Would ordering a plant from The Sill help give me a green thumb?
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By all accounts, I should be a great plant mom. I’m nurturing, I enjoy the outdoors, and I’m around my home often enough that tending to its needs shouldn’t be an issue. In practice, however, the moment I cross the threshold into my apartment, plant in hand, a death knell tolls. The end is nigh.
I’ll water it too often. Or lose track of time and forget altogether. And while we’re on the topic, how much water am I even supposed to be using? (I assume just pouring out the last few sips from an old water bottle is frowned upon?) I know plants need light, but I can’t help myself from giving them a home on a side table in the corner. Do aesthetics count for nothing?
Then one day, while scrolling through my Instagram feed of friends who manage to keep children and pets healthy on a daily basis, I spotted a post about The Sill, an online plant retailer aimed at helping the growing number of would-be apartment-dwelling gardeners like myself.
I read the slogan: Can’t kill it. Just try. Oh, really? Challenge accepted.
Choosing a plant was difficult because I wanted them all. Each and every one of The Sill’s offerings looks like it’s ready to start its own Instagram account. Planters—which aren’t included, but are worth it if you’re someone who doesn’t have extra pots laying around—have simple silhouettes and muted colors in pastels and neutrals to fit into any home’s style.
I wanted something more challenging than a succulent—although I’ve killed plenty of those—but I wasn’t ready to jump into a high-maintenance relationship. I perused the plants for beginners and landed on a small, 4.5-inch-tall ZZ plant in a pale grey Grant planter for $41, one that uses a French-drain configuration with lava rocks to eliminate the need for a drainage hole, where water and soil can pool over time—one less thing to clean. Plus, opting for a plant already in its planter eliminated the need to transplant upon arrival.
ZZ plants, the on-page biography explains, hail from eastern Africa and thrive in medium to low indirect light. They only need watering once every two weeks, which seemed about on par with the level of attention they’d be getting from me. But just to be safe, I tacked on an additional $10 Summer Plant Care workshop (akin to one of the workshops currently available) to learn a few tips.
My little plant configuration is unfortunately no longer available online, but this small ZZ plant is identical aside from its more square August planter. (Set on the Grant planter? Size up two inches to this medium, 6.7-inch-tall ZZ plant.)
Having already grown attached to my plant baby, I was nervous about the shipping process. Plants seem delicate to start—could they really withstand a few days of rough transit? The answer, thankfully, is yes. Wrapped in plenty of bubble wrap and packing materials, my ZZ plant arrived picture-perfect in just over 24 hours after I placed the order.
Once the plant was unpacked, I followed the instructions to give it an initial water and a name. The second part was decidedly harder, but after making a list of plant-centric names, I dubbed her Branche Devereaux after one of my favorite characters on The Golden Girls.
It being a Friday, I then abandoned Branche on my desk at work for a long weekend, during which time she survived perfectly fine. But I decided to take the plant home to my apartment; leaving it on my desk would be too much of a daily reminder that she needed water, sunlight, and general care. My apartment, on the other hand, would be a more realistic test of my attentiveness—and satisfy my desire to have more plants in my living space.
The journey home was enough to speak to this plant’s hardiness. I carried it in my arms as I walked in 92-degree weather to the bus, where it sat on my lap in extra-long traffic. Off the bus, it was more walking in the heat to reach my apartment. The plant fared better than I did, and soon it was nestled next to my current batch of succulents at home.
Keeping this ZZ plant alive has proven mostly uneventful. Maybe it’s because it’s larger in size than my typical succulents, or maybe it’s because I always had this testing assignment on my mind, but I never truly forgot about having to take care of it.
Per the instructions in the Summer Plant Care workshop—something that was no more helpful than the free resources already available on The Sill’s website, and not worth the $10—I placed it in indirect light, watered it once every two weeks or so (as best as I could remember on my own), and rotated it to give all sides equal access to sunlight. There was one instance where a vacation away would push me into the three-week zone for watering and I returned to a plant that was ever-so-slightly drooping. A quick watering and she perked right back up.
There was one other reason that could have kept this plant top of mind, and therefore less likely that I’d neglect it: Over the span of three months, I received nearly 60 marketing emails from The Sill, announcing with emoji-filled subject lines new plants, details about its monthly subscription service, information on virtual plant consultations, and a profile of someone dubbed a “plantfluencer.”
There was also an email about plant-themed baby onesies, just one offering in The Sill’s non-botanical gifts that also include a Plant Lady necklace, Plants Make People Happy T-shirts and tote bags, and even a botany cross stitch kit. While I give The Sill credit for creating merchandise and gifting opportunities that are actually stylish and, dare I say, cool, the email campaigns are a bit too much for someone who had already purchased something in the first place.
After being a plant mom for a full three months now, I’m happy to report that there’s nothing to report. The plant is alive and looking great despite me being a tad forgetful, perhaps heavy-handed with the air conditioning on more than one occasion, and generally not interfering too much. If anything, there were times I had to remind myself not to water it, that overwatering was just as bad—or worse—than underwatering.
And throughout all of this, my ZZ plant became a welcome addition to my living room, and something that garnered plenty of compliments from guests. And while I’d likely skip purchasing a workshop again, I’d buy another Sill plant in a heartbeat. First, it’s fairly comparable in price to a less-trendy version from Home Depot. In both cases, it's less expensive to purchase the plant itself in a more temporary (and less attractive) pot, but it does require more effort to move it to its forever home.
Plus, The Sill has so many different sizes to choose from, not to mention even more colors and styles for the planters, and I feel confident in the resources available to keep me informed and on track should I encounter any issues.
Would I now consider my thumb any greener than before? Not quite, but having Branche thrive for a few months now is enough to give me the confidence to keep at it.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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