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Back in 2005 people were saying...
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My San Pedro got its tips frozen by a recent freeze that got down to about 25 deg. F for 2 days, now it's all white at the tips. Should I just leave it be, and let it heal itself or should I cut the white parts off? How can I help it to heal faster? fertilizer? It's in a pot because I don't live in California.

Move the plant inside for the winter. Leave it alone and see if the dead part dries up and heals itself. If you cut it then you have an open wound to treat/heal. It is better to leave it alone and allow the plant to heal itself rather than cut into it--like removing a scab from a cut. The doctors always say not to pick scabs, right?

I had the same thing happen one year of freak 26 degree temp. 3-nights in a row to specimens outdoors. The tips died and turned black, but like a scab the plant healed and they all regrew in the spring around the missing tip--so they sprouted single, double, and triple tips.

If you cut the dead part off you have to treat it like any cutting to get it to heal without rotting. SInce the immune system is at a winter low point you might use a fungicide (I don't because I'm organic) or use pure sulfur powder (considered organic). Otherwise an electric fan in a dry room should dehydrate the surviving column. Watch it for mold/soft rot.

If the column below where it was frozen or where you cut it (if you go that route) rots you have to re-cut lower down and sterilize with alcohol again (75--95% isopropyl is good) then get the electric fan back to blow air over it, etc.
Sunday, November 27, 2005

I am sorry to bother you about this, I am sure on your web page it says something. but will my trichocerus cacti survive a southern utah climate it can reach about 25 degrees farenheit in the winter. I brought them all inside for fear of losing them to the cold. Thanks


Too cold. Big ones, really large, can survive freezing but some of the tips will freeze. Small plants will either completely freeze or loose tips; depending upon the length of time exposed and how large they are. If it goes below 30 degrees you have to take small ones inside.

Ones the size of a man have lost tips, but not completely died, in 3 nights of freak cold--26 degrees. But I live in California so that is all I know--my own experience.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I live in florida and I have them out in full sun. the yard will sometimes flood when it rains and holds water for a few hours, but it is usually pretty hot and dry here. I water about once a week but I try to wait for the rain, so they dry out more often then they get water. the dirt I have them in is a mixture of 2 parts cactus soil to 1 part worm castings. I don't know if the air is to humid over grass and maybe should put them over concrete, but there is other cactus beside the peruvs that don't get this mold. and I'm also not to sure that the peruvs are actually peruvs. I appreciate the help.

Polyurethane (fake terra cotta) are great weight savers but have poor drainage and lack the evaporative cooling effect of real clay pots.

(Photos emailed with text above.)

This looks like a polyurethane pot--where is the drainage hole? Is it blocked?   Plants left outside in the sun this way will overheat and dry out, then be flooded with rain.

It looks like too heavy a soil with poor drainage. I don't have rain here except in winter when the plants are in a greenhouse--but that flooding with rain can rot roots and infection will set in.

If you must leave the plants in containers make sure the bottom drain hole is not blocked. My plastic (professional, large size) nursery pots have 4 big slots on the lower edge--not underneath. That kind of drainage is key. You mention using "cactus soil" which I think you purchased. The ingredients in such mixes are bad-- like coconut coire, peat moss, vermiculite, bark, etc.

Nowhere in my website or literature do I recommend that type of mix. Sure, its fine for a little barrel cactus in a 4" pot --but not for this use. You want soil--real healthy soil--and mixed as I show on the website. Did you screen "sandy soil with 50% perlite"?


Gravel on the bottom is a good idea for drainage. Never leave these plants to grow outside in pots. The sun will bake the pot too hot and kill the roots, then the rain floods it and you get rotting of the fine roots (they were already dead). Fungus and mold are used by nature to break down dead stuff. This allows the main roots to become infected.

If you must grow in pots then you need to protect them from overheating and control the watering so they don't dry out completely (kills roots). This can only be done in a shade house/with rain protection. If you want super healthy plants -- plant them in the earth. Mix up sand/perlite to back fill the hole so you get good drainage near the plant. Florida is not the problem, full sun is not the problem.

Lastly; Your comment "I'm also not to sure that the peruvs are actually peruvs." is nothing I can help you with. Attempting plant identification from a thumbnail size image--of a plant you purchased from someone else--Give me a break! Use the online resources in the Peruvian Torch section.
Monday, November 21, 2005

I love your forum. Thanks for explaining about the fake trichocereus peruvianus being sold by some bad plant vedors on the internet. I was one of the unlucky ones who bought one. Some of the biggest sellers of the real san pedros sell all the fake peruvianus.There is very very few real peruvianus being sold on the internet. Beware and don't buy anything but san pedros, unless you can see it or realy trust who your dealing with. Keep up the good work. Love those pictures of those healthy pedros there in california. In florida, they have to be planted in shade or they get bad scars from the sun, Other than that they grow realy fast here. Thanks for the good work!

Thank you for this particular compliment. I have received abundant hate mail from the sellers you mention!

Real Peruvian Torches
are so rare because of 1) problems/expenses importing live plant material from South America. 2) Seed is notoriously unreliable--only cuttings are true clones of the actual plant one wants to propagate. 3) Cuzcoensis is a good fake and was readily available from the factory like cactus growers in Southern California. 4) All the true specimens from plant sellers were snatched up by people who ate them?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Spent some time on you're website before I purchased and the care taken in providing information was impressive. I love southwestern/desert style vegetation and architecture, but I'm a little worried about how the cactus will fare in the often damp MS climate. Would you mind if I emailed a few questions? I'm planning to build a raised bed so I can provide better drainage than the dense high clay soil normally allows. No offense taken if you don't have the time. Dave

There is no humidity problem I'm aware of, but heavy clay soil is a problem for root growth. I had very bad clay soil where I started growing, for 17 years, and always first dug a pit and back filled with sandy soil. I had the garden center deliver 5 and 10 cubic yard loads of sand each year.

