When COVID-19 forced the country to slow down, plant ownership hit an all time high. Gen Zers and Millennials particularly seem to appreciate the improved air quality, the beauty, and even the company houseplants offer. But for Black plant parents, plant ownership comes with the added benefit of a fresh, growing community.
There has been an explosion of social media accounts exclusively dedicated to Black plant ownership and their follower counts are flourishing. It’s easy to see why; during such uncertain times having an entire community of people have at least one coping skill in common can mean everything. Plant-tending can be a necessary relief in times like these, where long overdue conversations about white supremacy are finally being had. As the pervasive nature of white supremacy and its impacts become more known to our country as a whole, it’s even more difficult to find places to escape it for a time. Many Black people are finding that closing the gap between themselves and nature is a reliable source of relief, grounding, and connection.
The art of growing and bonding with plants is a wonderfully effective treatment for processing trauma. Though threats to Black humanity have always been present, later generations have uncovered the dog whistles, unconscious biases, and racist systems that power our very republic and revealed them for all the world to see, no longer hidden behind a curtain of structural violence and normalized anti-blackness. The work of exposing the truth and unlearning internalized oppression is incredibly involved and laborious work. So if you are tired like most people are tired, and worried like most people are worried, having a place where you can feel safe talking about plants or politics can make all the difference.
I recently caught up with Jade, the Atlanta-based founder and cultivator of the popular Instagram account and podcast Black Plant Chick. Her account is full of beautiful plant photos, words of encouragement, and helpful tips, and her expertise has been sought by media and organizations including House Beautiful, Refinery29, and The Society of American Florists. What’s invaluable about her approach is that Jade links plant parenthood with generational healing, affirmations, and community building. Yet even though these are heavy issues, Jade’s approach to them is light and comforting. It’s rare to find a creator who has successfully found that balance. During our email correspondence, she shared with me her history of plant ownership, why the Black plant parent community is the greatest, and why she believes that plants saved her.
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: What led you to start your Instagram account?
JADE: Plants allowed me to pivot at a time in my life when I wasn’t certain about what I was doing. I am a sex-positive advocate and before Black Plant Chick, I had a erotic storytelling podcast called Passion After Dark. I was also an event curator. Don’t be mistaken, I loved the work and was really successful at it, but it wasn’t really fulfilling. After a while I got so drained that I could barely show up for the people in my life who needed me the most. I was giving away so many of my emotional resources that at the end of the day, there was almost nothing left for me.
So when I finally pivoted into planting, it was a long-overdue escape for me. It started out as a hobby; as I collected more plants, I created an Instagram account so that I could share them and catalog their progress. My intention at the time was not to turn this into a brand. I really just needed something to do that felt good, that didn’t make me feel as burned out. Tending to plants felt good, sharing pictures of them felt good, and engaging with my followers about their plants felt good. And so the Black Plant Chick was born.
Working with plants helped me realize that putting myself first should always be a priority. So that’s exactly what I did. It’s why I walked away from the brand I built as an erotic creative. Outside of having my child, it has been the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done. Plants gave me more to live for, and helped me slow down enough to recognize that I need myself too. They made me realize that I needed to heal and get in touch with my inner child. They have taught me patience, curiosity, and wonder, and I know they aren’t finished. I’m so excited to see what they teach me next.
Have you always had a green thumb, or was it something you had to cultivate? What is the history of your plant parenthood?
Yes, I did, but I never took advantage of it. I believe my father passed down the “green thumb” to me. I remember being in the garden with him as a kid. Back then all I wanted to do was play with my friends so helping my father plant flowers felt like a chore. I didn’t own another plant until I was already an adult and even then, I started slowly.
It’s funny to think about how much my relationship with plants has changed over the years. My first and oldest plant of five years is a Bamboo Plant. It went so well with that one that I began to acquire more, although I have to admit that my motives were selfish. I was really just trying to create the perfect backdrop for a YouTube series I was working on. I decided that instead of buying fake plants, I should buy live ones. So I bought several live plants and put them into my upstairs office with only one window. If you’re a plant parent, you know that’s a no-no. Especially for my window, which mainly receives filtered light because of the house next door to mine. My plants didn’t like it there, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I even paid attention to what my plants were telling me.
