What does It Mean to Have a Green Thumb?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Someone who is a good gardener, or good at caring for plants is said to have a green thumb. People like this often have a special knack for making just about any type of plant grow well. This quality is certainly beneficial in gardening and farming since healthy thriving plants are necessary to make any profit. Many of those that are said to have a green thumb really love plants and have a garden and/or houseplants.

The term, green thumb refers to the chlorophyll in plants which gives plants their green color. When the thumb and forefinger are used to pinch back plants to allow for new growth, chlorophyll may sometimes stain the hands green. This is said to be how the term originated.

Some people say that having a green thumb means a person has a natural ability to grow plants well. Others say having one can also be learned, such as understanding growing climates for certain plants and how much water and sun different plants need. In any case, people that have a green thumb have more successes growing plants than they have failures.

Many people that try to follow directions about water, light and soil still have no or limited success in trying to make their plants flourish. People that don't seem to be able to grow plants well are said to have a brown or black thumb. This refers to the colors plants turn when they are dead.


People with a green thumb may own their own plant nursery and/or be an expert speaker or writer about the subject of growing plants. They may specialize in growing certain species of plants such as tropicals. A person with a talent for plants may also have an outdoor and/or indoor garden or a greenhouse.


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Post 2

I have a flatmate with several plants, all of which are dying or close to death. I don't think that she has a green thumb in the least, though I appreciate that she keeps trying.

Post 1

I wish I had a green thumb. Every plant I try to take care of, with the exception of my cactus, dies a slow death no matter how much I water it. I'm suspicious that plants can actually tell whether or not you feel comfortable taking care of them.

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