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I went to IKEA for a bookshelf and instead bought a cactus

My inability to keep plant life living has been fairly well documented. It’s a bleak history, and though they say history is written by the winners I’m going to keep it real here today. I am horrible at nurturing plants. They all die. It may take a whole month a little while, but inevitably I kill them off. Dead as a doornail.

So that’s why, on a recent visit to IKEA to track down a bookshelf, I instead walked out with a cactus.

And a throw pillow. As one does.

I attempt to keep a cactus alive. (Photo by Anya Semenoff)

Your mission should you choose to accept it….

The inspiration to conduct this experiment really began at the suggestion of my sister, Emily. We were bemoaning our shared black thumb tendencies (a trait that we should never have inherited, considering my mother has a background in plant sciences and is a wizard with vegetation) and decided the best way to settle this once and for all was for me to buy a cactus — a succulent with the reputation of being nigh indestructible — and give it my all to try and keep it alive. If it too perished, then I would be relegated to cut blooms only. After all, those are supposed to wilt away after a week.

As I wandered around over the next few weeks I kept my eyes peeled for a suitable candidate. To apply, the candidate needed the following qualities:

  1. Be a cactus

  2. Be alive

  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2

Somehow this actually proved harder than I expected. Winter is maybe not the season for cacti? But then I cleaned our home office, and you know what was severely lacking in our new and clean canvas of an office? Bookshelves. Ergo, IKEA. The bookshelf odyssey met some challenges, but this isn’t a furniture story.

As I worked my way through the maze of IKEA and answered the sphinx’s riddles three (or so it felt, that place is confusing), I finally hit the last stretch. And there they sat. Whole trays of cacti just waiting to be plucked up.

I attempt to keep a cactus alive. (Photo by Anya Semenoff)

As must be apparent by now, I know nothing about plants. Hence, I had no idea as to what indicated a cactus was healthy, thriving. Sturdy. A fighter.

So I did what I do in such circumstances: eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Then we hit the road.

I attempt to keep a cactus alive. (Photo by Anya Semenoff)


Next up, the panic. I got home and frantically googled “how to keep an IKEA cactus alive” and “do I need to re-pot an IKEA cactus?” I wished there was a Thanksgiving-style Butterball hotline for cactus care that I could put on speed dial. (If anyone wishes to kick that one off, I will be your first customer.)

Today, about one week later, the research continues. At the urging of Em I started an instagram account to document the effort at cultivating (and hopefully not breaking the will to live of) the little fellow.  I haven’t named him yet for fear of devastation should these first weeks prove insurmountable. I’m noticing, looking at these six-day-old pictures, that his little flower crown has definitely wilted a bit. Is that normal? Is he dying already? Send help immediately!

the cactus experiment

This could very well be the shortest cactus experiment of all time. As I have never heard of an experiment such as this one before, this could also very well be the longest cactus experiment of all time. Glass half full.

I’m scared. Any and all advice/tips/tricks/interventions/phone numbers to accredited cactus adoption programs welcome.

⦊⦊⦊ Emily, this post is dedicated to you. And this is all your fault. ⦉⦉⦉ 


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