I grew vegetables for the farmers market, too. The only cure for clay soil is 50% sand. But even with clay I used a lot of home make compost with earth worms--then you mulch the top soil with a 4" layer and the worms will live under the mulch and drill holes all though the soil for drainage! They're great! I "feed the worms" by using fish emulsion.

Get a "Dial-N-Spray" thing for fertilizer and water spray it on. I strain the fish emulsion (Home Depot has Safer brand fish emulsion) with a tea strainer, then mix 50-50 with water before putting in the dial-n-spray thing. Set to maximum suck rate. Works great!

So do the worms and sand and your plants will be fine! But if you grow in clay without such improvements they will still be OK. These cactus are smart survivors. I grew many in heavy clay and had no problem--or very rare rot problems. 95% + do fine even in clay. Just don't over water.

In fact, since these become like trees the roots grow to be as huge as tree roots. Look at the photos of when I had to move my stock. My helpers had to cut them with an axe! Verne

Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2005


Just letting you know that the big cactus order you shipped to my friend in Florida came in safe and sound. They got a little wet during the hurricane and as a result, some have a few slimy black spots that can be easily scraped off. I noticed that I have some on some other cacti I have around the yard.-----------------------------

I'm confused---got wet during shipping? Or wet after they arrived?
Are you discussing cuttings or live plants? By
black spots-- do you mean mold on cuttings? If black mold on cuttings ---then use alcohol or a fungicide. Try my instructions for cuttings: http://www.trichocereus.com/propagation_dryCut.htm

For black mold on live plants--I don't use fungicides because I'm a grower and would simply create resistant strains. But for a single time use -- YOU could use a garden fungicide OK.

When plants get punctured (spines of another one can do this) a black spot "pimple" can form. I discuss this phenomena on the site: http://www.trichocereus.com/CactusLog_2006.htm

Because I saw this problem more often in cuttings harvested in cold/wet times I theorize it is an infection of mold or bacteria.

The plant has an immune system and stops infection. The black mark is much like the swelling we get from an insect bite, the black scab is the plant's equivalent of a scab over an injury. I know believe that these black scabs are bruises, small punctures, or similar types of injuries.
Here is what I've observed over the years:

1) Minor form: Black freckles under the skin can be benign and harden to a point where they can be pealed off like a scab / or they harden into a tan colored blemish.

2) Keep perspective about blemishes because the plant grows into a 10 foot high shrub.

3) Severe form: I've seen the black "whatever" swelling under the skin and have seen it spread. On a vertical log I've observed it flowing under the skin (over several days) like a liquid would if it were on the surface. I've even cut these "pustules" open and drained the liquid, flushed with alcohol. They always healed and the cactus never died. It is not necessary to operate on them.

4) Benign: Whatever it is--I've never seen it kill a plant. It is like a local bruise that heals (sometimes with a scar) and is forgotten. Healthy plants seem to display this "black scab" symptom from an injury

Go to any garden store and get a fungicide if you like. But I have no recommendation because I never use the stuff. I let sick plants die and destroy them. 99% of my plants never get sick so I don't use fungicides.

I'm guessing that this is a type of mold due to the humidity down here. Can you recommend a good way to control this? There are all kinds of cacti down growing down here including San Pedro, so I suppose these Californian plants will eventually get used to it.

For rooted specimens--humidity is not an issue as long as the roots are in well draining soil and the plant is not mechanically damaged. Any plant has an immune system and can fight infections. But stress such as too little light, malnutrition, etc. can weaken the immune response. Healthy people or healthy plants don't get sick.

San Pedro get sick from: mechanical injury, temperature *extremes*, too much/too little light, bad soil (non-draining mud?), etc. (stresses)

***IF THERE IS BLACK ROT *** You have to perform surgery. If a site on a plant starts to rot you have to amputate ahead of it like surgeons do for gangrene.

I have created this problem by taking cuttings from plants during the cold, wet rainy season. Why? Because I had to pay bills and had to sell something on ebay. BAD IDEA! Cuts made during wet, cold times of year will easily become rotting with mold. It is a wet, open wound that will gather bacteria/mold spores, etc. Splashing with alcohol was not enough.

Maybe if I sprayed fungicide on the wound this would not happen. Better is to never cut plants during the wrong time of year. Hot, dry weather--OK-- the wound dries up. Never a problem.

So, Skot, you have to be careful about taking cutting off live plants in Florida. I know how humid it is there. Run an extension cord out to the plant and set a fan blowing over the cut to dry it. (I do that)

*** Sulfur *** Although I have tried "organic" sulfur based fungicides-- they are too weak to be any good. However, I read that you can brush 100% powdered sulfur on cuts. So I bought a pound of it. I will try that on cuttings to see if prevents mold in fresh cuts. A heavy dose certainly should. Sulfur as the pure chemical element is no more toxic than salt. Hey, I wonder if salt would dry up a wound? Or would the San Pedro scream like a baby? Hmm...


By the way, do you have any rooted bridgesii for sale?

No Bridgesii yet. I am building up a stock of them. Next year I will! Thanks for asking.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hi. The rooted cacti are doing good. Under a halide light, proper soil etc. Some of the were received with small black dots (rot?) near the tip about the size of a pin head and a couple of them with pencil sized areas. I have not done anything to them since the area is so small. What do you think? Please advise, Doug in Denver

Dear Doug,

It is normal and because you say they are small--just ignore it? I should do some photos for the site to document this more. There is a minor form: "Black freckles under the skin..." But yes, there is also a more severe form. Black rot can move from the roots (root-rot) upward or from an infected cut (tip or limb cut off) that spreads rot to the entire plant.

