This one simple step from two gardening pros can mean the difference between a flourishing plant and a brown one.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated April 30, 2018
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Gardening—indoors or outdoors—may not come with the same challenges as caring for, say, a pet or a baby, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like anything else, you have to put time and effort into tending to your greenery, or you’ll soon have a plant funeral to coordinate.

Real Simple spoke with Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit, the people behind gardening blog The Horticult and new book How to Window Box to find out how aspiring gardeners, succulent enthusiasts, and first-time plant parents can start their next planting attempt off right, and their answer was incredibly simple: Know what you’re planting.

“It’s about find the right plants that work for your space, that work for your light levels, and work for your lifestyle,” Gordon says. “It’s a matter of just finding the right match.”

Benoit agrees: “For beginners, I think that one of the most important things is knowing what type of plant you’re buying,” he adds. “It really helps to know what type of plant you’re buying, to know what light levels they need and what watering needs they have.”

Plants have varying light and water needs: Some need a lot of each, others need very little, and plenty lie somewhere in the middle. If your space, indoors or outdoors, gets very little light, you’ll need a plant that can thrive in that environment. And the only way of knowing what a plant needs to thrive is to know what plant you’re buying, which means you’ll need to do some research before you buy that cute succulent to find out exactly what species and genus it is.

The plant you want, maybe because your friend is growing one so successfully or because you saw a great picture of it online, may not be well-suited to your environment. Before you pay for a new plant, find out what the species needs, then give your space a good, honest look to determine if it’s capable of supporting that plant. If it’s not, you can always find another plant that will thrive there.