I have an indoor green thumb. I really do. I’ve produced cuploads of cherry tomatoes from the tomato plants on my windowsill, raised healthy lettuce and onion sets, sprouted celery plants from root cuttings, and kept potted marigolds blooming into October. My three huge philodendrons are running wild and I have to trim them back whenever they get long enough to reach out to grab me when I walk by. But for the life of me, I swear I can’t manage to keep an indoor cactus alive.
Maybe my problem is feeling sorry for the underdog. At my local garden center I always seem to end up with that lonely orphan cactus shoved into the far corner behind its more successful siblings. I want to love that little runty thing, nurture it, and watch it grow tall and strong. But alas, it always ends the same—my rescue cactus looks fine for a couple of weeks and then without warning withers into a spiny skeleton of its former self or turns pale and succumbs to some mysterious wound in its outer layer that I somehow did not notice even though I inspected the darn thing every day for a month.
I’ve tried nurturing and coddling my cacti, I’ve tried neglecting them, I’ve tried over- and underwatering them, sunning them, keeping them away from direct sun, and more. Nothing I do seems to make them happy. Maybe cacti aren’t my thing. Maybe I should stick to normal plants that actually respond to kindness and nurturing. But—why the hell can’t I make a cactus happy!?
When all but one of my latest acquisitions bit the dust (literally, and I don’t know why that remaining one is still alive) I stopped by the garden store again on my way home from work. All the cacti in the Succulents area cringed away from me, hoping the Angel of Death would pass them by, but in vain. I selected not the runt of the litter this time but a nice, round, fat and very green barrel cactus bursting with good health. I paid too much for it, brought it home, and as I set it down where countless other spiny denizens have perished I whispered into what looked a bit like its thorny ear, “good luck!”