San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi) 20 seeds
3 min

How To Grow And Care For San Pedro Cactus

3 min

San Pedro cactus grows tall and mighty and can serve as an impressive and towering ornament in any garden or green house. The cacti have entheogenic value as they contain the psychedelic compound mescaline.

San Pedro cactus is a cactus belonging to the Echinopsis genus of the Cactaceae family. The cactus is native to the Andes Mountains where it can be found growing at an altitude of up to 3000m. The species is also found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, and is now cultivated worldwide.

It is a columnar cactus that grows rapidly. San Pedro displays a light to dark green stem that achieves a diameter of between 6-15cm. The cactus features white areoles, or bumps, which are spaced evenly along the ribs of the stem. These areoles produce around 7 yellow or brown spines.

This cactus is a rather tall species and can achieve heights of between 3-6m. San Pedro cactus has numerous uses. 



Now that we have become botanically acquainted with the San Pedro cactus, it’s time to get into the interesting stuff. The San Pedro cactus has been used in religious settings for over 3,000 years in certain aboriginal cultures in the Americas, particularly Peru. Ancient carvings and physical remnants of this cactus have been discovered in these regions. It may have been used with other psychoactive and sacred plants such as coca and tobacco.

San Pedro is most well known for the psychoactive properties that it possesses. This effect is a product of numerous alkaloids that the plant produces, with the most well known being mescaline. Mescaline, or 3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine, is a psychedelic alkaloid that belongs to the phenethylamine class and is known for its hallucinogenic effects that have been compared to that of psilocybin and LSD.

Mescaline is known to produce a range of subjective effects that may include an altered sense of time and self-awareness, closed and open eye visuals, and a change in the thinking process. Mescaline is known to induce visual distortions of form.

The psychedelic properties of mescaline are related to its structural similarities with the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The molecule works in a similar way to other psychedelic compounds by activating the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor.


Germination San Pedro Cactus

The San Pedro cactus can be cultivated at home and grown for ornamental use, or for its entheogenic properties. To begin the cultivating process, the seeds of the plant need to be germinated. To achieve this you will need the following:

  • Plastic box
  • Potting soil
  • Fine sand
  • Pebbles
  • Perlite
  • San Pedro cactus seeds

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Some of these ingredients will be used to create a potting mix for the seeds to grow in. The soil makes up 50 percent of the mix, the fine sand makes up 20 percent, the pebbles make up 20 percent, and the perlite makes up 10 percent.


Instructions Growing San Pedro

Take the plastic box and pierce small holes in the bottom of it. These holes will act as drainage to ensure excess water can escape and won’t build up. Excess water can be a problem and may contribute to unwanted root rot. Now take your pebbles and divide them into two piles of equal size. Take one pile and scatter them on the bottom of the box, forming a layer of stone.

Next, mix the soil, sand, perlite, and the rest of the pebbles together. It is an option at this stage to sterilise this mixture in order to ensure any unwanted microorganisms are removed. This can be achieved by heating the mixture in the oven for around 1 hour at 80°C.

Add a small amount of water to the mixture so that it is slightly saturated. If the mixture is visibly leaking water then it is too wet, simply add some more soil to remedy this. Now, place this mixture into the box on top of the initial layer of pebbles.

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How To Grow Your Own Mescaline Cactus From Seed

Now it’s time to sow the San Pedro cactus seeds. Place a few on the top layer of the pebbles and use a wooden skewer or thin pencil to push them underneath the surface. You will only need to bury them a few millimetres deep.


Environmental Factors San Pedro Cactus

San Pedro cactus prefers a temperature of between 20-30 degrees Celsius during the germination period. Placing your box close to a heating source can be done to keep it warm; however, keep on eye on it to ensure it doesn’t completely dry out.

Humidity is another factor to take into consideration during germination. Eventually, the cactus will be able to tolerate a dry environment. However, during the early days, it is advised to keep the environment humid. This can be done by misting the contents of the box occasionally. Also, humidifiers can be used.

Your germinating cacti will also require adequate lighting. Subjecting them to direct sunlight during this period is not advised. Instead, growers can use an artificial light source for the early stages for a total of 16-18 hours per day. After 2-3 months cacti can be placed in indirect sunlight. After 1 year they can be placed in direct sunlight.


How To Take Care Of Your Cacti

Just like any other plant, your San Pedro cactus will need some love, care, and attention in order to thrive. To keep your plants happy and healthy you will need to pay attention to certain factors.

Overwatering can definitely become an issue. Cacti favour a dry environment and won’t need to be watered often. Watering in the winter months is reported to potentially cause problems, especially due to colder temperatures - you will need to, but keep it to a controlled minimum. Moderate watering from spring to autumn is advised, with extra given during hot summers.

Your cacti will also require some nutrients from time to time to keep them healthy and growing. Specific cacti nutrition can be purchased. Cacti favour low amounts of nitrogen and higher amounts of potassium and phosphorus. A good NPK value for cacti is either 4-7-7 or 2-7-7.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
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