Debunking the Green Thumb

“I don’t have a green thumb.”


“I killed a cactus. I can’t take care of plants.”


Have you ever said any of these things? Or have you ever heard someone say they don’t ‘green thumb’ as the reason for not being able to keep plants alive? Let me help you debunk this idea!


The origin of the phrase Green Thumb’s has a few plausible sources[1]:


  1. Its origin may be linked King Edward I of England, who enjoyed fresh green peas so much that he had half a dozen people working to keep the supply of peas abundant and constant. He also gave a prize to the worker with the ‘greenest thumb’, assuming that one with greenest thumbs would have worked the hardest and longest in from shelling the green peas;


  1. or it could also come from the fact that repeatedly handling terra cotta pots encrusted with algae will stain a gardener’s thumb (and probably fingers) green;


  1. other sources credit chlorophyll (the stuff that makes plants green) for the phrase that became popular in the early 1900s. It links green thumbs specifically to the green stains you’ll get under the fingernails and on the hands from handling and cutting lots of plants.


I’ve seen the later happen, so while it’s not the most romantic phrase origin, it’s probably the most accurate.


Right from the top, let’s get one thing clear: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEING BORN WITH A ‘GREEN THUMB’. The ability to make plants grow and be healthy is not a sacred knowledge or something you are born with. As it is clear from the phrase origin, having a green thumb has more to do with JUST BASICALLY TOUCHING A LOT OF GREEN THINGS.


My personal experience with the phrase, and gardening and plant ownership has been only changed an year ago. I used to consider myself extremely untalented and unable to attain the green thumb even after owning plants and trying my hands at gardening few times over the years. But my flaw was expecting myself to be good at it right from the start, when I had no idea what I was doing.


Our  final advice for beginners or those ‘without green thumbs’ who want to start?



  • Don’t let it stress you out – Having a home garden or even a plant is supposed to bring you peace, not stress you out. Don’t focus too much on a plant’s growth and fixate on little changes like a leaf falling out; remember that it’s a living thing that will grow with flaws and shed negativity, just like you.


Sustainable home gardening and plant ownership is about trial and error. No two plant people have the same techniques on how to take care of plants, and you will find many contradictory guides on the internet on the conditions right for each plant. But the true joy of being a plant person, is about experimentation. There really is no right and wrong way to do things (though there are a few basics!); but more a learning pathway where you find happiness in watching your surrounding grow with you.



[1] Origin taken from Bloomsbury International:

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