Beginner gardeners kill over half of their plants – but experience improves this 'death rate'

If you thought you were uniquely bad at keeping plants alive, take comfort in new research that proves you're not alone

Beautiful, colourful flowers in an English cottage summer garden with sunflowers, Zinnia and grasses in soft sunshine
(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography/ Getty)

Many beginner gardeners tend to think that they are especially prone to killing plants. Many a new gardener has said something like 'I just seem to be unable to keep them alive', or 'there's not point me carrying on because all the plants will die.' 

New research proves that however bad you think you are at keeping plants alive, you are most likely no different to the majority of new gardeners (and well over a third of experienced gardeners, for that matter). Whether your ambition is to grow your own or to establish some stunning flowerbed ideas, if things aren't going according to plan, don't be discouraged – it's normal. 

Gardening gloves and flowers

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The research comes from a Home Advisor survey of over 1,000 US gardeners and reveals that all gardeners lose some of their plants every year. On average, gardeners said that they lost 35 percent of their plants, but for those who are just starting out on their gardening journey, that figure was twice as high. This means losing the vast majority of what you've planted. 

Home Advisor further told us that newbies who had been gardening for less than a month reported that, on average, they'd killed about half their plants. On the other hand, experienced gardeners who had been gardening for over a year reported killing only 24 percent of their plants – less than half that of inexperienced gardeners. 

A garden with tulips and hyacinth

(Image credit: Rosemary Calvert/ Getty)

There also appears to be a correlation between a gardener's location and their success in growing plants. Gardeners who live in cities generally have more trouble keeping their plants alive than those living in rural and suburban areas. Urban gardeners reported that 43 percent of their plants had died, compared with 30 percent for those living rurally.

There are all sorts of reasons why gardening in the city results in more plants dying, from urban pollution to the fact that people who live in cities tend to have less time to look after their garden design ideas. However, it's important to remember that where you live is not the decisive factor in whether your garden will thrive –experience is. 

The research shows how dramatic the improvements are even during the very first year of gardening. Choosing the best plants for beginners is likely to reduce your plant death rate if you're just starting out – many don't require much care at all. 

And if half of your plants are dead by the end of your first month of gardening, don't give up! The only way you'll get better at it is by persevering and learning what different plants need to not just survive but thrive. 

Anna writes about interior design and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.