A cult LA cacti store now has a location in New York — at least for the season. So, while the sun shines, check out Cactus Store’s Lower East Side popup site and admire its collection of exotic cacti — which run anywhere from $30 to $4,000, if you’re interested in taking one home and making it your own.
Most of the cacti on display are rare, including a few that are part of a private collection and not for sale. All the plants were shipped from California, but drawn from across the world, especially South America and the American southwest. “True cacti,” as distinguished from related flora, are always from the New World, explained manager Han Wang.
Cactus Store’s collection includes several “mutations” — cacti that have grown into strange shapes — and “grafts,” where two plants fuse together and one plant draws its water and nutrients from the other.
As with Susan Orlean’s famous orchid thief, the cacti world has its own obsessives. Hobbyists travel great lengths and endure great hardship just to photograph (and not take) a rare plant. “There are people who will hike three days just to sleep next to their favorite plant,” explained Wang.
In fact, the creators of Cactus Store are also producing a forthcoming book, Xerophile: Cactus Photographs from Expeditions of the Obsessed — a 350-page collection of high-resolution photos taken by cacti enthusiasts.
Perhaps this makes cacti sound unnecessarily intimidating to the novice. Despite their exoticism, cacti are, of course, generally easy to take care of; that’s part of their appeal. Wang recommends cacti owners take an attitude of “beautiful neglect” or “observant neglect.” Generally cacti need very little water but a good deal of sun.
What about meddling cats and dogs? “Most of the time they learn their lesson after the first time,” said Wang. He also warned that some cacti secrete a white liquid that causes humans and animals to have an allergic reaction.
The Cactus Store team can box and wrap small cacti for people planning to lug theirs home on the subway. Some of the larger pieces — such as one $4,000, six-foot-tall plant which needs four people just to move — may require more logistical groundwork.
The Cactus Store is located at 5 Essex St., near the East Broadway F stop, in a small custom-built greenhouse at the back of an empty lot. It is open 11am to 7pm Tues. through Sun., and will remain open all summer and close “at first frost.”