It doesn’t take a green thumb to give plants—indoor or outdoor—the attention they need to thrive.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated May 09, 2018
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If you’ve successfully managed to keep a potted plant—or even a whole garden’s worth of plants—alive, you may consider yourself to be a green thumb. Alternately, if you’ve yet to find a plant you couldn’t kill, you may believe that you’re an unlucky black thumb, someone who (despite best intentions) consistently fails at keeping plants alive and thriving.

If you fall in the latter category, luckily for you, some gardening pros don’t believe in black thumbs … or even in green thumbs.

“We’ve come to realize that the green thumb thing is a myth,” Chantal Aida Gordon of gardening blog The Horticult told Real Simple.

“It’s all about how much time you spend really researching and just getting to know your plants and being attentive to them,” Ryan Benoit, the other mind behind The Horticult, said. “A lot of it’s about awareness, looking at them, and being responsive to little changes.”

The pair acknowledged that, like with any activity, some people develop a knack for gardening more quickly than others, but also said it’s not a gardening deal-breaker.

“Some people are—I won’t say there’s a green thumb—but some people are just very intuitive,” Benoit said. “They’re just good at it. I don’t know what it is: Some people can learn it quicker than others.”

But even if plant parenting doesn’t come to you naturally at first, there’s a way to catch up to those so-called green thumbs. Gordon and Benoit encourage beginning gardeners to do their research before buying a new plant.

“When you don’t know anything about a plant … it can sometimes be confusing,” Benoit said. “A lot of people have failures mostly because of a lack of light, and then they compound the problem by adding water because they think adding water helps. The less light you have, the less water you need: Those go hand-in-hand. A lot of this is understanding some basics about plants, knowing what plants you have so you know their needs. Once you figure that out, you should have more success.”

The key is to find plants that work for your space and lifestyle. (Like these indoor detoxing plants or these curb appeal–boosting outdoor plants.)

“That might be succulents if you’re not into watering, if you’re more into loving neglect,” Gordon said. “If you’re more of a helicopter plant parent [and your space doesn’t have] a lot of light, maybe your succulents might die, and you’ll realize that you and ferns are a match made in heaven.”

Finding the right fit may take some time, but once you’re surrounded by flourishing greenery, you’ll be glad you did. For more plant tips, check out Gordon and Benoit’s new book, How to Window Box,available now.