Cactii

Guide to the San Pedro Cactus: How to Grow and Care for “Echinopsis Pachanoi”

Read our complete guide to Echinopsis Pachanoi for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “San Pedro” cacti
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Echinopsis Pachanoi, also known as Trichocereus Pachanoi, Achuma, Cactus of the Four Winds, or the San Pedro Cactus, is a very easy-to-grow and popular columnar cactus. Natively found in South American countries like Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador but grown in other parts of the world as well, this impressive cactus is quite fast-growing and it can reach up to 20 feet (3m) in height.

This ornamental cactus has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine and shamanic rituals in South America so it comes as no surprise that it has over 25 different names such as andachuma, huachuma, achuma, aguacolla, giganton, hahuacollay, to name a few.

Cataloged by Dr. Joseph Nelson Rose, an American botanist, who named it after Eng. Abelardo Pachano Lalana, a renowned Ecuadorian botanist, Echinopsis Pachanoi is full of surprises. It contains mescaline, a controversial psychedelic which is illegal in the US, where the plant is sold solely for ornamental purposes.

San Pedro Cactus
San Pedro Cactus

Growing, caring for and propagating Echinopsis Pachanoi is fun and rewarding, for beginners and experienced cacti growers alike. The San Pedro cactus thrives at high altitudes, such as the Andes Mountains, where it can be found at altitudes of 6,600–9,800 feet (2000-3000m).

When grown outdoors, the San Pedro cactus can withstand temperatures as low as 48.2°F (-9°C) and it prefers temperate climates, plenty of light, and fertile, well-draining soil.

About Echinopsis Pachanoi

  • Echinopsis Pachanoi, also known as the San Pedro cactus is native to Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia and it thrives at high altitudes, in the Andes Mountains.
  • It can be grown outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b to 10b as it doesn’t mind cooler temperatures as long as they don’t drop below 15°F (-9°C).
  • San Pedro cacti need a lot of natural light and mature plants don’t mind being in full sun. Seedlings, however, are a bit more sensitive and can suffer sunburn.
  • When grown indoors, these cacti need well-draining soil and if they cannot get enough natural light you might have to invest in some grow lights.
  • Like all cacti, Echinopsis Pachanoi loves light and warmth. However, this cactus prefers soil that’s a little more nutrient-rich than regular cacti soil mix.
  • Natively-found at high altitudes, this cactus might require more water, especially on hot summer days.
  • It is a fast-growing cactus that’s been used in South American traditional medicine and religious rituals for centuries. Like Peyote, Echinopsis Pachanoi contains mescaline, an illegal psychedelic similar to MDMA.
  • While consuming San Pedro cacti is illegal in most countries, growing it is not, so it’s perfectly safe to decorate your home or garden with these amazing plants.
  • The Echinopsis Pachanoi is moderately poisonous so you should keep is within a safe distance from children and pets.
Echinopsis Pachanoi
Echinopsis Pachanoi

Echinopsis Pachanoi Features: An Overview

  • The Echinopsis Pachanoi, commonly known as the San Pedro cactus, is a large columnar cactus that grows relatively fast. Depending on their growth environment, San Pedro cacti can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) per year.
  • This multi-stemmed cactus can reach up to 19 feet (5-6 meters) in height and 6 feet (2 meters) in width.
  • The thick individual stems of the Echinopsis Pachanoi are green or blue-green and they become darker with age. They have between 4-8 ribs each and can be 2.4-5.9 inches (6-15cm) thick.
  • In July, the pointy buds of the San Pedro cactus produce beautiful whitish flowers which open at night, have a pleasant fragrance, and measure approximately 8.7 inches (22 cm) in diameter.
  • The edible fruits of the Echinopsis Pachanoi are called Pitahaya and are red-skinned, scented, sweet, and tasty.
  • It is closely related to Trichocereus peruvianus aka the Peruvian Torch Cactus. In fact, these two cacti are so similar that their names have become interchangeable and it’s pretty much impossible to tell them apart if you’re not a specialist.
  • Echinopsis Pachanoi cacti pair well with Senecio mandraliscae, Aloe cameronii, Phormium tenax, and Agave truncata.
Echinopsis Pachanoi
Echinopsis Pachanoi

Growing Echinopsis Pachanoi

Growing Echinopsis Pachanoi is easy especially since this versatile cactus is very forgiving and only needs a little water and some nutrients. The best thing about San Pedros is that they don’t mind cold weather as long as the temperatures don’t drop below 15°F (-9°C). So, if you live in a temperate region, you won’t have any issues with growing San Pedro cacti outdoors.

