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Lophophora williamsii Cultivation

Growing Peyote

Natural Growing Conditions:
Peyote is a slow growing, spineless cacti, native to Central Mexico and Texas. It grows in many areas throughout the Chihuahuan Desert, but is becoming scarce due to over harvesting. Although the areas it is commonly found in are usually very dry and receive much harsh direct sunlight, the cactus itself often grows in the shade of another cactus or nearby shrub. Once it reaches a diameter of around 7cm, Peyote begins producing side pups, and may eventually form large clumps.

Growing from Seed:
Like most cacti, Peyote is fairly simple to propagate from seed, although it may take anything from three days to a year for seeds to germinate (most will germinate within two weeks.) Also, even though cultivated Peyote can grow much faster than plants growing in the wild, it may still take more than five years to reach adult size.

To germinate cactus seeds, use a fine mix of 1/3 washed sand, 1/3 cactus compost, and 1/3 perlite. Peyote will respond well to this method, particularly with the addition of a small amount of dolomite, gypsum, or crushed limestone to the potting mix. To promote flowering it is recommended to add Gypsum or Dolomite. Calcium is also thought to benefit Peyote. Mix it thoroughly and put it in 10cm plastic pots or seed pans (with adequate drainage holes). Gently pat down the mix to eliminate large air pockets and smooth the surface with a straight edge.

Feel free to experiment with other mixes. You can use various types of composted manure, crushed lava rock, coconut coir, leaf mould, etc. Avoid vermiculite in adult plants, as it has a tendency to break down and become compacted. Aim for about 1/3 organic matter and 2/3 aeration, drainage, and inert additives. It will also benefit Peyote to add powdered limestone to keep the soil slightly alkaline, and bone meal as a slow release fertilizer.

Carefully sprinkle the seeds evenly over the surface. Try to ensure you leave a space of at least 2cm between each seed to prevent overcrowding later on. DO NOT cover the seeds with soil, as they require light as well as high moisture and heat to germinate. Stand the pots in a shallow pan of room temperature water. When the water begins to rise to the surface, remove the container from the water. It is vital to maintain a high level of humidity. This can be achieved by placing the pots in a propagator, putting sheets of glass over the pots, or simply putting the pots in plastic bags. You will need to mist the pots daily with fine spray pump bottle. Do not let the compost fully dry out, and do not saturate it either, both extremes will prevent germination.

If possible, you should provide bottom heat, or keep the pots in a place where the temperature can be kept around 25C, or 33C daytime maximum and 15C night-time minimum.

Under these conditions the seeds may germinate in one week, otherwise they may take significantly longer. Cacti seedlings are prone to 'damping-off' fungus, a fuzzy mould which grows on the surface of the soil and the plants. An application of Cheshunt Compound whilst misting will usually prevent/cure this. Once the seeds begin germination, stop misting the seedlings and provide water from underneath (as in the first watering).

Once the seeds have germinated, ensure the pots receive adequate lighting, either natural or fluorescent. If you are growing under natural light do not let harsh direct light reach the seedlings as they will burn. A cotton cloth or tissue paper will provide decent shading. If possible aim for a day length of 16-18 hours.

Over a period of months, gradually acclimatize the seedlings to warmer, drier, and brighter conditions. Water less often, but apply a greater quantity of water each time. After about six months, the seedlings can be set in the same conditions as other cacti. Also, you can begin applying fertilizer at 1/4 recommended strength.

When they are one to two years old or crowded enough to be just about touching each other, transplant into individual pots. Trout suggests putting lumps of limestone next to small Peyote plants to provide shading from direct sun. I simply plant them lower than usual so the rim of the pot provides some shade.

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