This Online Plant Seller Helped Me Fake Having a Green Thumb

published Apr 27, 2023
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Houseplants have been in style for centuries, but over the past few years they’ve become cornerstones of a pulled-together room, like art on walls and throw pillows on sofas. If you’ve got an empty corner, the advice is often to fill it with a plant.

And while style-wise that’s usually a great call, there’s just one problem: Plants require care. 

Leaves need to be pruned, sunlight needs to be accounted for, and water has to be slurped up in regular intervals. For me, it was all pretty easy to overlook. “I’ll water the plants tomorrow,” I’d tell myself as I remembered them in the corner of a dark room just before bed. And then tomorrow turned into the next day, which turned into the next day, which finally became a plant that peaced out in protest to a garden in the sky. 

When I saw an ad for easyplant a few months ago, I knew I wasn’t the only one with residual guilt about not always being able to keep plants alive. The company sells a range of photosynthesis-loving products directly to consumers, and it was created after its founders acknowledged their own history with accidentally killing plants. Every option — smaller ones start at $49, larger ones go for $249, and discounted collections are available — is delivered by mail in a self-watering pot, which encases roots and soil in a two-layer watering system. 

There’s an opening on the top of the pot where water can be poured into an outer layer, and then that water gradually seeps into the soil within the second, inner layer. According to easyplant, this reservoir makes it possible for owners to not water their ferns or palms for as long as 30 days.

I loved the prospect of having a healthy-looking plant regardless of my well-intentioned neglect, so I asked easyplant if I could give it a go. They very kindly mailed a fiddle leaf fig and a monstera in my choice of matching cream pots (there are a rainbow of options to consider), and when they were delivered I marveled at how well they were packaged. Cutting them away from the boxes and positioning them into place took only a few minutes, and then after a minute or two more of filling the reservoirs, I felt a distinct ping of pride that Hilton Carter must get at least once a day: Because these plants are alive in my home, I must have my stuff together. 

Credit: Kelly Dawson

Because the leaves were tightly bound in transit, it took them a couple of weeks to relax in this new environment. I positioned them in spots that get plenty of sunlight — the easyplant website shares best practices for all varieties — and went about my business. As the days turned into weeks and nothing happened, I peeked into the pots to see if water was slowly dissolving. It was. I also got in touch with Frank McDonough, a botanical consultant at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, to make sure I wasn’t headed for a future episode of plant “Dateline” anytime soon.

McDonough told me I still need to check the plants for signs of distress, like browning leaves, and to make sure that the reservoir stays pristine. “The reservoir itself can become contaminated with plant rotting organisms and should be cleaned, if possible, on a regular basis,” he says. And while I happened to have chosen plants that prefer a lot of water, he advises that not all varieties will feel the same way.

“Succulents, cactus, and other low-water plants can be killed by such pots, as they might not dry out soon enough to prevent the plants from rotting out,” McDonough notes. 

Credit: Erin Derby

It’s been well over a month since these verdant, thriving, beacons of self-sufficiency became the darlings of my living room, and they look as good as they did when they first arrived. I did have an issue with fungus gnats — solved with neem oil — and a few leaves dropped from the fiddle leaf that I’m shrugging off as self-pruning. But I’ve set a two-week check and one-month watering alarms on my phone to stay vigilant, and I have a good feeling that my plants and I are going to be just fine. (And if not, easyplant offers a 90-day guarantee.)

Credit: Kelly Dawson

“We conduct extensive testing to ensure that each plant we offer thrives in our self-watering system,” Elisheva Manekin, head of product marketing for easyplant, says. “We also use different wicks depending on the size of the plant to avoid root-rot issues. As long as you’re following the watering instructions that arrive with your plant, overwatering should not be an issue.”

Turns out, all I needed to turn me from a serial plant killer to a bonafide green thumb were some pots that functioned as guard rails to insure against my own neglect.