One of the questions our customers most frequently ask us at Arkham’s Botanical is how to grow the marvellous and venerable ‘Peyote’ cactus. Because of this – in an effort to show everyone how to grow Lophophora williamsii from seed – we’ve put together this (by no means comprehensive) overview!
For those of you who don’t know anything about this great species, Lophophora williamsii is a much-loved cactus which is sadly considered to be vulnerable to extinction due to population decrease. Peyote’s rapidly-shrinking native habitat covers parts of Mexico and Texas in the USA and is constantly under threat due to predators including erosion, land developers and commercial and other harvesters.
How to Grow Lophophora williamsii from Seed
As we’ve mentioned before elsewhere on the website, Peyote and other Lophophora varieties can be easily (albeit rather slowly) cultivated at home in most climates. Our preferred method is currently by means of an enhanced ‘Takeaway Tek’, which you can read more about in the guide we posted here.
As outlined in more detail in the guide, our approach to growing Lophophora williamsii seed basically involves filling a clear plastic tray with an adequately-hydrated mix of soil and volcanic stone, sowing the seed and then sealing it inside a plastic freezer bag for a minimum of three months without doing anything. We know, sounds like hard work, right?! Plants grown using this technique will reach a diameter of several centimetres after a year or so, presuming they’re somewhere with a climate relatively akin to their natural environment. Maintain a temperature of roughly 20°C to 37.5°C until the plants are more mature, avoiding frosts at all costs!
How to Speed Up Peyote Growth
Many of our customers also want to know how to grow Lophophora williamsii from seed but somehow speed up Peyote growth. While there’s no rushing perfection, it is entirely possible to maximise the rate of growth by various means.
The simplest of these is also the most obvious; make sure that you’re doing everything you can to help the plant by providing a welcoming environment in which it can grow. Unlike Trichocereus and many other cacti, Lophophora come from Northern America and so do not handle intense sun as well as their South American cousins! While handling full desert sun of a reasonable intensity, Peyote often naturally occur in (relatively) shady spots and/or are often partially covered by sand or soil, so use your judgement – especially if you want to avoid burning young plants! A fast-draining mineral soil should be employed, repotting annually if grown in containers. Some people further suggest adding small amounts of organic fertiliser, such as worm castings or coffee grounds, to soil intended for cactus cultivation.
The next area to consider when you grow Lophophora williamsii from seed is the amount of water that you give them. While definitely having an unfortunate tendency to rot should they be over-watered, dependent on the climate you can speed up Peyote growth a little by regular but sensible watering. This is something you need to experiment with a bit yourself, but you should soon get the hang of it (it’s easy to ascertain when Peyote is too wet: it rots!). The best course of action is to ensure that your williamsii‘s soil is completely dried out before the next watering.
Our next advice relates to the use of fertiliser. Personally, we avoid the use of inorganic fertilisers and other nasty substances entirely, so choose to apply an organic one two to three times per year. We use a diluted, cactus-friendly (low nitrogen, high phosphorous, an N:P:K ratio of 3:1:5 is fine), liquid fertiliser for all of our Lophophora, yet tail this off during the cacti’s (semi-)dormant period. Other organic fertilisers and nutrients added by many growers include blood, bone, charcoal, chicken pellets, coffee grounds and gypsum. Beware of fertiliser abuse, however, as too much will make the cactus start to crack and split! Advanced growers also often apply a little plain water to their Peyote immediately prior to applying a fertiliser solution, to minimise the liquid lost running through otherwise dry soil.
Advanced Techniques to Speed Up Peyote Growth
Now we’re well on our way to discovering how to grow Lophophora williamsii from seed fast! This section covers several more advanced techniques, for those among you who hope to speed up Peyote growth to the maximum.
The first, grafting, is in essence the simple art of splicing one species to another, thereby achieving growth rates more like those of the ‘mother’ plant. For example, many who prefer to graft Lophophora williamsii choose to do so onto a much faster growing columnar Trichocereus species, such as Trichocereus pachanoi. However, it’s not quite as simple as that, with more involved in the procedure than just sticking the two plants together any old way! In a nutshell, the two species’ circular vascular bundles must sufficiently overlap in order for the mother to transfer nutrients and water to its scion. While we’ve not as-yet tried our hand at grafting, it’s undeniable that it often produces impressive results. If only there were enough hours in the day… Top tip: Many cultivators grafting williamsii advise that maximum growth can be achieved by treating the resulting plants as though they were the ‘mother’, rather than the scion species.
The final technique we’ll take a look at here is the addition of various hormones to either the williamsii‘s growth medium or watering schedule. The theory is that this will supercharge the plant’s chemical processes and therefore hopefully speed up Peyote growth. We don’t have any practical experience with this rather advanced technique, but we have heard good things from a few inquisitive members of the community! If you’re interested, one of the most commonly employed hormones to speed up Peyote growth is Gibberellic acid (chemical formula C19H22O6, also called GA, GA3 and Gibberellin A3). Found naturally in plants, GA3 is a non-toxic organic compound which, when used in very small quantities, promotes the growth and elongation of plant cells. A very potent developmental hormone, practically minuscule concentrations of GA3 have a quite profound effect on plant growth! For more on this and other cutting-edge horticultural experiments, we heartily recommended checking out the excellent Share the Seeds forum.
So, there you have it; we hope that this short overview has successfully demonstrated how to grow Lophophora williamsii from seed! Notwithstanding their unofficial status as the slowest-growing of the cacti, propagating williamsii in this fashion is a highly rewarding pastime. Not only that, but it’s up to us as responsible citizens of the planet to do what we can to conserve this (and every other) endangered species!
Watching young williamsii as they develop through the various growth stages is a fascinating education and well worth the minimal effort involved. It’s an indescribably fuzzy feeling of accomplishment when you gawk proudly at your first-ever batch of ‘Peyote’ seedlings!
🙂 Of course, we think everyone should have a Lophophora cactus or three in their garden – and there’s no time like yesterday to plant a seed!