But this is like a human getting gangrene--it is severe but rare--and amputation ahead of the infection is the cure. For this reason I do not take cuttings from plants during the dormant season. The cold, wet months are ideal for infection with mold/fungus--but also because the plants immune system is dormant.

In other words, healthy plants have strong immune systems to fight off infections just as healthy humans do.
Friday, August 26, 2005

I have a 6" size cactus. I had a question about growing. Sometime in October I will be leaving for a month can I leave the cactus indoors with low sunlight for that amount of time or should I leave it with a friend to water. I have a lot of information already about growing but I dont know since this one is so small. Thanks Paul

------------------ REPLY-----------------
Repot into a larger one. About 2-gallon is good. That buffers the need for watering. Small pots dry out too quickly. If the plant is in partial shade it can live for months without water, as cactus drink through their pores at night--they suck in CO2 and atmospheric water vapor.

But dry soil will dehydrate the roots so you should carefully (slowly, gently, gradually) start watering again--so you don't rot the dry roots--whenever you have a plant that was in bone dry soil for a long time. If in a large pot and not baking in direct sun you can not water for weeks without harming most cacti.

Simple plan: 1) repot into larger container and 2) leave it in a shady spot when you go away. It will be fine.
Saturday, July 30, 2005

I have seven plants I grew from seed starting about a decade ago. They have lived in several places, always in pots. At one home 1) they actually attempted to root against a glass window in the winter due to condensation. I mailed them across the country by letting the pots 2) dry out for a month and shaking off most of the dirt then packing in styrofoam peanuts and replanting when received. So far as I can tell they're damn near indestructible. 3) The main problem I have is that they're all really narrow and won't stand up on their own. I tried planting one deeper than it was rooted this last time and it looks the same (I have basically forgotten which one it was). So I'm thinking of replanting them all deeper for stability. You say you moved to Oregon. I'm in the Seattle, Washington suburbs. The winters don't generally freeze too often. 4) I'm wondering if I could transplant a few of them to my backyard. It's wet in the winter, though...very wet. Did you move to Eastern or Western Oregon? How has your garden been growing there?
1) Interesting observation. I've seen one do that leaning against a fence--reaching out with roots. Never heard of the window trick; but trying to root into condensation is clever.
2) Another amazing observation. The plant protects itself by going dormant until water returns to bring it back to life. You have to be careful not to rot the roots but you seem to be doing that OK.
3) Tall/skinny is from insufficient light. Sunlight is hundreds of times brighter than the interior of a home. Your plants can't photosynthesize sufficiently to make enough food/energy to build the woody core needed for support.
4) You can't plant these outdoors in Oregon. Way too cold. San Pedro is a Zone 9 plant.
Thursday, July 28, 2005

Got an old growth w/ 3 tips last fall from you. Can't get it to root in a 3 gal. pot w/ good soil, have 12" logs laying in potting soil that are rooting. Also have other tips and peruv's going wild. The main is not rotting but the tips are starting to shrivel. Will it have enough energy to produce roots? Would it be too late to try to root the tips?

RE: Mature section not rooting

See: http://www.trichocereus.com/propagation2.htm

I'm referencing your remarks marked in bold.
What is the average day/night temp? Average humidity? Is the cutting in shade or bright light?

Rooting requires hot weather and bright light. Cool and shady will inhibit rooting. It should be >60+ at night and >80+ days with bright light all day (but not direct sun on it that might burn it). This forces the survival instincts of the cactus to send out roots looking for moisture.

Look at the cut end in the soil. Pull it out. Is it infected? Black mold (may just look like a black film) can inhibit rooting although real soil has balanced microorganisms to sort all that out. But if it has not rooted by now and has been in soil all year...

So, take the cutting out of the pot and spray the end off with a water hose (I also use an air hose to blow dry cuttings). Clean the cut end that has been in soil all year with a not too abrasive brush (got a vegetable cleaning brush?). Let it dry in the air for a day and then replant it in fresh soil. Keep it over 60 degrees at night. No cold nights, wet mountain air, etc.  or it will have no need for roots.

I planted about 100 cuttings like yours (same batch) last October and 90% developed great roots by May. Only a few still are being nursed with feeble roots. Mine did not root all winter in the cold greenhouse even with warm California days. The cuttings just went dormant. In the spring I washed the buried ends and replanted in fresh soil. When it got hot they almost all rooted. Only a handful from that same batch (maybe 5 out of 100) are still being babied to develop better root systems. I just examined them today (the stragglers) and they have like...a handful of 3-4" roots. Those are the bottom of the class. The star pupils had fabulous roots and were sold, are for sale, or have already been used as breeders for tips.

RE: Your last point--yes, you can cut the tips off from the mature section and root them. Then you just have the slower column to root. Sometimes I do that. But read the top caption over the photo at right.
Yes, you can cut off the tip to root separately while you root the base. I leave them intact until the base roots because the tip is photosynthesizing to produce energy/food for the whole plant.
Not rooting? Clean the end and replant in fresh soil. Must be in warm soil that stays over 70 degrees and be in bright, but not necessarily direct light.
Monday, July 25, 2005

It is developing black scabs under the cuticle.

