The San Pedro cactus holds a unique place in the succulent world. It is a gorgeous, column-shaped cactus from South America, specifically the region of the Andes, with ceremonial uses in ancient Andean shamanic traditions.
This is because it contains significant concentrations of mescaline – a psychedelic compound that does more for the landscape of the mind than the front yard.
Is it Legal to Grow San Pedro
Yes, it is totally legal to grow San Pedro cactus for ornamental purposes, at least in the United States.
You are free to plant them in your garden (in areas where they’re hardy, of course!) or grow them in pots to enjoy their magnificent green columns.
If you live outside the United States, you should check the legality of the San Pedro cactus in your country. Every locality has its own laws.
How to Take a San Pedro Cutting
Lay your cactus on its side. Steady the pot so it will not roll while you work. Choose a spot on the column of the cactus that leaves at least 6” (15cm) above the soil line for the cactus to regrow from, and gives you at least 6” (15cm) for your cutting.
Once you have chosen the location where your cutting will begin, make a clean, even cut through the fleshy stalk of your parent cactus.
Lay your cutting in a cool, dry place to form a callus on the cut end. It can take up to three weeks for your cutting to form this scab. A small fan blowing on the end can promote the formation of the callus. Do not place your fresh cutting directly into the soil! This runs the risk of bacteria or fungal growth and can kill your cutting.
What Equipment do I Need
To take San Pedro cuttings, you will need a sharp knife (the sharper the better). Before you use your knife to cut into your cactus, you should sterilize it to help minimize the plant’s risk of infection.
Clean your knife with warm, soapy water, and rinse clean. Then use rubbing alcohol to remove any microbial life hiding on the blade.
It is crucial to have a very sharp, sterile knife
If you are taking cuttings from multiple parent plants, clean and sterilize your knife between each plant. You don’t want to accidentally spread an infection from one plant to the next.
How Long should San Pedro Cuttings be
To propagate your San Pedro cactus from a cutting, you will need a length of cactus at least 6” (15cm). Your cactus should be at least 12” (30cm) tall before you take a cutting.
The taller your parent cactus is, the more you can take for a cutting, but you should always leave at least 6” (15cm) above the soil for the parent plant to regrow from.
When to Take Cuttings
You should attempt to take San Pedro cuttings in the spring. This has several advantages. First, your parent plant will have the energy and conditions it needs to recover from its surgery.
Second, the warmer, drier conditions will provide the best environment for your cutting to root and thrive into a new plant.
Basic Directions to Propagate San Pedro Cuttings
Choose a Pot for Your new San Pedro Cuttings
Once your cutting has developed the callus where you cut it from the parent plant, you can plant it in its own pot. Use a potting soil mixed specifically for cactus. These soils contain the proper drainage and nutrients to nurture succulent growth.
Choose a pot with adequate drainage. Terra cotta pots are excellent for cactus, as they allow excess moisture to evaporate.
Select a pot with plenty of room for the cutting to grow, since San Pedro cactus can grow up to 10-20’ (3-6m) tall and 6’ (1m) wide. Repotting a cactus isn’t on anyone’s bucket list.
Fill with Soil and Plant
Fill your chosen pot with enough soil to reach about 2” (5cm) below where you want the final soil line. Place your cutting vertically into the pot, resting on the soil surface.
You can use a rooting hormone on the callus if you would like. Then add the last 2-3” of soil around the cutting.
Do not pack the soil around the cutting. It needs airflow to thrive at this stage. You can use garden stakes if your cutting requires additional support.
Water Correctly and Choose the Right Location
As it doesn’t have roots, you do not need to water the cutting when you plant it. Wait at least two weeks before adding modest amounts of water to the soil.
Keep your new cuttings in a shady place until they have established roots to drink from. Without roots, they have no way to pull moisture into themselves.
This means they can’t replace the water direct sun pulls out of them. Only move them into the sunlight once they are better established.
An Alternate Method of Propagating San Pedro Cuttings
San Pedro cactus cuttings will also sprout if you lay them sideways on the soil! This is called “planting logs” and mimics the way the cacti propagate in the wild.
Just lay your cutting sideways on the soil and watch the roots sprout from the length.
San Pedro cacti can also be propagated by laying them sideways
How Easy is it to Grow San Pedro Cuttings
Cacti are very easy to propagate from cuttings! It’s how they make more cacti in the wild.
Growing San Pedro Cuttings Indoors
San Pedro cuttings are easy to grow indoors, as long as you provide them with the correct conditions. You should take care to place them in a spot with little ambient humidity.
Avoid bathrooms or your kitchen, as the moisture in these places can promote infection and rotting in your cactus. Choose a room with bright ambient light, but not direct sunlight, and excellent airflow.
Caring for Your San Pedro Cactus
Your established San Pedro cactus will tolerate full sunlight, though younger cacti can sunburn if left in too much direct light.
It can also sunburn in the hottest summers if left in direct sun. San Pedro will happily grow in light shade or, if kept indoors, in bright but indirect sunlight.
Soil and Watering Suggestions
You should always use soil mixed for cacti and succulents. You can find pre-mixed soil at most home improvement stores and nurseries. It should have excellent drainage and aeration.
Allow the soil to drain completely between waterings. All cactus, including San Pedro, prefer drier conditions and can rot with too much water.
Diseases and Pest Problems
Your San Pedro cactus is sensitive to infections and fungus if overwatered. Most of these will not kill the cactus, and will heal by themselves when proper conditions are restored.
Spider mites and mealybugs in the roots can also pose issues for your San Pedro cactus. Neem oil is an effective treatment to deal with pests in the roots.
How Fast does San Pedro Grow
Your San Pedro cactus will grow roughly 12” (30cm) per year. While wild specimens can reach 20’ (6m) tall, indoor specimens will not likely reach this height.
Taking a cutting from a San Pedro cactus can seem daunting, but it’s easy and can encourage your plant to grow many new sections from the place you removed the length of the column. This creates a beautiful, many-armed plant to appreciate in or out of your home!