Caelie Wilkes was proud she had successfully cared for her succulent for about two years — after all, she had accidentally killed a similar plant in the past.
This time, after getting the plant as a gift, she looked up how to properly care for it. She regularly watered the succulent; when others tried to help, she became protective, fearing they would overwater it.
It seemed to pay off; the plant always looked amazing. Rejuvenated by the success of her first plant, Wilkes — a mother of two from Willits, California, northwest of Sacramento — started accumulating more.
In late February, she decided it was time to repot it, and that’s when she made the discovery that has led to international attention: The plant, her original plant, was plastic.
There were no roots below the surface — only Styrofoam.
The discovery was “heartbreaking, but so funny,” she told USA TODAY on Thursday. Mostly, she laughed at herself.
“It was … just an overall perfect plant. I had it up in my kitchen window,” her post read.
“I put so much love into this plant! I washed it’s leaves. Tried my hardest to keep it looking it’s best, and it’s completely plastic! How did I not know this.”
That story resonated with thousands of people, and soon she began getting requests for interviews from around the world. Her plastic plant was featured on national TV multiple times, she said.
“A lot of people make small mistakes like this all the time,” she mused.
The attention has been mostly positive. She’s glad her mistake has brought other people joy. It’s not like all of her plants were fake — just the first one, she said.
She hopes to turn the story into a children’s book for her kids, who are both currently under 3 years of age.
As for the fake plant, Wilkes decided to go ahead and repot it anyway.
She’s “not going to give up on it now.”
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