Verne - Lovely plant. I put this beast into 50% perlite, and the rest, a mix of organic "mineral soli" and sharp sand. It is developing black scabs under the cuticle. Any thoughts? I know you are a seller and not "tech support". Keep up the great work!!. CJ

I've had several inquiries about these black scabs, black pimples, freckles, etc. I used to get a lot of it when harvesting tips because I did not take precautions to prevent the spines from sticking into their neighbor cutting. Many cuttings had tell tale black measles from this. Now I take great care not to let them touch (stab) each other and that problem is solved.

Because I saw this problem more often in cuttings harvested in cold/wet times I theorize it is an infection of mold or bacterium.

The plant has an immune system and stops infection. The black mark is much like the swelling we get from an insect bite, the black scab is the plant's equivalent of a scab over an injury. I know believe that these black scabs are bruises, small punctures, or similar types of injuries.

Here is what I've observed over the years:

1) Minor form: Black freckles under the skin can be benign and harden to a point where they can be pealed off like a scab / or they harden into a tan colored blemish.

2) Keep perspective about blemishes because the plant grows into a 10 foot high shrub.

3) Severe form: I've seen the black "whatever" swelling under the skin and have seen it spread. On a vertical log I've observed it flowing under the skin (over several days) like a liquid would if it were on the surface. I've even cut these "pustules" open and drained the liquid, flushed with alcohol. They always healed and the cactus never died. It is not necessary to operate on them.

4) Benign: Whatever it is--I've never seen it kill a plant. It is like a local bruise that heals (sometimes with a scar) and is forgotten. Healthy plants seem to display this "black scab" symptom from an injury.
Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hey Zircon, I was reading your Forum and the last entry on sunburn is actually from soil getting embedded into the tender tips. It quickly heals over into small black scabs that fit the description of sunburn. All three of the plants I purchased from you have this to some degree, mostly a couple freckles but the last one has a big mole about 3/16" in diameter. I saw soil embedded into the center of the tip, when I tried to remove it the delicate skin started to come with it so I figured I would remove it after it healed. When I returned a couple days later it had grown into a satiny raised black scab. To tell the truth I thought it was sunburn on the others until I witnessed the formation my self. This occurred in the yellow growth from stored energy during shipping.  Thanks for all that you do! Mike

Same experiences here Mike--the yellow tip part. But I'm not sure the black scab is from embedded dirt.

You are right about the stored energy--when I harvest tips to plant, during the 2-weeks they rest and heal up the cut, the tips turn white/yellow and bend upward from trying to grow without light. But when I set them in dirt to root under 80% shade netting the tips turn green again in a few days to a week. They straighten out, too.

This is mostly a summer thing when growth energy is so intense. During the dormant season tips tend to stay green and not grow for many weeks.
Friday, July 01, 2005

Hi. Great site. Two of my San Pedros (which share a pot) have what I think is corky scab, but around the edges of the tan, hard scabs is blackish brown and liquidy when touched. I live in central Florida, our air is like steam this time of year. Do you think the humidity is the cause? How should I treat this? I would love to hear your suggestions.

What you describe is benign. I used to screw around with the black infections and drain the liquid by cutting them open. Like popping pimples. Then flush with isopropyl. Made no difference--they heal up on their own naturally. From years of seeing this I am about 90% sure it is from being scratched by the thorns of another plant. I used to get a lot of it with cuttings until I learned from another nursery to protect each cutting with newspaper to prevent the spines scratching their neighbors. Now I get almost none of that. So I'd say it is like an allergic reaction. The cacti equivalent of being scratched and getting inflamed.

If you leave it alone the black sometimes hardens under the skin and I had picked them off like scabs, revealing clean flesh underneath. Or they harden in tan color scabs. But always keep in mind that this is a tree size species! Little blemishes on small tips is nothing to worry about. Give it a huge pot of compost/sand and let it become a giant!

Humidity is not a problem. San Pedro have a strong immune system and the condition you mention is superficial--the plant will heal over it. Use something to prevent the branches from scratching each other--I spread them with stones as they grow, and/or harvest ones growing too close to give them space and light. You prune trees and you should prune the over growth of San Pedro. Root the prunings for more plants...
Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I have a little bit of sunburn on my last purchase. About inch by 1/2 near top of tip. Recoverable?

Sunburn requires a plastic surgeon and that can be very expensive if you don't have insurance.

I have seen tips burn on their tops because, I believe, they did not yet have a developed root system to supply enough water. I have never seen one of my fully rooted plants burn. I have heard that burning can occur if they are moved from shady to full sun too quickly. But I have never seen it; maybe because I don't subject my plants to such extremes.

Sunburn is a wrinkly, grayish-tan soft spot -- usually on the very tip. It will heal to form a scar and as the plant gets huge become a faded memory.

Use 30 to 40% shade netting to prevent sunburn. But plants in full sun, with big root systems, can survive OK without shade--but they will turn a light yellow-green. In a thick stand of columns the yellow may develop on the sides of columns that face south, while the back side is green.

Yellowing is, I believe, a reduction of chlorophyll. This may be, I theorize, the plants way of saying "Hey! I can't get enough water and food to use this much light to photosynthesize; so I'll reduce chlorophyll. I believe this from observing slower growth in yellow columns compared with ones in partial shade 100 feet away growing 3 times more/year.
Shade them like shown in this photo to get emerald green color and faster growth.
Once I left a tip cutting in full sun all summer. It turned yellow and I assumed it died. But in the winter rainy season I noticed it was fat and green. When I picked it up I found it had somehow rooted itself through the clay soil and ball of dirt came up with it. That one never got sunburn and it had no roots during the summer when it was left in the sun.
Thursday, June 02, 2005

 Hi -- I wanted to tell you how helpful it's been reading your website. You took a once-mystifying subject and made it very accessible, with lots of pictures that communicate "you can do this too, and if you spend the extra time, look how nicely things will turn out!" So thanks a lot for putting up such useful info.

