How To Repot A Cactus

Diego Rivera, "Landscape with Cactus" (1931) (image via The Guardian)

This is an article which was originally found in Vitalik's Botanical Occupation and Subjugation Manual, 7th Edition. I discovered it while rummaging around the house of a neighbor who had recently died. Nestled under an oriental rug, the book did not call to me but rather drew me in with an essence I, to this day, cannot describe. I have not been able to find a copy since and consider myself lucky to have found this one as it has provided me hours of enjoyment and untold benefits in terms of botanical endeavors. It is translated from the original Russian.

First, a word on cactuses: I cannot speak for the entire genus because it is a vast and varied creature. I can tell you from experience that there is no plant more thrilling and invigorating to raise. I have spent countless hours at my window, alongside this majestic specimen watching and listening as it reaches for the sun; calling out for those nourishing rays; creaking and straining to feel just one more second of dawn's rosy fingers. I long to be a centimeter tall so that I may spend the rest of my days climbing its thistles, swinging from jagged limb to jagged limb and sliding down the sleek green grooves of its thick hide. From Opuntia littoralis to Sesuvium portulacastrum, I love them all. I hold no prejudice towards the towering Pachycereus pringlei or the psychedelic Lophophora williamsii.

The first step is to find a cactus with which you can truly relate. They are quiet. They are a hardy and humble group. They do not need the constant attention that is required by other flora that I will not name here. You could have one living in your home and you would never even notice. Check your attic or perhaps behind your gate. These beings can usually be found in a dry climate.

Once you have found your partner for the repotting exercise, bring it to a nice place. Somewhere peaceful and vast, preferably a location with music playing; they enjoy Debussy but any impressionist should work. Sit it down and explain what you are about to do. This will most likely be difficult for both of you, especially if it is your first time. Let it know that you are in this together.

When you are ready, strike! Grasp it not only with your hands but with your desire. Feel the needles sink into your hand, each individual point pressing into your palm as it screams in pain. Feel its pain and in turn let it feel the pain that you feel for it. There is no turning back now. Now you are one with the plant. Lift it up in exaltation and feel the sun shower down upon you, feel it turn the carbon monoxide in your stomach into sweet, sweet sugars. Shake the old soil from its roots, let them swing freely in the air. Spin, turn, run, jump! Let this being live for a little bit as you are so lucky to be able to live. Take it on a trip to the park. Swing with your cactaceaic appendage. Let the cactus know what it means to love and to suffer under the burden of having to breathe.

When you feel that it has had enough (you will know this by the endorphins released from the thorns), return home. Find a pot large enough for the both of you and sit inside it. First step onto the base, bend over and slowly bring your knees towards your chest. Throw your arms and the cactus over your knees so that you are once again in the position reminiscent of the womb from whence you came. You will know it by feel. Have a friend pour a bag of freshly dug topsoil over both of you. Feel it between your toes. Feel the nutrients being absorbed into your legs. Feel relief as you are finally forgiven the burden of gravity. Be sure to hold the cactus at an appropriate level. Finally, let the soil enter your nose and mouth; it is now your turn to give the cactus your nutrients and you cannot properly break down unless you fill your body with dirt. If you prefer, you may keep your eyes above the soil so that you may watch as you truly dedicate yourself to a worthy cause.

Keep in sunlight, water once every three weeks. Repeat after body has been fully decomposed and absorbed.

Brendan McInerney