Green Thumb Plant Care


Some people just seem to have a knack for growing lush, healthy plants. Others insist that they can wilt greenery to burnt blackness just by looking at it. Having a "green thumb" is not just a matter of luck; with the right information, skills and techniques, anyone can learn to encourage plant growth.

What Plants Need

Whether from instinct or research, green-thumbed individuals know how to provide plants with what they need. The basics break down into a very few parts: light, water and nutrients. The light can come from the sun or artificial bulbs. Nutrients are often available in soil, other mediums or even in hydroponic solutions. Plants that have their basic needs met will thrive wherever they are, or with whomever they are.


The knowledge of a plant's essential needs and providing them isn't quite enough to ensure lush growth. For instance, every would-be gardener can read that water is important to foliage; in fact, plants are composed of about 85 percent water. However, a "green thumb" knows when the water should be applied, and when it should not. Some "black thumbs" overwater and end up drowning the poor plants. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.


Speaking of "too much of a good thing," many "black thumbs" make the mistake of thinking that if a little nutrition is good for the plant, more must be better. This is akin to assuming that since iron is good for our bodies, then we should eat a nail a day. Yes, plants need nutrients in order to grow, but too much nitrogen could actually harm the plant, making it literally look like it has been burnt. Be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions when applying fertilizer to plants.

Timing is Everything

Once the basics are covered, make sure they stay covered. Many growers mean well, and plants initially flourish under their care. Unfortunately, after the initial effort to get their flora established, "black thumbs" have a tendency to move on to other things, and neglect the plants thereafter. For instance, they may forget to hydrate the plant until it wilts. By then, optimal growth may never be restored; smaller roots may have died back, and the wilt may have cut off circulation to the outermost leaves for too long. Likewise, inadequate soil fertility can result in stunted growth and no flower development.

Be in a Relationship

Green thumbs treat their plants like life-long friends. They check their charges regularly to spot and treat problems like pests or infections early on, before they become life-threatening. They notice if the plant is out-growing its pot and take the necessary steps to move it to more spacious quarters. They move the plant to protection if a frost is expected. They take the time to learn about the particular plant, so they know precisely how to best feed and care for it to encourage new growth. In short, "green thumbs" aren't really born, they're grown.

Keywords: green thumb, green thumb gardening, growing plants

About this Author

Elise Cooke's first book, "Strategic Eating, The Econovore's Essential Guide" came out in 2008. The UC Davis international relations graduate's second book, winner of the 2009 Best Books USA Green Living Award, is "The Grocery Garden, How Busy People Can Grow Cheap Food." Her third book, "The Miserly Mind, 12 1/2 Secrets of the Freakishly Frugal," will be out early in 2010.