel 
  • Gardening gloves 
  • Fertilizer 

You can get all the above gardening tools from your local gardening tools and plants supplier. 

Choosing the Right Soil and Putting it in the Pot 

Once you have your tools, the first step is to fill the pot with the right soil. The right soil for a San Pedro cactus is, first and foremost, porous that will drain easily. This is to make sure that the water won’t rot the base of the cactus. San Pedro cacti also like a dry soil since they naturally grow in drier climates. You can make a soil more porous by adding materials like: 

Miracle-Gro Perlite, 8 qt., 2-Pack
  • Helps prevent soil compaction and promote strong root development
  • Enriched with Miracle-Gro Plant Food
  • Lightweight media helps start root cuttings
  • Improves drainage and aeration in potting mixes
  • Use only with container plants

Adding these to an existing soil mix will help maintain a suitable soil for your cactus. You can ask any expert at your gardening supply store for a quality beginning cactus soil mix or make your own. 

Transporting the Cactus from Nursery Pot to Permanent Pot 

Once you have your soil, fill the pot you’ve chosen about halfway with it, evening it out with your trowel. You can also add a 1/4- to 1/2-inch layer of any of the prior draining materials on the bottom to assist with drainage. 

  • Dig a small hole in the center of your soil with your finger, about two to three inches in diameter. 
  • Put on gardening gloves and carefully remove the cactus from its nursery pot, placing it directly into the hole you just made. 
  • Tightly tuck and pack soil around the cactus until the roots are fully covered. 
  • Water the cactus until the soil is damp, but not sopping wet. 
A person repotting the plant.
To transport the cactus to its permanent pot, fill it halfway with soil and draining materials accordingly.

When your cactus is firmly rooted, usually after about four to six weeks, you can add fertilizer to give it some extra nutrients. Only do this once it’s rooted, not before then. When a cactus grows roots, it’s ready to take in food.

Watering and Fertilizing Your San Pedro Cactus 

It’s recommended that you water your cactus once a week. If you’re growing your cactus from a seed, it’s recommended you water it twice a week until you start to see something growing out of the soil. One method of doing is to fill a sink large enough to fit your cactus with about two inches of water. 

Miracle-Gro Liquafeed All Purpose Plant Food, 4-Pack Refills
  • Feeding is as easy as watering
  • For flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and houseplants
  • Use with a Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed Universal Feeder
  • Each bottle feeds up to 400 sq. ft.
  • Feed every 1-2 weeks

Let the water seep into the cactus’s soil through the holes in the plant pot and take it out once the soil is fairly damp. You can also water it the traditional way with a watering can, but water it in sections throughout the week to avoid the soil getting soggy. 

Stop watering it when it gets around to the colder months. The cactus will go dormant between the months of October and April and watering it during this time will just make it rot faster. Overwatering can give bacteria an ideal environment to grow and infect the cactus. Cold temperatures can also prevent a San Pedro cactus from being watered properly. It can keep the water from evaporating, making the soil soggy and leading to a rotting cactus .

A person watering the plant.
Typically, a San Pedro cactus needs to be watered once a week.

Fertilizer is what feeds your cactus and gives it the nutrients that water alone can’t give. For cacti, liquid fertilizers are available for you to pour into your plant pot that will help the cactus flourish. Seedlings will need a slightly diluted version of the fertilizer, but adult cacti can be given an undiluted fertilizer.  

Giving Your Cactus Plenty of Sun 

Since the San Pedro cactus is originally a desert plant, it needs plenty of pure sunshine. Start by slowly introducing your cactus to sunlight, especially if it’s a seedling. Seedlings tend to burn in direct sunlight and end up dying. 

To introduce your cactus to sunlight, place them in a position where they’ll get some shade along with the sunshine to lessen the harshness of the sun. You can also start by only introducing the cactus to morning or evening sunlight, which are less intense than the sunlight at midday. You can also put your San Pedro cactus underneath the shade of your larger plants if you have any. 

A cactus exposed to sunlight.
San Pedro cactus loves sunshine, so make sure the plant gets enough sunlight to obtain the necessary nutrients.

