How-to's

Table of contents


How to make your soil mix

Your soil mixture should be rich, porous and should quickly drain (into either the ground or an appropriately sized pot with drainage holes). Good drainage prevents the cactus from getting ‘wet feet’ and rot related to moisture accumulation.

Mixing in equal parts a cactus-friendly soil (with any large chunks sieved out) 50% with 50% volcanic rock (perlite*, pumice*, or fine/small red lava rock) is an easy solution that works well for many. Some soils we've had success with: E.B. Stone Organics Cactus & Succulent mix, Fox Farm Ocean Forest potting soil, Big Rootz potting soil, and Roots Organics potting soil.  

*Use a p100 duskmask when working with perlite or pumice.  

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‘Rooting' a cutting

Getting a cutting to develop roots (called ‘rooting’) takes a good medium, and a little time. Some support (like gardening stakes deeply buried in the soil that are as tall as the specimen) to hold the column upright is also helpful. Cuttings need to have a hard scab/calloused-end where they were cut, as not only will the callous stimulate root-growth, fresh wounds can rot when put in the ground. All cuttings we make were done with a sharp blade that was sterilized (isopropyl alcohol), were lightly dusted with Sulfur at the wound site (which is commonly used as a fungicide), and sat in a warm/shaded location with a fan blowing air over the wound to speed up the drying process and help avoid mold/fungus.  To root a cutting, half-fill a nursery pot that is a few inches wider than the column loosely with your soil/perlite mixture, leaving it “fluffy” (which prevents mold and allows air to reach the callused end). Hold the cutting in the pot above the soil-line (where you want it to ultimately sit) while you dump soil around it inch-by-inch until the column is just barely supported on its own. A gardening stake and twine can then be used to hold it upright until it has established roots. Place the potted cutting in a cool, shady spot with no direct sun to avoid sunburn, and do not water it until it has roots (you can use a spraybottle to lightly mist it above the soil-line every few weeks). After a few months you can very gently lift the cutting upwards to feel if rootlets have started to form/there is any resistance. Once you are confident the cutting has fully rooted, you can start acclimating it to sun + normal watering and feeding.  

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How to chose between a container or planting in-ground

Trichocereus will really ‘take off’ (grow much larger/faster) in the ground. The drawback is it can be challenging to relocate or remove them when needed (ie if you move). Using pots, though it can stunt their growth rate and limit their overall size, offers the benefit of being able to relocate them more easily, and to adjust soil mixtures when repotting. Most cacti will develop healthy root systems faster in smaller pots. Once established, you can increase the pot size gradually, repotting in larger pots every few years, which will help maintain root health. 

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How to pick the location for your cactus

The strength of your summer sun as well as your watering + feeding schedule determine how much sun your cactus can tolerate. Some, once acclimated, can handle fairly brutal full-sun, while others can sunburn and will grow faster and more aesthetically pleasing when grown under filtered light/light shade cloth.

Simply put, too little sun and your cactus will become stretched out (called being “etiolated”), have stunted growth, and be more prone to pest/fungal/viral issues. Too much sun (without acclimating them to it - especially if they aren’t being treated well otherwise/don’t have full root systems) and they risk being cooked, turning yellow, getting sunburn, and undergoing excessive stress. Once rooted, gradually introduce newly cuttings from shady areas to full or near-full light to give them time to adjust. A location with full morning sun, good ventilation and afternoon shade is optimal.

Though they can tolerate a few days of some very low temps, we recommend using frost cloth or putting your cactus in a greenhouse during the cold months if you have a lot of moisture and your temperatures freeze. Similarly if you anticipate an atypical heatwave you'll want to assist your cactus by adequately watering and shading it before hand. 

Check your plants frequently to determine if they are healthy + happy in their location. Happy plants should have no sunburn, not be turning yellow, and the top new growth should be roughly the same diameter as the rest of the column.  

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How to water your cactus

During the warmer months of the year, watering should be thorough and regular. Once the soil has felt dry to the touch for a few days (roughly every week or two) drench it completely and then let it approach dryness before watering again. During the colder months, watering should cease, which helps protect against 'wet feet'/rot and allows the cactus to go dormant. Note: Tap water PH/quality/hardness varies from region to region. Some with tap water that tests well outside of the preferred pH range for cactus (5.7-6.2) address this by collecting rainwater in barrels, using pH adjusting solutions, or using distilled/boiled water.  

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How to feed your cactus

Cacti generally benefit from occasional feedings of fertilizers lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous during the growing season. In the Fall, when cool weather comes, fertilizing should stop so the soil can make it through winter dry (which will induce dormancy, which is needed for flowering and growth in the Spring). 

What you use will depend on your environment, needs, and how much effort you are able/willing to put in nerding out 🤓. 

Some folks successfully use half-strength feedings of lower effort solutions like 'Dr. Earth Pump and Grow Succulence and Cactus Food', 'Down To Earth Bio-Live', 'Osmocote Plus' slow release, fertilizers made for tomatoes, or 'Schultz Cactus Plus liquid Plant Food'. Others make their own mixes and play with NPK* values to maximize growth until they risk things like splitting, lockout, and nutrient burn. 

Between our seedlings and adult specimens, we personally use conservative amounts (using a bit less then the directions call for depending on application in coco choir) of: General Hydroponics CALiMAGic (Cal-mag),  RAW Potassium, General Hydroponics FloraNova Grow, Nature's Pure Edge Soluble Seaweed Powder, Pure Organic Calcium Sulfate (Food Grade Gypsum).

With proper watering and feeding your cactus should really thrive. As a seedling, growth over the first few years can be slow (as the smaller the specimen the less skin it has to photosynthesize new energy, and less developed roots it has), but once they are a few feet in height, expect them to begin to take off (especially in the ground). Older/larger specimens can grow multiple feet per year (and if they have multiple new columns of growth growing off of them, combined put on even more than that across all of the offsets [referred to as ‘pups’]).

* NPK are the three macro-nutrients used by plants - nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P] and potassium [K]) 

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How to spot potential problems

Succulents have an increased risk of rot vs many other plants. If rot occurs, cut off the rotted tissue with a sharp blade that was sterilized (isopropyl alcohol), lightly dust the wound with Sulfur at the cut site (which is commonly used as a fungicide), and let it sit for over a week in a warm/shaded location with a fan blowing air over the wound (to speed up the drying process and prevent mold/fungus) before replanting. Though generally fairly resistant to them, some pests (ie mites, scale, mealybugs, fungus gnats, thrips, etc) like cactus and biological control with predatory organisms and organic pesticides are sometimes used as a recourse. If you have an infestation or disease forming, it is best to google which are common to Trichocereus to determine the best course of action. There are many messageboard postings, blogs and groups dealing with/dedicated to Trichocereus Disease and Virology. 

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PC vs Non-pc

At a very high level, the majority of cactus found/sold horticulturally as "San Pedro" in the US is this cultivar (the Predominate Cultivar or Clone). This type grows very fast, flowers beautifully, has reasonably small spines, is a great grafting stock, etc. It also tends to be less expensive due to more widespread availability and, though we do not advocate its use this way, due to it being lower in psychoactive alkaloids vs “non-pc san pedro” + some other Trichocereus. Note: all of our cactus is being sold legally for landscape/ornamental purposes. We cannot discuss illegal consumption with you (regardless of your city’s laws or shamanic/spiritual/medicinal practices), and if the topic is raised we will be forced to cancel the transaction, sorry. 

 

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