While working in the garden, I found a damaged zinnia. It was totally bent over where the base of the plant connects with its’ roots.

I planted it, and packed mulch around the base. It seemed to be fine.

It made me think of a cactus I had about six years ago.

There was a high wind outside, so I carried the more fragile plants indoors. My cactus fell over as I placed it on the kitchen table. It damaged the top of one branch. I realized the branch was too damaged for the top of it to live, so I cut off the damaged area with scissors. I hated the fact that I had harmed the plant. Usually the scarred place is permanent.

I thought about what makes a plant grow. When photosynthesis occurs it is a combination of sunlight, water, and nutrients in the soil. Since things can be grown in a glucose solution in a petri dish, I decided to try that in a different way.

I wet the cut place on the cactus, and then liberally applied sugar to that area. Within four days, there were two new growths on the damaged area. Within nine to ten days, the new growth was about half an inch long. In three weeks’ time, the new branches were about an inch and a half long.

The new growths did grow oddly. They twisted and curled as they grew. At that point, I wish I had made a raw place between the new branches, sugared it, and filled that area with new life.

I counted that as a success, so I decided to try something else.

I thought of how people are taught to water a cactus sparingly. It is true that in nature they survive with very little water. I decided to water my cactus like a regular house plant. I put the pot in a saucer, and discarded the excess water immediately. I knew that over-watering would rot the cactus, so I would check it. I let the soil dry between waterings.

The cactus grew dramatically. Its branches grew about an inch longer in two weeks. It grew about half an inch taller per weeks.

I would advise anyone to not be afraid to try new things with their plants. I enjoyed the cactus so much and with help, it was a beauty.

This post is part of our Field Notes series written by survivors of intimate partner abuse.