If you’re growing your cactus indoors, they will need more sunlight once they get accustomed to it. Placing them in a spot where there’s often sunlight, such as a window or near a porch, will help them get the nutrients they need from the sun. If your cactus is outside in the direct sunlight, make sure to keep it consistently watered since it can dry out faster. 

Propagating Your San Pedro Cactus 

Propagating your cactus means carefully cutting it up and planting those pieces as separate plants. It’s a great way to save money from buying more plants and can help your garden grow faster and be healthier. To start propagating your cactus, you’ll need: 

  • A knife 
  • A plant pot 
  • Soil 
  • A piece of cardboard or a towel 

When you have all your materials: 

  • Clean your knife with an alcohol-based sanitizer and make sure it’s dry before you cut. This will prevent the risk of spreading infections to your cacti. 
  • Decide on a piece of cactus that is healthy and flourishing, and carefully cut it to the length you desire. 
  • Once you have your cactus piece, lay it out in the sun for a day or two. Cover it with a piece of cardboard or a towel if it’s in direct sunlight so it won’t get burned. This will dry it out and make it easier for the cactus to take root in its new pot. 
A person propagating plants.
To propagate your San Pedro cactus, you can obtain healthy cuttings and plant them separately.

As the cactus dries, they can start to develop some color. These spots of color are called calluses and usually range from white to brown to black. This is a good sign, as it signifies the cactus piece is ready to be planted. As long as they calluses aren’t a moldy green or blue color, they are ready to be potted. 

The process for this step is essentially the same as potting the original cactus. The only difference is that, since the cacti are smaller, use pots that are also smaller. A diameter of about one to one and a half inches is recommended. 

Place it in a shady spot and don’t water it for about two weeks. This will allow the roots to start growing and the cactus to get used to its new home. Once it’s rooted, you can start watering it and giving it fertilizer as you would with the original cactus. 

Maintaining Your San Pedro Cactus 

Being a natural plant, the San Pedro cactus won’t always grow in a neat and perfect way. When your cactus starts looking unruly, that’s when you need to start cutting and grooming it. Keeping it looking neat and clean will help keep it healthier in the long run, as the less wild growths it has, the less chance for infection. 

To clip a cactus, all you need is a solid, good quality pair of garden shears that you can get at your local garden supply store. When cutting the cactus, make sure to cut twelve inches or more since these types of plants tend to grow much faster than on average. 

San pedro cactus on a pot exposed to sunlight.
Keeping it looking neat and clean will help keep it healthier in the long run.

Another thing you should do while maintaining your cactus is to make sure that the soil is properly draining the water. You can make sure of this by gently touching the soil. If it feels too soggy or more wet than solid, the soil isn’t draining properly. You can fix this problem by replacing the soil and putting a small layer of the porous materials listed above. 

The final thing to make sure of when maintaining your cactus is that the soil and the cactus are free of infections and pests. To do this, you can lightly spray your cactus with a pesticide killer to get rid of any possible intruders. But do this sparingly, only about once every two months, as too much of the pesticide killer can end up killing the cactus. You can also add a little bit of sulfur to the soil, and it will act as a natural pesticide. 

Things to Know About the San Pedro Cactus 

Now that you know how to plant and take care of a San Pedro cactus, there are some things you should know before you decide to purchase it or include it in your garden. 

The first thing to know about San Pedro cacti is that they grow fast and tall. Each separate stem of the cactus can grow to be six inches wide and ten to twenty feet tall. When properly taken care of, they can grow up to a foot tall within six months and continue growing by a foot per year. 

A cactus.
San Pedro is a fast-growing cactus that grows around 10-20 feet in height and features white flowers in summer.

They grow especially fast and fragrant around the summertime, sprouting white flowers that bloom at night and open the following day. Because of their fast growth spurts, you’ll want to make sure that the cactus isn’t directly below anything that will stunt its growth if it’s inside. If you’re growing it outside, then just keeping it groomed and neat should be all that’s necessary. 

