Succulent mix

I got my first cactus when I was fourteen. It was the last day of school and our form tutor stopped us mid-dancing on desks and eating Haribo to give us each a tiny prickly pet. Perhaps it was meant to be a metaphor for nurturing our growth and knowledge at school, or perhaps it was just a goodbye cactus. I kept it for all of about a week and then decided it was just too much responsibility for my life, so handed it over to my best friend for adoption.

Fast-forward 10 years later and I’m stood in the plant section of Ikea, picking up a three-pack of little cacti. One pot looks as though it’s covered in cloud, wearing dusty white fluff and strangely resembling Einstein. Another looks like a small family, with the parent long and thin in the middle and its two babies either side, all speckled in tiny yellow spikes.

I sat the cacti on my kitchen shelf, watering them once a week. Just like with friends and family, you don’t notice them changing everyday, even though they are in small and insignificant ways. It was only a few weeks ago that I was looking at them in the sunlight and noticed the white fluff on Einstein had formed into little witch hat-like peaks on top, and that the once family of three cacti had suddenly grown from two kids to seven.

It was fascinating to see how much they’d changed, but also how strangely they’d changed. Unlike Sunflowers that always grow upwards, you can never quite guess the way a cactus is going to develop. My step-mum has owned some of her cacti for over thirty years and they look like a crazy band of eccentric characters. One in particular has part broken off at the top, so that it looks as though it’s developed superpowers and is almost floating.

It’s the uniqueness of each and every cactus that I think makes them so special to own (and addictive — I now have 7 altogether!) Sort of like Pokemon, you feel as though you want to catch them all and then wait in anticipation to see how they evolve. Despite their prickly appearance, they’re also a really comforting presence to have in your home or on your work desk. Apparently, keeping plants in your personal environment can even help increase concentration and enhance relaxation due to the calming influences of natural things.

They’re something that needs you to thrive, and there’s a feeling of happiness and achievement when you notice this small plant growing and changing thanks to you looking after it. And yes, there’s also the added bonus that they’re not too demanding in terms of care. During their growing period, which is from spring until autumn, they only need watering about once a week, and then throughout the rest of the year it can be even less than this.

So that’s it, my rambling praise for these spiky sidekicks. You might not be able to play with them like a pet dog or spoon them like a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you can simply have them there, as a calm little focus in your life that slowly changes with each new day, alongside you.


(Image via iStock)