In its natural habitat, this cactus gets a lot of natural light and its soil is more nutrient-rich than the regular cacti soil mix. If you grow this cactus in a container, you can feed the soil a little, but not too much, because it’s still a cactus.

Cacti don’t need a lot of water to grow healthy and happy, but just like any other plant, they do need some care, love, and attention. When growing Echinopsis Pachanoi indoors, make sure you place it on a well-lit window sill, preferably on the south-side, and water it more often on hot summer days.

Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix, From Amazon

As mentioned above, these cacti grow relatively fast, especially if they are acclimatized to their growth environment, they are planted in good soil and watered more often throughout the warm summer months. Mature, established plants can grow 11-12 inches (30cm) in a year.

Echinopsis Pachanoi cacti are quite susceptible to fungal infections such as witches broom disease and orange rot, especially when they are overwatered. If you suspect that your cactus has a fungal infection, make sure you remove all the affected parts with a clean knife. If the plant has too many lesions, it might be better to take a few healthy cuttings and start a new plant. In general, fungal outbreaks can be prevented if the cactus has well-drained soil, plenty of heat, proper ventilation, and a sterile medium.

Other common pests that can affect Echinopsis Pachanoi include scale, spider mites, and root mealybugs all of which can be easily removed with neem oil or simply scrubbed off if the plant isn’t severely affected.

Flowering Echinopsis Pachanoi
Flowering Echinopsis Pachanoi

Watering Echinopsis Pachanoi

San Pedro cacti prefer a dry environment and, like most cacti, they are very sensitive to overwatering, which is the number one cause of cacti demise. Because they naturally grow in the Andes Mountains, at high altitudes, San Pedro cacti thrive in temperate environments, so if you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b-10b, you can grow these beautiful ornamental plants outdoors.

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. This, in turn, can lead to root rot, which must be avoided at all costs.

A major difference between Echnopsis Pachanoi and other cacti is the fact that it requires some nutrients from time to time. You can purchase specific cacti nutrition that has high amounts of phosphorus and potassium, and low amounts of nitrogen. The ideal NPK value for cacti fertilizer is 4-7-7 and 2-7-7.

Propagating Echinopsis Pachanoi

You can easily propagate Echinopsis Pachanoi cacti from offsets, which grow abundantly around the base of the mature plants. To remove the offsets safely, make a clear cut with a sharp, clean knife as close to the stem as you can. Place the fresh cutting on a piece of paper and let it dry out a little, cut it at the narrowest place possible, and let it callous for a few days. Once the cutting has calloused, you can safely place it in a container with drainage holes and well-draining soil.

If you plan on repotting your Echinopsis Pachanoi, it’s best to do it during the warm season. Before repotting, the soil should be dry to prevent damaging the roots. Remove as much soil as possible and clean any rotten or dead roots in the process. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases and treat any cuts with a fungicide. Put the plant in its new container and spread the roots as much as possible while adding fresh cacti soil mix. Let the plant rest in dry soil for a week and then start watering it lightly until the plant adjusts to its new environment.

Echinopsis have stiff spines, so you might want to wear gloves while handling these plants.

In Conclusion

Growing Echinopsis Pachanoi is fun and rewarding because these friendly giants grow faster than other cacti and they produce beautiful flowers and edible fruit. To grow healthy and happy, they need well-draining soil, plenty of natural light, and a little water once in a while. You can grow them outdoors if you live in a temperate region, as long as the winters are not extremely cold.

Echinopsis Pachanoi cacti make amazing ornamental plants, but they are also rich in mescaline, a psychedelic substance, so consuming these plants is illegal in many countries. Growing them as ornamental plants, however, is perfectly safe, but you should still keep them away from children and pets.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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