A columnar cactus that is easy to grow and is also in vogue in the landscape gardening arena is the San Pedro cactus also known as Trichocereus pachanoi, Echinopsis pachanoi, Achuma, or Cactus of the Four Winds. Along with these names, there are about 25 different names like andachuma, huachuma, wachuma, aguacolla, giganton, hahuacollay, to name a few.
San Pedro cactus is a Native of some South American countries like Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador and is also grown in other parts of the world. This cactus is fast-growing and can grow upto 3m (20 feet) in height.
- 1 What is San Pedro Cactus?
- 2 Growing San Pedro Cactus Indoors
- 3 San Pedro Cactus Care
- 4 Conclusion
What is San Pedro Cactus?
Growing San Pedro cactus is really undemanding, fun and rewarding for both learners and expert cacti cultivators since this versatile cactus only need water and some nutrients. For thousands of years, San Pedro cactus has been used in conventional medicine and angekok practices in South America.
Dr. Joseph Nelson Rose, an American botanist, named it after Eng. Abelardo Pachano Lalana, a well known Ecuadorian botanist.
Friedrich and G. D. Rowley in 1974, combined the genus Trichocereus and Echinopsis (ek-in-OP-sis), mentioning an appearance similar to sea urchins.
The genus Echinopsis pachanoi is valid nowadays and efforts are being made to reinstate Trichocereus as the only genus due to conflicting differences in the genera.
San Pedro Cactus Features
- San Pedro cactus is a large columnar, multi-stemmed cactus with each individual stem being green or blue-green and becoming darker with age. Each individual stem has about 4-8 ribs with upward facing areoles with spines that are light brown or dark yellow and is 2.4-5.9 inches (6-15cm) thick.
- It grows really fast, reaching up to 5-6 meters (19 feet) in height and 2 meters (6 feet) in width. In favourable conditions, San Pedro cactus grows up to 12 inches (30 cm) every year.
- In July, the sharp buds of the San Pedro cactus grow into beautiful fluted, whitish flowers which open at night, releasing a pleasant fragrance and are about 8.7 inches (22 cm) in diameter.
- The fruits of the San Pedro are edible and are called Pitahaya that are red in colour, sweet and delicious, covered with black or brown hairs and scales all over the fruit about 1.9″ to 2.4” inches long and 1.2″ inches in diameter.
- San Pedro or Trichocereus Pachanoi is closely linked to Trichocereus peruvianus also known as the Peruvian Torch Cactus. Both these cacti look alike and it is not possible to distinguish them if you’re not an expert.
- San Pedro cactus is loaded with wonders and like Peyote, it contains mescaline, a psychedelic compound, also known as 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, is a hallucinogenic drug and it’s consumption is banned in the US, where it is grown only for ornamental purposes.
- The San Pedro cactus prospers at higher altitudes, like the Andes Mountains, where it can exist at a height of 6,600–9,800 feet (2000m-3000m).
- When grown outdoors, the San Pedro cactus can endure lower temperatures up to 48.2°F (-9°C) and it prefers light to moderate weather, lots of light, and slightly more nutrient-rich soil and well-draining soil than regular cacti soil mix.
- Although eating San Pedro cacti is prohibited in many countries, it is absolutely fine to adorn your home or garden with these wonderful plants. San Pedro is relatively poisonous so be mindful to keep it away from children and pets.
Growing San Pedro Cactus Indoors
While growing San Pedro Cactus indoors, keep it on a well-lit window sill, ideally on the south-side and water it frequently on hot summer days. As we already know, it grows fast, if they are accustomed to their growth environment, in well-draining soil, and watered more often in warm summer months.
As houseplants, these cacti demand lighter and in the absence of adequate natural light, you can arrange some grow lights for better growth of the plant.
Mature plants grow 11-12 inches (30cm) in a year.
Propagating San Pedro Cactus
Propagation of San Pedro can be done either from seeds or from offsets.
Take healthy seeds that are less than ten years old, but within one year the seeds are the most successfully germinated.
Fill the container or pot with the potting soil mix and level the soil and press down lightly to give a stable platform for the seeds. Spread the seeds on the soil, letting them rest on top. Gently spray the soil with water and cover with plastic wrap or lids.
