Gardening

My exotic cactus collection

9 October 2015

Ever since I discovered that you can legally grow San Pedro and Peyote cacti in Australia, I set out immediately to start my cactus collection. I didn’t want to buy these plants for ingestion purposes really, but rather for the excitement of owning something that is considered so sacred in some cultures (and so illegal in others).

I discovered a cactus stall at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. They keep the “exotic” cacti away from the public eye and in their van, so you need to ask to purchase them. I decided that my first cactus would be the San Pedro cactus (trichocereus pachanoi) as I conducted some research previously and it grows faster, easier and larger than the cute little button Peyote cactus (lophophora williamsii).

I had actually never grown cacti before. I have more of a black thumb than a green thumb (I love growing things but don’t know how to look after plants properly and they usually all die). This is not a good trait to have when your goal in life is to only grow exotic and foreign plants in a mild climate. Nevertheless, the San Pedro (or Pedrito as he is now called) is the easiest plant I’ve ever grown and maintained. It grows extremely fast and rarely needs to be watered. 

I bought the plant in 2011 and it was relatively small. Now, I would say it’s probably four-times the size, plus it has grown an extra arm (which was amazing to watch happen). I’m so proud of this cactus. It did get a bit sick through its first winter with me but ever since then the cactus has become thick, strong and healthy. It’s taller than me now! The only problem with its size is that it is so very heavy now that I wish I had repotted it in a more attractive pot when it was still small.

In 2013, after giving so much attention to and spending so much time with my Pedrito, I thought it was time to get him a little sister. I returned to my favourite cactus stall and asked the man for a look at the special cacti in his van. I purchased the cutest little Peyote I could find. Apparently Peyote needs a lot more care than Pedro but I thought that after all this time I would be able to handle it. The man gave me some care advice and off I went to bring my little Piyo (pronounced pee-jo) to her new home.

I thought I’d keep it inside for a while as the summer was very hot. However, in the house it wasn’t receiving any sun and kept trying to push itself out of the soil to find light. I repotted it and placed it under the shadow of Pedrito. I water it about once a week during summer and every couple of weeks in winter to make sure that the cactus stays firm. So far, so good! Unlike San Pedro, Peyote grows very, very slowly. After two years, it is basically the same size as when I bought it. It is also not as difficult to maintain as I was led to believe.

My experiences with cacti have been excellent and I now want to continue my collection of useful and hardy plants that do not die under my murderous hand. I think my next purchase will be an aloe vera succulent.

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