This is part of our series PLANT PPL, where we interview people of color in the plant world.
Back in 2016, the PlantKween of Instagram noticed something: "I didn't see any Black, queer, femme, nonbinary folks expressing their joy," @PlantKween, a.k.a. Christopher Griffin, told us. So they started sharing their own.
Since then Griffin has built a following of more than 180,000 with an infectious smile and community building through plants. Griffin uses their platform and background in education to inspire others to care for plants and care for themselves. From Brooklyn, N.Y., Griffin is NYU’s LGBTQ+ Center assistant director, a collaborator with the plant subscription service Horti, plant influencer and the subject of a recent profile on Vogue.com.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When and why did you start your account @plantkween?
It all started with my grandmother. She was the gardener of the family; she was the original plant queen. She really inspired me to embrace gardening and plants and the joy of it all.
I bought my first houseplant four years ago. I picked a plant that was struggling the most, and I was like if I can make this plant thrive and grow, then I can grow and allow myself to continue on this journey. I still have to have her to this day. She's my pride and joy.
I'm a nerd. I'm an educator. I love learning, and to me this was an opportunity to learn and explore. I just jumped into the scene, exploring different plant shops, Googling different plants. It was this big adventure that I was having with myself.
At that time, I found myself documenting my process. I started posting on Instagram. I wanted to share my journey, and I realized that there were people that I was following at the time that didn't look like me. I didn't see any Black, queer, femme, nonbinary folks expressing their joy. I knew they were out there, but at the time I couldn't find them. So it grew and blossomed into this fun platform to connect with folks and really just share my journey.
Many folks first impression upon meeting me is that I was a theatre kween in high school or college ... she’s extroverted and expressive, hunty! 💃🏽 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ While this kween can be dramatic and lives for theatre and live performances 🎭 ... I’ve never stepped upon the stage in that way. So where does this kween get it from?! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Well, dahling, she has her beautiful family to thank for that! 💚 Not only did my parents allow me to exist authentically and unapologetically in my femmeness when I was a young aspiring kween ... I also grew up around a bunch of my family members who are Deaf, and learned sign language at a very young age. One of my earliest memories is reciting the alphabet in sign language to my dad before I went to bed. I, myself, have a hearing loss, and wear hearing aids in certain social settings! And so I grew up in a family where we literally wore our emotions on our sleeves, our arms, our hands, our fingers and our facial expressions to communicate with each other. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When I disclose that I have a hearing loss some ask if I could change one thing about myself, would it be to have 100% of my hearing. I always tell them that I love my hearing loss because it allows me to connect with the language, communication, and sound in a beautiful, intentionally meaningful, and personal way. I would never change any parts of me, because the sum of every intricate detail is uniquely me 🤗 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Strutting into this #monsteramonday like she does every single day ... embracing all parts of my Black queer differently-abled non-binary femme bawdy, hunty 💃🏽💚🌿 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Hope the start of the week is everything you need it to be to feel powerful in your voice, bawdy and spirit, dahling ... cuz the werk continues ✊🏾🏳️🌈❤️ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 📸 @welcometothejunglehome
A post shared by CHRISTOPHER 🌱 (He/She/They) (@plantkween) on Jun 15, 2020 at 5:13am PDT
You have more than 180,000 followers. How has your page grown since launching?
I really have just been having fun with it. Social media can become very tiresome and overwhelming, and I never wanted to get to that point. Taking breaks has allowed me to just enjoy it and share organically and authentically. I bring my raw self to the platform and share from a place of joy. That’s what I want to do, just share the joy that plants have brought to my life.
What kind of response have you received from the Black and queer community?
It's been lovely. I'm a nurturer, I'm an educator, so this is just what I do, and it's sometimes weird to get praise from things I just enjoy doing. I don't feel like I'm doing anything big. I'm just being me. The response has been amazing, I've been able to connect with amazing and beautiful people. I've been able to learn so much. Amazing opportunities have come my way. It's been a beautiful ride.
What's the biggest tip you can give to plant parents?
I always say, lead with a sense of curiosity. Whenever I welcome a plant into my home, I'm doing research and investigating what are the things that I need to do in order to care for this particular plant. How I can help this particular plant thrive, its origin, its history, learning all that information.
Just enjoy the process of learning. It also allows you to learn about yourself. I've learned so much about myself and how I care for other beings and other things. And that has enabled me to look at how I treat my own body. Am I drinking enough water? Am I getting enough sunlight? Am I being patient with myself as I grow? What are the things that I need to grow? What’s my fertilizer? It's been quite a journey.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I'm hoping I can get to a point where it's not all on Instagram and that there are other opportunities, whether that's opening up my own plant shop or building my own greenhouse, traveling the world, sharing different houseplants from plant parents around the world and visiting conservatories. That would be the dream. I’m putting that into the universe.
What’s your favorite plant?
I would have to say the snake plant is probably my favorite. I have over 25 of them and a couple different varieties. They’re just really resilient and hardy. I think they’re the best plant for beginner plant care. They can survive in a multitude of situations, from low light to high light. You don't need to water them as often. They're self-sustaining in a lot of ways. Their shapes and colors of their leaves come in a ton of varieties.