My first cuttings have done nicely this spring/summer.  I know I'm not supposed to put a cutting into full sun until it has some established roots. So the question is, should I first establish my cuttings in shade or indirect light in containers, and only then (once they have rooted) transplant them into full-sun locations? Thanks in advance if you can help! Regards, -Paul

Make a trench and fill it with compost/sand. Then plant your San Pedro in that.

Silicon Valley clay is slightly alkaline--perfect for cactus. But the clay is too heavy. I had a garden supply bring 5 to 10 cubic yards at a time. Make a sand pile then mix 50% with the clay. Sand weighs 2500 lbs per cubic yard by the way... This stand grew under the privet trees -- on a berm that was calf high of sand/compost.

Root the cuttings in pots first then transplant. When you transplant into full sun cover them with shade netting until they are established so they don't go into plant shock. Several weeks of shade. Let them rest for a week with light watering, then increase watering and remove the shade net. With a sandy trench you'll have great drainage and can fertilize/water heavily and get rapid growth. Fish emulsion is good and Miracle grow is fine. Put them in a hose sprayer (Ortho thing) and set for 8 oz./gallon.

***Top mulch with real compost and some earth worms every year. Always keep the soil well mulched. But 100% sun and they will be a yellow color. No way around that.

***You can root them directly in the earth. I did a lot of them that way. Made a nursery in the back field. Pits of sand/compost. Stakes to hold 2-3 foot cuttings up. Shade netting laid over them. Leave'em alone. After a month start to splash them with the hose a bit. But the morning dew/evening coolness and Bay Area humidity (50%) is all they need to root. They drink water vapor through their stoma at night.

I've rooted them without ever watering. Then let them grow to 4-5 feet and send up base columns--then transplant to a final location. They get heavy, though! And fragile to move with many columns.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Verne, I just wanted to say to you that you are too cool in my book. An Animal lover who is brave enough to share his stories about his kids with strangers! Perhaps some day I will send you one of my ferret stories. The only reason I have not moved back to California (born and raised San Dieagan) is because the Fish and Game Dept has there proverbial head up there ass while some politician is in their pocket. Perhaps if you get some time you could tell me how to propagate my Peruvian Torch seeds?


(Currently living in the high desert of Las Cruces New Mexico)

"Heaven or Hell? I don't know. I just wanna go where the ferrets go" Betty Buchanan

Thank you!
Yeah...I've heard of the ferret ban in CA.
About seeds...info on germinating cacti seeds abounds on the Internet. Just do a search.
To me seed is seed--I've been an organic gardener for years and used to raise thousands of plants for the farmers market each year from seed.

I encourage individuals to grow tomatoes, basil, etc from seed to learn the process. Otherwise its an alien thing that some approach in weird sort of "experimental" ways. One has to practice with vegetables, I think, just as a kid starts with training wheels.

Germination is a standard thing. Cacti are just another plant...

I really like Eliot Coleman's books. Understanding soil is the key.
Saturday, May 07, 2005

I purchased an 18 inch high "Trichocereus" about a year ago from our local cactus nursery here in Las Vegas. I planted it outside and this spring noticed little furry balls popping out of the top outer rim and scattered lower on the plant. About four days ago I was shocked to see big beautiful flowers. The color is dark/hot pink with bronze coloring in the middle of the pedals. I had to remove the flowers because the cactus fell over. I took one of the blossoms to work for a friend to photograph the unbelievable formation of the entire blossom, and everyone was as amazed as I was at the beauty and intricate formation of the flower and stem. I read in your website that the flowers are very fragrant, but mine aren't. Do you think they are not the San Pedro ? Any info you can give me would be appreciated. I think the spines are smaller and more of them than yours too. Thanks

Trichocereus is like saying apple tree. There are many varieties.

Did you buy a T. Pachanoi is your question? Without a photo of the plant/flower I can't help much.
But look here:
Note that trichocereus has been reclassified as echinopsis.

This site is good, too:
Saturday, April 30, 2005

I think you should mention that the ebay seller that ripped off your friend was ebay screen name id [deleted]. These guys have been ripping people off with their alleged "Trichocereus Peruvianus Variations" sales for a few years now. They have been selling what are likely Peruvianus hybrids as specific Peruvianus variatins. The plants recieved are often covered with scars and fungus infections. All the rest of their plants seem to be ok. Do not buy any Trichocereus plants from these guys unless you want to get ripped off. I have been collecting for several years and have not been personally ripped off by these guys, but plenty of my cactus buddies have.

[had to delete the name as it could easily lead to a lawsuit. in order to post such info you have to follow the guidelines to avoid libel; state who you are with actual name and contact info/tell only the facts of what happened in a specific instance to which you were a first party (not hearsay) witness, etc. In other words--if it is true and documented no one can sue over facts. but otherwise you make it easy for the company in question to sue for defamation, etc. end of legal speil--thank you for your comments and taking the time and effort to leave this message. note that ebay has a feedback system intended to expose bad sellers and everyone you mention who was burned should leave negative feedback describing what happened. that is what really helps to stop that bad seller from harming others, not my obscure little website. again, thank you for this post]
Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I bought a cutting from you last month, planted it, and was waiting for it to root. Today I pulled it up to check on how it was doing. The bottom has a small amount of mold growing on it. This is my first time working with this cactus, and I was wondering if you could lend me some advice as to what to do.

"A small amount of mold" is not quantified; I'd need to see a photo.

