I’ve grown impatient with those people that tell me they just don’t have a green thumb. I lay a steely eye on them and tell them to admit that they just don’t care.
There is no magic dust sprinkled on a newborn babe that endows them with green thumbedness. It’s not a knack, it’s not talent, and it’s not in your genes. Plants thrive for people that take care of them. If you can’t grow a plant, any plant, then you should probably not be trusted with a puppy.
People “with green thumbs” learned the plant’s needs for soil, light and moisture, or lack of moisture. They might have started with researching this information, or they may have just paid attention. Plants tell people when they need things, and people who get that don’t try to make the plant fit into their schedule. I know a plant is likely doomed when a person asks “how often do I water it?” My standard reply, and yes, I know it is mean spirited, is “when it needs it”. I still worry about a high school greenhouse in Memphis after getting a phone call that went something like this.
“I’m the principal, and my horticulture teacher retired. Until we get another, it will be up to me to water the plants in the greenhouse, so I have set up an overhead irrigation system, and need to know how to set the timer for how long it needs to run it each day.”
Me: “By any chance, are all the plants the same kind and the same age, and in the same potting soil, and in identically sized pots, also are they getting exactly the same amount of sunlight across the entire house?
Principal (in an exasperated tone): “Heck no! There are a lot of different plants of different sizes, and I have no idea about the potting soil”.
Me: “Then you will kill many plants while keeping others alive. You should water by hand, checking daily with your finger and by weight, and watering only those that need it.”
Principal: “I don’t have time for that! Maybe I can get some help from the students, but that kind of advice is much too complicated for them. Just tell me how often to water!”
Me: “Sir, these are the students who signed up for the horticulture class? Then probably the most valuable thing they could learn is that plants have their own schedules, and are not required to fit into ours.”
That’s pretty much where it ended, and from the principal’s tone when we said goodbye, I’m pretty sure I didn’t win that one. Now and again, am image flickers in my mind’s eye of a stinking, soggy greenhouse ghosted with fungus gnats, with a few monstrous old fiddleleaf figs pushing at the roof, crying out for help. I should have used a more persuasive approach.
Those of us – and yes, I’ll claim one – with green thumbs don’t leave for work when the container plants are flagging, until those plants are watered. Yeah, sorry boss, I know the zoom meeting started twenty minutes ago, but my coleus were wilting, and the big potted begonia had to be moved from where it was getting too much sun, and the sedum was getting buried in oxalis. Sorry.
Maybe one day I will have a boss that appreciates that. Surely a smart boss would want a horticulturist with a green thumb.