Keep the container or pot in a sunny area where they don’t get direct sunlight.
You can use an LED lamp of 150 watts or higher to initiate germination. The temperature should be between 77°F and 86°F (25° – 30° C).
Seeds will germinate within 2 to 3 weeks. If a seed doesn’t germinate in 6 weeks or has white mold, then it is dead.
Remove the lid and let the soil dry if you find any signs of the fungus gnats.
Seedlings can be transplanted to pots after one year.
Be cautious to buy good quality seeds as the inferior quality seeds are easily available in the market.
Also check the age of the seeds before trying to self-germinate.
The younger seeds have better chances of successful germination.
It is easy to propagate San Pedro cacti from offsets, which grow amply near the base of the mature plants. Remove the offsets safely, make a clear cut with a sharp, clean knife, as close to the stem as possible. Keep the fresh cuttings on a piece of paper and let them dry out a little, cut each one at the narrowest place, and allow it to be callous for a few days. When cuttings have been calloused, safely place them in a container with drainage holes and well-draining soil.
Repot your San Pedro cactus during the warm season. Before repotting, the soil should be dry to avoid damaging the roots. Remove all the soil simply and clean any dead or rotten roots. Check out for pests and diseases and treat any cuts with a fungicide. Put the plant in a new container and spread the roots widely while you add fresh cacti soil mix. Allow the plant to rest in dry soil for a week and then start watering it lightly till the plant adapts to its new environment.
San Pedro has hard spines, so wear gloves while handling these plants.
San Pedro Cactus Care
San Pedro cactus care is easy and all you have to do is to keep a few points in mind.
Watering San Pedro Cactus
San Pedro cactus loves a dry atmosphere and like other cacti, they are easily affected by overwatering that can even lead to cactus death.
When planted outdoors, San Pedro cacti will need more frequent watering in summer, and minimal watering in the cold winter months. Cold temperatures can prevent the water from evaporating and your cacti might sit in damp soil for too long. Also, this cactus undergoes dormancy in colder months and should not be watered between October and April to lower the risk of rot.
Light & Temperature
Generally, San Pedro prefers light shade during hot summers, but after the first year, it grows well in direct sunlight. However, the seedlings should be kept in partial shade as these can get sunburnt in the sun.
An indoor plant should be slowly introduced to direct light or they may get suntanned.
A bigger indoor plant will need additional lighting from grow lights.
Although San Pedro can tolerate temperatures as low as -9°C, the resistance to cold may be further increased by using Valerian flower extract.
It is good to use fertile, slightly acidic potting soil with proper drainage. Take a mix of fine sand and sowing soil and avoid using potting soil that increases the risk of rot.
Add a bit of sulfur or diatomaceous earth to the soil as a natural pesticide.
Adding a little humus is best to lower the risk of rot.
Seedlings can be given a very diluted mix of fertilizer from time to time, but adults should be fed an undiluted concentration.
Also, it needs some nutrients from time to time. Add specific cacti nutrition having high amounts of phosphorus and potassium and low amounts of nitrogen. The ideal NPK ratio for cacti fertilizer is 4-7-7 and 2-7-7.
It is best to use a diluted liquid fertilizer and only fertilize during the growing season.
Pests or Diseases
Over Watering San Pedro can lead to fungal infections like witches broom disease and orange rot. If you doubt that your cactus has a fungal infection, remove all the affected parts with a clean knife. If the plant has many sores, take a few healthy cuttings and grow new plants.
Usually, Black rot is harmless and will heal itself in a short time period.
Prevention of fungal infections
Fungal outbreaks can be prevented with well-drained soil, proper ventilation, plenty of heat and a sterile medium.
Other common pests affecting San Pedro cactus include scale, mites, spider, and root mealybugs all of these can be easily eradicated with neem oil or simply scrub them off, if the plant isn’t badly affected.
San Pedro can be clipped for grafting or pupping.
Make sure to clip 12 inches or more as larger plants grow faster.
Growing San Pedro cactus is enjoyable as these giants grow faster and they produce beautiful flowers and edible fruit. To ensure their well-being, all they need is well-draining soil, lots of natural light and water along with some care, love, and attention. You can grow them outdoors if you live in a warm climate, provided winters are not extremely cold as well as an indoor fancy plant.