1) Too soon! Its too early in the season. A mature woody section will take months to roots--not weeks. Even a tip would not root this early in the season. Tips root faster by the way, but not this fast this early in the year.
2) Mold can only occur because it is wet. The soil should not be that damp.
3) Have you ever rooted any cuttings? Are you using a propagation mat for temperature control?
4) Look at the bottom half of this page.

Mold is harmless on the surface, but rot is fatal. Is your cutting rotting? If so you have to cut it and re-dry it. The mold you describe sounds superficial and you may need to use sterile soil, and less humidity, 70 Degrees temp. and give it more time.

If the cutting is rotting you have to cut the rot off or it will consume the cutting.

The roots on the large cutting shown on the page
http://trichocereus/index6.htm took all season last year to develop.

Don't water it. Cactus use their internal energy/food to root. Set the thing in a pot of sterile dirt, sand, whatever -- and forget about it until September. Leave it in a shady spot and it will survive on its own. They don't die. They drink through their pores at night from the moisture in the air.
rooting san pedro log section
Look at the picture of this one. It has a salami size tip (not visible in the frame) growing out of it but look at how small the root system is after one year. Where did the salami size tip come from? From those roots? No. From the air. Plants are 90% carbon from carbon dioxide. They get water from air, too, by opening pores at night to breath in and get moisture from the night air.

So don't worry. Brush off the end with a rag and dry it for a day with an electric fan. Use a sterile sandy soil mix just slightly damp. In fact--I have seen these root without being buried. They can send down roots just sitting on top of the soil!...let nature do its work at its own pace.

But if you want a fast rooting thing-- get a tip. In fact, you could cut off one from your cutting and dry the end for 10 days. Then root that while you wait for the mature woody one to take root-- in warm spring conditions a tip will root in a month or two. You can even soak it in B1 (see a plant store)/and use rooting hormone, etc but I never have. Not necessary.
Sunday, March 13, 2005

Thanks for all the great information. I have a rooted plant that was cut around Jan. and I left about 6 or 7 inches above the base and replanted it in the ground. The end is very dry--looks good, but: I was wondering if I cut a thin slice off of it, would the new growth shoot out quicker than leaving the old crusty calloused end alone? Thanks again for great site. Look forward to buying some from you real soon. Pete......

Comment on above:

RE: New growth...

It sounds like you mean the callous on the top. No, don't re-cut it. Growth comes from a bud that forms out of an areole (where the spines come out of). Roots can come out of the sides, the bottom and from areoles--but new growth only from those spine pores.

So cutting won't help. Usually the bud comes from one of the uppermost ones, and more than one may sprout a tip. It is common for 2 or 3 to make new growth tips. I don't know of any way to make this happen faster. But then, it doesn't take long. Look at this page of photos: index14.htm
Monday, March 07, 2005

Hi Verne, Just out of curiosity, what does it mean when a particular cutting of San Pedro is yellow as opposed to green? Thanks, -Dave

Comment on above:

RE: Tan or beige color limbs
If you mean that particular one--OK. But yellow ( a different situation that what I think you are asking) is commonly from too much heat/sun. What I believe you are pointing to is from the lowest portion of the plant that has no chlorophyll. That is a tan or light brown color.

1) All portions underground are this color.
2) The lowest portion of the limbs do this because they are so crowded (shade each other) that no chlorophyll is produced (its not needed and plants, like people, don't do things they don't have to do).
3) If there are plants growing around the base that block the limbs from the sun the same thing happens--no pigmentation.
4) If too much sun, the plant cuts back on Chlorophyll. It simply can't photosynthesize to keep up is my theory. Its a response. Large San Pedro in full sun exposure can be yellowish on the south side and dark green on the North side.

Your question is about the cuttings from my legacy plants. They had vegetation around the bases--that is why they are that beige/tan color. The core of San Pedro is a wood tube that comes out of the main stalk like a tree branch into each new tip.

I have found that by taking cuttings like the one shown here you get several advantages.
1) The colorless (tan or beige) portion will root just fine. Since it has a tube like branch into the lovely new tip it will provide good delivery of nutrients. The mature cutting forms a large root base faster than a small tip would.
2) The base portion may sprout, and most likely will sprout, one or more additional tips. This means it will become a root base from which branches (new tips) grow upward. Voila! --a new cluster!

So these mature cuttings can actually be manipulated thus:
1) Let it root this year. It may bud additional tips.
2) Next year you can plant it outside, or in a large planter to allow eventual development into a huge stand.
3) OR--you may cut off the tip next year and the allow the rooted base (formerly that beige chunk) to re-bud. Then you can root the tip you took off and keep the rooted base. Now you have two plants.

With this approach they re-bud from the areoles (spine pores) starting from the upper most ones and then the lower ones---the tips you harvest from an old chunk are perfect. Once rooted they bud "pups" from the base in ones, twos, threes very quickly. San Pedro wants to grow up into a cluster since that is their nature--you don't get a single column that simply goes higher and higher. It forms many more tips from the base.

So, you can start a forest from a single cutting. From 45 legacy stumps--all beige by the way--that I took with me when I moved last year over 600 tips shot up! Look at the photo in my ads of the tips in the greenhouse. See the beige (or tan) colored arms with a forest of green tips? Cool, huh! You got to love San Pedro. Named after a Saint for good reason. So from 45 to 600 in one year. Do the math! ;)
Saturday, February 26, 2005

can i start san pedro seeds in miracle gro potting soil
i wanted to know if i could start san pedro seeds in inriched miracle gro potting soil
Saturday, February 19, 2005

... so sandy that we have to suppliment it with manure in order to grow certain plants. Would I be able to plant one of your already rooted specimens directly in the ground. I have very little luck with growing cacti, and after reading your free info I realize that most likely I have been overwatering them. Thank you.