The challenge for caring for a San Pedro cactus comes in when it gets an infection or an infestation. The most common causes of this include: 

  • Etiolation 
  • Desiccation 
  • Overwatering 
  • Sun Burn
  • Bugs 
  • Frost Damage 

Causes and Cures for Etiolation Growth 

Etiolation is the condition of cacti growing a pale and sickly-looking growth on top of them or on their sides due to insufficient light exposure. You could say it’s the acne of the cactus plant. The growths usually look very light green or a yellow-greenish color and have a puffy shape. They are very flimsy. 

To treat this condition, you need to put your cactus into stronger light as soon as possible. You unfortunately can’t get rid of the etiolation growth, it’s permanently stuck onto the cactus. But you can help the cactus get into better condition once you place it under more light more often. 

How to Avoid Desiccation Rot 

Desiccation is essentially what happens when a cactus gets too dry. It shrivels up and looks like a deflated beach ball with sharp spines. Even though cacti are desert plants, they can dry up faster if the weather is hotter and they don’t get enough water. While the seemingly obvious solution is to give your cactus a bunch of water at once, this actually isn’t the best option. The better option is to give your cactus a little bit of water at first and slowly progress the amount of water. Fixing the problem with this approach will help the roots grow and adapt to taking on more water, hydrating the cactus more effectively.  

What Happens When You Overwater Your Cactus 

Overwatering is exactly as it sounds, it’s when you give your cactus too much water and it creates a hotbed for bacteria and diseases to fester and grow. You can tell that your cactus is overwatered when it swells up to almost double its original size. The cactus stem will also usually become so saturated with water that it splits open in one or multiple places. The most harmful side effect of overwatering is that the cactus will start to rot. 

A cactus falling over the clay pot.
Overwatering a San Pedro cactus leads to rotting that makes the plant turn brownish and soft.

A rotting cactus will usually appear brown and feel mushy to the touch. To avoid this problem, make sure that you water your cactus in intervals rather than all at once, and keep the amount of water consistent. If this does happen, stop watering the cactus for a little while. It would also be a good idea to get it out of the overwatered pot and into a fresher, drier pot. The split parts are permanent and can’t be fixed, but that won’t prohibit the cactus from being saved and to continue to grow. 

The Effects of Sunburn Damage 

Sunburn occurs when a cactus has been too overexposed to direct sunlight. It makes the cacti look whitish around the top or on their ridges, and more severe burns make the cactus take on a dark brown look. To treat a cactus with a sunburn, get it to a shady place as soon as possible. If the cactus is already burned to a brown crisp, then the damage is irreversible. To prevent it from happening in the first place, give it full sun exposure for a short amount of time daily, increasing the length of time in the direct sun slowly over the course of a few weeks. 

A sunlight.
Although San Pedro cactus loves sun, overexposure to direct sunlight might lead to severe sunburn damage.

Bug Infestations and How They Harm Your Cactus 

Bug infestations can range from barely visible to bluntly obvious. To check your cactus for bugs, digging around in the soil a bit with a trowel or just taking a good look at it can give you a pretty good idea if there are bugs on the cactus or not. To treat bugs, you will have to physically remove as many bugs as possible from the cactus with a fingernail or some tweezers. If the infestation is of a larger scale, physically removing the plant and washing out the pot is the better option. To prevent any infestations in the future, regularly spraying the pot and the cactus with a light layer of pesticide can prevent an infestation. 

Frost Damage from Cold Temperatures 

Finally, frost damage is what occurs when plant cells that are exposed to freezing temperatures start dying, and the health of the cactus suffers as a result. This also causes the cells to rupture and the water doesn’t hold as well, drying it out. Your cactus is instantly more susceptible to this condition if you live in an area with colder temperatures. To prevent this from happening, bringing the cacti inside or covering them with a tarp can prevent the cold from directly affecting them too harshly. If the temperatures are lower, then a grow light can be a good option to look into. 

Final Thoughts

Growing and maintaining a San Pedro cactus isn’t too hard if you have the right tools. Keeping a close eye on it, making sure it gets the proper care, and taking care of problems when they arise will give the cactus a long and healthy life. 

Last update on 2022-09-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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