I live in New York City, where green space comes at a hefty premium, and, being a city girl through and through, living in my hovel of brick, concrete, and plaster never bothered me much 鈥 that is, until the houseplant trend hit. Scrolling through Pinterest and magazines, I found myself deeply envious of other folks鈥 jungalows, because, yes, the grass was actually greener on the other side. Unfortunately for me, I had whatever the opposite of a green thumb might be. When the succulent trend hit its peak, I probably killed three or so of my own. (Turns out, succulents are a much harder plant to sustain than their reputation lets on 鈥 more on that later.)

But I was hell-bent on earning the right to wear one of those 鈥淐razy Plant Lady鈥 shirts, so I turned to the experts: specifically UrbanStems Plants and Gifts Category Manager Tugce Menguc. The first thing Menguc told me was that I was owning the wrong kinds of plants. My one-bedroom in midtown faces north and gets barely any light, except through one sad little window, which is why all my succulents were dying (though the three on the sill are still hanging in there).

鈥淚 hear it a lot because of the [succulent] craze. People often come to me and say, 鈥業 got this succulent and it鈥檚 not doing too great. What can I do?'鈥 Menguc tells me. 鈥淪ucculents actually need a lot of sunlight and a low amount of water. They鈥檙e a desert plant, which is actually kind of a misnomer, because people are like, 鈥楾hey鈥檙e easy plants. No big deal!鈥 But we found succulents don鈥檛 do that well in any kind of indoor condition unless you have indirect access to sunlight.鈥 Yikes, well that explains a lot. So what would thrive in my dark, cave-like space?

Menguc suggested that I look into some hardier varieties, like the snake plant or the pothos plant. The reason these darker green, leafy species do better in low-light conditions than their paler green brethren is that they鈥檙e extremely efficient at photosynthesizing sunlight. Another bonus of these photosynthesizing machines is that you don鈥檛 need to water them much. 鈥淲hen you have low light conditions, it also means you have to water your plant less, because they鈥檙e photosynthesizing less, and therefore do not need as much water pulled up from their roots to grow and generate new leaves,鈥 Meguc explains. 鈥淒ark leafy plants actually require little attention 鈥 and actually do better with a little bit of neglect.鈥

As someone who travels a lot, I also wondered about care when I鈥檓 gone. Menguc gave some options on how to keep my leafy friends watered. One way to was to invest in a watering globe that you plug into the soil: When your plant is thirsty, it will draw from the reserve of water in the bulb. Another DIYable method is to cut a piece of string and place one end in the dirt and the other in a cup of water. It works the same way as the watering globe, and your plants will stay watered when you鈥檙e out of town. The third method, though, is to hit up a pal. 鈥淔or vacation, this could actually be a great time to give your plant a little more light, if you have a friend who happens to live someplace with more sun who wouldn鈥檛 mind plant-sitting,鈥 says Menguc with a laugh.

So my first acquisition was a snake plant, which I ordered from Amazon. Then, UrbanStems sent me their gorgeous juniper plant, The Lincoln, and I was on my way to houseplant heaven. One of the key things I learned from Menguc in terms of watering my new windowsill garden is that it鈥檚 actually better to under-water than overwater. 鈥淢ost plants actually die because their roots are molding or are getting flooded with water,鈥 she shares. 鈥淭he rule of thumb is to let your plant completely dry out before you water it again.鈥 She does also have a pro tip on how she likes to keep her plant babies hydrated, though this is definitely an extra step: 鈥淢y favorite way to water is actually to take the plant out of the pot, putting it in [the] sink and letting the water dribble through, like if you kept it in the grower鈥檚 pot. Let it sit and absorb as much water as it can, and then put it back into the pot that you鈥檙e keeping it in.鈥

And so far, it鈥檚 been going swimmingly. (Except for my plant roots. They鈥檙e definitely not swimming in anything, because they鈥檙e finally getting properly watered.) I鈥檝e learned to be equal parts patient and attentive. I do as Menguc suggests, feeling the soil every few days to see how dry it is, and I鈥檝e cut down the watering to just once every two weeks or so. I turn my plants regularly so that each side gets its share of sunlight through my one little window. And sometimes I talk to my plants (though when I do, my dog looks at me like I鈥檓 crazy). I鈥檝e also developed a new addiction to cute planters and am looking to expand my crop.

I have to say, it brings me a lot of joy to wake up and see some greenery in front of my window. There鈥檚 not only a sense that I鈥檓 properly #adulting here, but also, I get a connection to the outside that was previously missing. It鈥檚 a connection I hadn鈥檛 realized I needed until it arrived, but boy, am I glad it鈥檚 here. Time to order that shirt.

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(Photos via Kimberly Wang; featured photo via Getty)