Comment on above:

RE: Sandy soil

Sandy soil needs clay to hold moisture.

But growing living things is not a formula, anymore than there is a formula to make a wonderful person fall in love with you. Nature is as intelligent or as stupid as the person who apprehends it.

My best advice is to learn about growing from the Eliot Coleman books I recommend on the site. With that kind of skill you may enjoy gardening as a life-long passionate hobby that produces fruit, vegetables, cooking herbs, and flowers. When you catch on to gardening you'll see that cacti are a piece of pie. Or a piece of cake. Something like that.
Friday, February 11, 2005

I own several other large cacti, but never owned a San Pedro. May I ask a question? When replanting the other cacti in indoor pots, I waited about 7-10 days before I gave it water. Does the San Pedro also require this, or should I water it right away?

Comment on above:

RE: Watering after re-planting

Leave it alone in new soil--no water. Small roots are broken and need to heal. In February its dormant anyway and doesn't need any water. You can feel how firm and swollen it is. If it started to suck in its ribs it would need water.

Remember that cacti breathe in differently than trees and plants that open their stoma (pores) in the day time. Cacti open their stoma at night and take in water vapor along with CO2. That is why they can live for so long without water. If their stoma opened during the day, like trees, they would transpire water.

The need for watering is essentially a function of: 1) time of year and hours of daylight; 2) ambient heat and relative humidity. In the summer, if the plant is in a small pot that heats up with sun exposure you may have to water almost, or even, daily.

If planted in the earth, as I recommend, you can water weekly in the summer if there is good drainage. But cacti can find their own water in the earth, or get by during drought periods from stored reserves. San Pedro will swell out its ribs when well watered. During drought or from poor water the ribs will suck in and flatten. This allows you to gauge how well the plant is feeding.

But, again, a newly transplanted specimen should not be watered until the roots heal--about 2 weeks. Or they may rot. Bare root specimens should always be allowed to get used to new dirt for a few weeks.

It is not exactly accurate to say a San Pedro was "over watered" because that really means there was poor drainage. Poor drainage allows water to stagnate around the roots and "drown them." Roots are not meant to be underwater permanently because it cuts off their supply of oxygen.

In sandy, well draining soil you never have to worry about over watering a San Pedro. Clay soils, however, are dangerous. I have killed a few large plants from "root rot" due to clay. So death by "over watering" is really death by "poor drainage."
Monday, February 07, 2005

Today I noticed a blackness which seemed to be coming from the bottom up of my cactus. When I touched the black area, it was soft and squishy/ Does this mean my plant is dying from root rot? If so, is there any way to save it? Please reply. Thank you, Anthony

Comment on above:

RE: Black squishy
Not necessarily. You should not be watering during the dormant winter period (this is February). I'd have to see a photo to diagnose what you mean. There is root rot and stem rot where the plant turns to mush like a spreading disease. You can rot roots or rot limbs by cutting them during the dormant period in cold, wet conditions. Mold or fungus will invade and slowly spread rot.

Then there is a type of black, under the skin, thing that is benign. It is different than brown, liquefying rot. I think this problem (image below) is a fungus. Get sulfur type fungicide to spray on it. Plant places have it and its organic.
Black, under the skin thing. Don't
know what it is. It seems harmless.

I've experimented with this by cutting them open. Some times they are filled with liquid that can be drained out and the area flushed with alcohol. But if left alone I've seen these harden and eventually can be peeled off and the skin underneath is OK.

Rot can be from over watering and it spreads in a dormant plant unless you stop it with surgery. If it is localized you should always perform surgery and cut it out. Have done that many times over the years.
(above) This is fatal! Will spread through the cactus
and it will all rot. So scrub in and do surgery
to cut it off, sterilize the remaining area and
dry it with an electric fan to blow air over it.
If you do surgery on an area, to cut out rot, put an electric fan to blow air over it to dry the cut. Leave the fan running for a day or two. Sunlight is good, too. Direct sun will dry and sort of sterilize a cut. Don't leave any dormant plant, after surgery, in a cool humid place or it may get infected with mold & fungus. Yukky!
Thursday, February 03, 2005

I remember reading before in your guide on these that too much nitrogen will cause them to bud tips like crazy. Do you have any idea on how much is enough to make them do that, without burning the cacti?

Comment on above:

RE: Max Nitrogen

No, - its an art - not a science. And I was referring to plants in the earth with huge root systems. With potted ones the vigour of the plant is inhibited by bound roots...so...give them huge pots.

Its called gardening. Its a hobby, its a skill, and its how we get good food like tomatoes, basil, etc. I always advise a person to first learn how to grow great tomatoes and culinary herbs.

Plants need root space like athletes need lungs. Also, absorption is not just a root + fertilizer formula. Plants have symbiotic relationships with fungi that feed their roots...so give the plants worm castings, fresh ones, to inoculate the soil with healthy micro-organisms. Build a rich organic fertile soil for them. Roots need that to feed.

With all that (above) then they can handle a lot of feeding if the drainage is adequate. I use 50% perlite with organic soil (worm compost) and they love that. I use fish emulsion for nitrogen; it is weaker than chemical mixes and I've never burned a plant with it.

One of the things amateurs do is leave a plant in a small pot for years, never top mulching. Top mulch keeps the soil open, microorganisms happy, etc. Otherwise you get hard, compacted dirt--bad news. Keep up-potting into larger and larger pots with lots of fresh new organic soil. And top mulch always with compost; get earth worms to live in the soil and they'll eat the excess fish emulsion then make it into a slow release form for the roots, etc.