Over time I’ve learned to listen better, to check leaves and do research and feel the soil of plants. Thanks to the space the lockdown provided I was able to tune into my plants voices. Learning to hear them is the least I could do, since they have taught me so much.
I love the way your account connects healing and community to plant care. Can you tell us more about what you think connects these things?
This is an excellent question because many people have no idea that plants have the power to heal beyond what they do when we consume them. The simple act of caring for plants can be so healing. It’s remarkable how the simple act of repotting a plant can put you in a better mood. It’s magical, honestly. I love sharing that magic with my community.
Healing is necessary, especially for the BIPOC community. Trauma runs deep within our blood. Generational trauma is real. Some people don’t even realize that we are still affected by what our ancestors went through only a few hundred years ago. And we experience trauma every day, from personal stress to racial injustices worldwide to Black women dying from childbirth. I mean, the list goes on. These are the issues that connect us, and within the plant community, we share more than just plants; we share similar stories of struggle, and then we breathe.
The most direct way I encourage this on Black Plant Chick is by posting positive affirmations and community-specific things that just help people feel more seen. Some of the things are just really cute and light, like ways to celebrate a plant parent’s birthday or remarking how easy it is to overspend on your plants. We also make a lot of cannabis jokes, turn viral memes into plant references, and we like to share plant advice. Other content is heavy, or is created to lift a little more. Sometimes we talk about human parental love. We talk about how important we are to the plant community in general. We talk about our ancestral links to the soil.
I have a book of positive affirmations for plant parents coming out at the end of August called Affirmations for a Plant Parent. I put the book together because of how emotionally supportive this community of people are. I love how we uplift each other, console each other, and share common ground.
Is there anything surprising you’ve noticed about the incredible community you’ve been able to develop with your IG account? Anything particularly surprising about Black plant parents?
I’ve been a part of many Instagram communities, and there’s nothing like the Plant Community. My tribe is amazing. They are supportive and positive and so kind. On the account I often speak about finding a community that speaks your plant language, and that is exactly what we’ve created together. We all love jokes, we love plant care, and we love supporting each other.
I think the key to the level of support we share is because the average “Black Plant Chick” follower is on a journey to self-discovery themselves. They have learned the healing energy of plants and that discovery can be empowering. And since empowered people empower people, members of my community love to speak life over themselves and their loved ones, plants included.
I enjoy your podcast, especially the very familiar language you use around plant ownership. What led you to start your podcast?
Even though my journey as a plant parent is a relatively new one, podcasting and I are old friends. So creating a podcast around my discoveries as a plant parent was honestly second nature to me… I already was running Passion After Dark when I started my plant collection and so the pivot to plants felt natural.
What’s funny is that the Black Plant Chick podcast has almost nothing in common with my former one. The only thing I managed to carry over was the storytelling, something that both audiences enjoyed. Even though plant parents love sex too, of course, I haven’t found a way to marry the two brands. But I don’t feel like I’ve lost much; as a matter of fact I’ve learned a lot.
The most important thing for me when starting this podcast was really to have my voice be heard. I’ve sort of named the podcast genre I’m in “Plant Lifestyle” and that easy sort of programming has made my platform feel really authentic to me. When I started Black Plant Chick, I only knew of one Black-led Home & Garden podcast and plenty of white-led ones. I felt like it was necessary to show up and make some space for myself, which would in turn make space for other people like me.
I am attracted to the forward-looking way you talk about plants. Why do you think Black plant parenthood is revolutionary?
We are reclaiming the land in the masses, and it’s incredible to watch. But what makes it revolutionary is that Black plant parents are doing this reclamation on their own terms. We are moving past the trauma associated with nurturing land; instead, we are using it as a chance to connect with our community and educate one another. I’m so thankful to be a smart part of it.
Plant parenthood is one of the ways Black people connect to nature, each other, and even our ancestors. Many of us have planting and farming in our blood. As the world gets more off-kilter we naturally look for ways to become more safe and grounded. So it isn’t surprising, really, that so many of us are returning to our foundations, our nature, and our roots.