A person develops a bond with plants like you do with animals and friends. If your plants have good light, soil, feeding, etc. they respond and look healthy. One doesn't force nature any more than you force your loved ones or force your pets. But you know what they need and give it to them; then live with nature's speed limits.
Sunday, January 30, 2005

How do you get them to branch so well?

Comment on above:

RE: Branching
I hold a "San Pedro branching class" for all new cuttings. During the several weeks that it lasts my cat and I train them to branch by drawing pictures, showing them tree branches, etc. We then offer daily pep talks and other encouragement to "branch! you can do it! there you go -- look its a bud!"

Petting them is helpful. We hang photos of well branched San Pedro in the greenhouse as role models for the younger cuttings. Good branchers receive extra fertilizer, and their choice of station on the greenhouse radio.
Monday, January 10, 2005

Thanks for the reply regarding pupping. I really meant "separate" plants pupping at the same time, as I noticed in one of your early photos, '94?, all your plants seemed to have smaller branches about the same size. Mine have all been fairly reluctant to pup much so far, but now different plants of different ages are all starting to at the same time. It's a pupping frenzy! :) As for that "expert", he must have been one unlucky dude! Grafting! LOL

Comment on above:

RE: Pupping #2
Separate...lets get mystical--are we ever separate? I've seen plants 200 feet apart flower in sync because they were so related. Is a cutting a clone?

Plants also extend roots systems out that intermingle and I think they become a family over distances of the cluster of plants.

But then it is also a seasonal thing--all plants growth spurt in spring, buds appear and flower in a rhythm of species--all the apples blossom, the cherries, etc. according to their type. So if Pedros all root, bud, flower maybe that is just the cycle of the seasons.

Your comment about those branches in that photo is astute. In fact I often puzzle over that--wondering how I got so many so fast. It may have been that when I got a car load from Kate after her San Pedro forest was leveled by the 1989 Loma Prieta quake....that I planted most of them. That was before I stopped, uh, smoking...and sort of don't remember everything.

So those may have been from upper sections, mature plants, that already had branches--and I rooted the branched tips. Usually only older, larger plants branch. But! I have a couple of knee high babies that have swollen buds at "branch height" right now. Those are making little finger sized branches. But that is not very common.

Hope this helps. Thanks for your interest.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hello boss ! I write this message from France, when i found your site i was very very excited! I could not thing that someone has a "passion" at this point. I m still young and I ve just felt in love with those lovely cactus.. I m 21 year old and i excpect to have lot and lot of cactus growing in my garden and inside my house. I m waiting now for a crestate which will arrive about one week. I have already bought in neitherland a "part" of san pedro (a "big" part) which is rooting. Those cactus cannot be found in France, I also command it from the Internet from foreign sites. I have also a very little one (maybe one year old). I m sure that in 2 or 3 years, by propaganding them (cutting, rooting, potting as i can see on your site) i ll have a beautiful "collection". I was just wondering if poting a cut to root in a pot of beach sand (which is salted) is a good idea? Thanks a lot for your site. Probably the best one i ve ever seen. For sure. Bye !
Comment on above: Bonjour mon ami de France

RE: Beach sand
Probably OK. All the books says not to because of the salt. What nonsense! I have never tasted salty sand--it gets rained on and so it is no longer salty.
Yes, sand is OK to root. Any medium such as perlite, vermiculite, or sand will work. The cutting somehow senses the need to send out root buds looking for water.

I have seen cuttings send roots out the back side of one left leaning against a fence. There was no rooting media at all--just the need to find water, and the fact that the back side (a 36" cutting) was in the cool shade.

They will not root in cold. Only warmth. You can root in the winter if the plant is inside. But the fastest is in the spring/summer. I have seen them root in weeks.

So, I'd wash the sand and let it dry. Then use it slightly damp. If too damp the cutting could rot which is why many professional plant places sterilize soil. I've done it by baking sandy soil in the oven at 400 degrees F for an hour, then letting it cool (obviously).

This one was so desperate to find water it rooted out the back into the reed fence. It had not been set into the ground--just left laying against the fence for 2 months. Then I potted it and it lived happily ever after.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Great site, I really enjoyed going thru the whole thing and looking at the pics. 2 questions - 1) Have you noticed any synchronizing of pupping, especially of plants in the ground i.e. branching at the same time? 2) Did the winter flowers last longer? Thanks, Mike.

Comment on above: Thanks for appreciating the site!

RE: Pupping
As you probably know -- pupping is strange. One will form, or two, or a cluster of three. I have one plant that pupped simultaneously 180 degrees apart. Looks cool!

It is like when you cut a tip off a stalk--the stalk may bud one, two, three, four of more "pups." (Are they pups or new tips?)

Branching seems rare in young plants. In fact, one guy wrote to me sort of angry about my branches. He wanted to know if I grafted them on! He was "an expert" with over two hundred plants. In his experience none of his plants had branched. Go figure!

In my 17 years of experience with San Pedro and Peruvianus -- they just love to re-bud from logs or columns, branch when they get big enough, and like to have "kittens" like cats that aren't fixed.

RE: Did the winter flowers last longer?
Nope! Just 2 days and they closed. I really think it was the warm Pacific Ocean storms that made them think it was summer in the southern hemisphere. But the flowers opened more slowly in the cold weather. It seems the ones in summer open quickly. But that was in a cool place: Mountain View, California. In the very hot (summers) Central Valley the San Pedros send out hundreds of hairy balls that do not flower. That plant on the HOME page with 95 year old Frank had those hairy (wannabe flowers) tufts for months--but no flowers.

When I was in Mountain View (cooler summers) the tufts quickly shot out into flowers. Thats all I know. But I've seen flowers from spring to Christmas. From one on a tip to dozens.

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